British Nonconformists Refuse to Pay for Establishment Church Schools

Today’s tax resistance history lesson comes from the New York Times. British Nonconformists (that is, those who did not belong to the Anglican Church) objected to being taxed to pay for sectarian education. In , many began a campaign of tax resistance. At least 170, from various non-Anglican churches, would eventually be imprisoned in the course of the campaign:


King Edward does not like reporters, and objects to their being in evidence. They may spoil the effectiveness of a great state pageant, but they fulfill a harmless and most necessary function.

Just now they are keeping statesmen informed as to the attitude of public opinion toward the “passive resistance” movement against the Education act. This movement, far from showing any signs of subsiding, is every day gathering new strength throughout the country.

Magistrates in many places openly express their sympathy with those who from conscientious motives refuse to pay the education rate. Auctioneers frequently decline to sell goods upon which distraints have been levied. Crowds, numbering in some cases thousands of people, assemble to give their support and sympathy to these lawbreakers for conscience’ sake.

With a fine affectation of indignation the church party publishes letters and articles innumerable denouncing the tactics of the resisters as subversive of law and order and as leading direct to anarchy. Nothing makes any impression on the resolution of these irreconcilable Nonconformists, who maintain that they are prepared to go to prison rather than pay taxes for what they regard as Romanizing education calculated to imperil the Protestantism for which their forefathers fought and suffered. One fiery spirit declared the other day that he would be delighted to suffer martyrdom at the stake rather than obey this law.

Passive resistance, in short, is rapidly producing a state of things which no government can afford to ignore. Its result will ultimately be the removal of the grievances which weigh so heavily on the “Nonconformist conscience.”