New Links of Interest to Tax Resisters

Some links of interest:

  • The Nuclear Resister reprints some historical information about nonviolent resistance to U.S. nuclear weapons in the Pacific Northwest. Prominent in this history is the strong stand taken by Catholic Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, who called the Trident nuclear submarines the “Auschwitz of Puget Sound” and rallied Christians to oppose it. Hunthausen also refused to pay a portion of his income tax to protest against U.S. military spending. While Hunthausen deserves credit for making a bold, forthright stand and following it up with action, this didn’t happen in a vacuum — the ongoing civil disobedience of the Ground Zero activists influenced him. But he in turn opened the floodgates for other religious leaders to come forward to strongly condemn the American “first strike” policy and nuclear weapons in general. Here’s some excerpts from an interview with Jim Douglass, conducted by Terry Messman:
    Terry Messman
    Why was Hunthausen such a significant voice in the movement for nuclear disarmament?
    Jim Douglass
    He gave a speech in which he stated to a very large number of religious leaders gathered in Tacoma, Washington, that Trident was the “Auschwitz of Puget Sound.” And he took a stand of refusing to pay his income taxes in order to resist Trident.
    Terry Messman
    After he made that statement, we invited him to speak at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley where he urged hundreds of religious leaders to resist nuclear murder and suicide.
    Jim Douglass
    Yes. And as a result, roughly six months later, he actually stated publicly, “I have now decided to stop paying half of my taxes” — the half of his taxes that would have gone to military appropriations and nuclear weapons.
    Terry Messman
    It was such an important turning point when an archbishop actually called for massive civil disobedience.
    Jim Douglass
    Yes, and he not only called for it — he did it! His tax resistance was nonviolent civil disobedience in the most radical sense possible.
    Terry Messman
    When Archbishop Hunthausen declared that Trident was the Auschwitz of Puget Sound, what effect did it have on your work at Ground Zero? And what effect did it have on the general public?
    Jim Douglass
    It electrified the general public. And it profoundly encouraged us. We all knew Archbishop Hunthausen. We’d known him for years and he’d already done all kinds of things to support our work. He supported a 30-day fast that we engaged in. He sent information on the Trident campaign to his entire body of priests and religious leaders in the diocese. He brought over to Ground Zero all of his administrative leaders in the archdiocese for a retreat on the issue of Trident. He’d done everything he could — up to refusing to pay his own taxes — before he took that step. So we were one in community with Archbishop Hunthausen before he took that further step.
    Terry Messman
    What was the response of the Church hierarchy to Hunthausen’s call for massive resistance to the arms race?
    Jim Douglass
    Well, I would say it was a mixed response. A number of Catholic bishops within the United States made statements of their own against nuclear weapons in the months following Archbishop Hunthausen’s statement. I think they were to some degree, if not largely, inspired by his courage. I found that remarkable because there had been so much silence before then.

    Terry Messman
    In what way did Hunthausen’s statement play such a huge role in the bishops speaking out?
    Jim Douglass
    There was nothing vaguely like Archbishop Hunthausen’s statement before him. And following his statement there were many!

    Jim Douglass
    Archbishop Hunthausen really was a catalyst in a movement of religious leaders, not only Catholics but others as well. Remember that the statement by which he began to become so prominent was made to the Lutheran leaders of the Pacific Northwest. He wasn’t speaking to Catholics; he was speaking to the Lutheran leaders who had invited him to speak because he had already become a leader on this issue. That’s when he made the statement that gained national attention. He had an effect on everybody. In the Pacific Northwest, especially, he was meeting every week with all the other key religious leaders. They ate breakfast together. I joined them a number of times so I met these people and Archbishop Hunthausen was the most prophetic voice and the inspiration in their midst. These were all the most prominent religious leaders at that time in Seattle and everyone at these breakfasts was very supportive of Archbishop Hunthausen. The Jewish leaders were very supportive of Archbishop Hunthausen. So it was right across the board that religious leaders said, “This man is speaking out in a way that is both prophetic and pastoral.”
  • Wake Forest University is sponsoring something called “The Beacon Project.” The theory behind the project seems to be that to discover more about how to be most ethical, it would be wise to pay close attention to people who exhibit uncommonly extraordinary moral behavior — moral “geniuses” perhaps. I can think of some big challenges for an approach like this, but it also seems like it could be very promising.
  • A family in Rutland, Vermont has begun a tax strike against the education tax there. Excerpts from the letter they used to announce their stand:

    On August 31, when first-quarter property tax was due in Rutland, we paid 49 percent of the amount due, covering our municipal tax liability, and withheld the 51 percent slated for education. We will continue this practice every quarter until the Legislature gains the political will to pass meaningful and fair education reform.

    I work at two part-time jobs, and my pay at one of those has recently been reduced. My wife is self-employed. We have no family members in public school. Yet habitually frugal as we are, in order to pay the tax levied for the maintenance of Vermont’s education system, we are frequently forced to defer paying some bills or to put off filling some prescriptions. We can purchase fuel only in small amounts.

    In fact, we are denying payment precisely for the greater good, and for the good of Vermont, in the hope that even a small action will speak louder than words and bring to the attention of the Legislature the seriousness of the plight of those whom they are supposed to serve.

    We are aware of the repercussions our action may have. Governments tend not to smile on civil disobedience, especially when it affects their income. Yet Americans have learned throughout history that when our governments do not act in the public’s interest it becomes necessary for the public to act for itself.

    We hope that some other aggrieved Vermonters will join us in this action. If not, we will stand alone, but we will stand.

  • Tax receipts in Greece continue to plummet as the government wavers about whether to stick with the euro and people decide to wait out the uncertainty with their money in their own pockets.
  • I keep waiting for the folks in the anti-abortion movement to catch on to the tax resistance idea, but when it comes to taxes, they’re mostly just talk. Lately the talk is all about refusing to pay taxes that might end up going to Planned Parenthood, but it’s a rare day when I see a pro-lifer put money and mouth together. Here’s an example — a video-blog or something of the sort from Garrett Johnson in which he advocates tax resistance in the anti-abortion cause. Another example is that of Scott Roeder, currently serving a long sentence for murdering a doctor who performed abortions, who gave an interview in which he promoted Constitutionalist tax protest theories. I’ll keep my ear to the ground and let you know if any of this catches on.
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