War Tax Resistance in the Friends Journal in 1993

War tax resistance in the Friends Journal in

By the coverage of American Quaker war tax resistance in the Friends Journal makes it seem pretty weak — not a lot of activity at all, and what there is of it is half-hearted symbolic measures or pathetic attempts to get Congress to pass a “Peace Tax Fund” scheme. There was almost more news about war tax resistance in Canada than in the United States.

The issue made note of another lobby day for the Peace Tax Fund bill, and of a new “EZ Peace Form” that the “Alternative Revenue Service” was encouraging tax filers to fill out:

The Peace Form has a similar format as IRS forms, with a section for figuring one’s tax share, a section that shows the percentages going to various government programs, and a section in which one can indicate where to redirect one’s tax contribution. Forms are to be returned to the Alternative Revenue Service so it can announce the number it receives and the amount of taxes redirected from financing war to providing for human needs.

Another note told readers how they could obtain transcripts of the Congressional hearing on the Peace Tax Fund bill, and noted: “The hearing was attended by several hundred Friends, Mennonites, Brethren, peace activists, and pacifists of all faiths.… The hearing received more than 2,300 letters of written testimony from people across the country, from which a selection is published in the transcript. Some of the voices are from Friends Journal, Friends United Meeting, the American Friends Service Committee, a number of yearly meetings, and many other denominations and organizations.”

A letter from John K. Stoner of the “New Call to Peacemaking” in the issue asserted that “Some day in the future the true heroes of our time will be named. They will be the people who refused to pay war taxes, who vigiled, prayed, and demonstrated in front of weapons plants, who resisted in whatever way they could the insidious, relentless pressure to conform to the mentality of deterrence, the idolatry of redemptive violence, the rule of the gun, and the economy of death.”

An article in that issue mentioned that the Congressional hearing concerning the Peace Tax Fund bill was the product of a great deal of work: “[T]o arrange for that hearing,” the article said, “FCNL lobbyists worked with the Peace Tax Fund Campaign for eight years!”

The issue included two articles on war tax resistance. One by Robin Harper that I mentioned in an earlier Picket Line, and a second: “What Do We Owe Caesar?” by Marguerite Clark. It gave a sort of fresh, starting-from-scratch overview of the war tax issue and at how Friends had tried to meet it, but was overwhelmingly pessimistic, asserting that there’s no satisfying way to practice war tax resistance because the government has the power to inevitably get its hands on the money eventually (Clark used the case of the Friends Journal capitulating and paying Vinton Deming’s taxes as a case in point). She ended her piece by hoping Quakers would “take a stand” by supporting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a hopeful first step in legalizing conscientious objection to military taxation (that Act eventually passed but has so far been of no help at all in legalizing such conscientious objection).

A letter from Edwin A. Vail in response to Harper’s article trotted out the familiar argument that it’s wrong to withhold your taxes from the government on the grounds that the government might spend the money improperly for the same reason that it’s wrong to refuse to repay a debt because you think the person you owe money to might spend the money unwisely.

The issue brought news of a new group, calling itself “The Peace Taxpayers” — 

  • The Peace Taxpayers are available as counselors for people wishing to experience “the joys of peace taxpaying.” The organization works to change existing U.S. tax codes which force all income taxpayers to be supporters of war and preparations for war. The counselors can help with questions about Internal Revenue Service regulations, how to redirect war taxes, and how to reduce taxable income.…
  • The Peace Taxpayers organization is accepting submissions for a new book, The Joy of Peace Taxpaying. They are looking for writings of any style and length that describe paths taken and personal experiences of those who have acted on their opposition to paying for war.…

Michael Fogler and Ed Pearson were given as contact persons for the group. “The Peace Taxpayers” was still somewhat active as late as , and I’ve seen references to it dating back as far as .

International news

An obituary notice for Albert E. Moorman in the issue mentioned that “[i]n he and his wife immigrated to Canada to free themselves from paying taxes to the United States government, whose foreign policy they had long been at odds with.”

A note in that issue also asserted that “It is possible to divert one’s military taxes to selected charitable donations in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, Canada. Under recent Ontario law, donations to Conrad Grebel College, University of Waterloo Foundation for Peace Studies, qualify as ‘gifts to the crown.’ ” However, a letter-to-the-editor in the issue threw some cold water on that:

A news item in your issue gives the impression that directing military taxes to peace in Canada is possible and simple, by making donations to the Crown (all levels of government). We wish it were so, but there is no provision in the Income Tax Act so far to exempt us from paying a proportion of our taxes to the military, as in the States.

We have been advocating making donations to charitable organizations, political parties, and to the Crown to reduce all taxes, including military taxes, but one would have to donate very large amounts to eliminate taxes altogether. Most of us probably would not want to do so, as we benefit from medicare, pensions, social assistance, etc., all paid for with our taxes.

Ray Funk’s Private Member’s Bill was scheduled to be debated in the House of Commons on , but the government recessed the House on , and we are now headed for an election on . Jean Chretian [sic.], the leader of the main opposition party, has suggested to us that we might be able to direct our war taxes to the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security, which he intends to reestablish, if elected. So we are hopeful that, in the next Parliament, some progress will be made.

Edith Adamson
Conscience Canada, Inc.

Canadian war tax resister Jerilynn Prior, who had been pursuing a long and fruitless court battle to try to get conscientious objection to military taxation recognized as a right under the new Canadian Constitution, wrote a book about her stand — I Feel the Winds of God Today — that earned a brief review in the issue. “The author describes the influences in her life that led her to become a war tax resister… she talks about the difficulties in the [legal] process and her disappointment at not receiving a hearing at court. Interwoven with this is an account of her conscientious leadings regarding her career in medicine and her vocation as a mother. She also refers to the troubles of Canadian Yearly Meeting in following requests of employees who with to become war tax resisters.”

The London Yearly Meeting, according to the issue, was spurred to “renewed action,” as the Journal called it, “in the form of a letter writing campaign, to express objection to paying taxes for military purposes. A monthly letter to the Inland Revenue, expressing London Yearly Meeting’s position, is now being supported by an effort to reach the members of Parliament. However, help is needed. Friends are asked to use these monthly letters, and their law-quoting responses, to show the dilemma which arises when an employer with 300 years’ heritage of peace witness is required to collect and hand over money which pays, in part, for war and war preparations.”