U.S. War Tax Resisters Get Down to Business

was the business meeting of the NWTRCC national gathering. The way NWTRCC is organized, most of the group decisions are made using a version of the consensus model of decision-making, in which everyone present is part of the “coordinating committee” which advises and consents on the various agenda items.

The business meeting usually has a tight agenda, and this one was no exception, but we have a good track record at setting and keeping to a good schedule.

NWTRCC business meeting

Erica Weiland facilitates part of the business meeting

Most of the meeting was uneventful: adjustments to and ratifications of our budget, objectives for the year, and so forth. The big news for me, and for other folks in my area, is that the San Francisco bay area has “been volunteered” to host the next national gathering in .

After the business meeting, we had an informative counselors’ training session, featuring Peter Goldberger, a legal advisor for conscientious objectors and war tax resisters, who shared his insights into the legal ins-and-outs of war tax resistance counseling.

NWTRCC business meeting

The coordinating committee of NWTRCC poses for a group photo

A mystery I’ve been wanting to get to the bottom of is what happened to Quaker war tax resistance in the United States after the American Civil War. There was a strong element of war tax resistance in the Society of Friends all the way through the war, but then it seemed to peter out, until by the turn of the century it seemed hardly to exist at all, and Quakers who took it up again in the late 20th century often seemed as though they were starting from scratch.

Here’s another data point, though it doesn’t seem to get us much closer to an answer. It comes from an New York Times article reporting on a sermon by Oscar Hugo, a visiting protestant minister from Hungary.

Hugo was promoting the use of the Bible in public schools, and ridiculed those Catholics who were opposed to what they feared would be taxpayer-funded Protestant Bible study and indoctrination, and who felt it unfair to pay such a tax.

The speaker referred to the Quakers. Did they refuse to pay the war tax because they do not believe in war? No. They knew the maintenance of the Army and Navy was necessary for the perpetuation of the country.

So, by , Quakers had become a case study in why war tax resistance was not a reasonable form of conscientious objection. Remarkable!