Pacific Yearly Meeting Approves Statement on War Tax Resistance

Today, another item of interest I found in a back issue of Friends Bulletin, the journal of the Pacific Yearly Meeting of Quakers.

As I noted a few years back when I was looking through back issues of the Friends Journal, the American Friends Service Committee could be relatively conservative about war tax resistance, despite being so prominent in a lot of Quaker peace activism. Here’s another data point that shows that there was some heartfelt seeking going on behind the scenes.

The issue of the Friends Bulletin relates what happened when John Sullivan of the American Friends Service Committee addressed Yearly Meeting. Excerpt:

The American Friends Service Committee is currently considering some unprecedented action to respond to the terrible challenge of the war in Vietnam.

The National Board and other parts of the Service Committee are now weighing what sacrificial financial effort they will ask themselves and other Friends to make as individuals… They feel that they must find the way to say that we must support young men who refuse war service in Vietnam, deny moral sanction to U.S. military intervention in Vietnam and encourage churches and other religious bodies to do the same, support those who refuse their skills as scientists, engineers, and administrators to produce instruments of death, encourage citizens and soldiers to consider whether there are moral grounds for them to resist policies or disobey orders that would require them to engage in what their consciences clearly have told them are wrong, assist those who conscientiously resort to civil disobedience on such things as payment of taxes for war purposes, and so on.

The group asked me to say to Yearly Meeting that It [sic] is possible to alter one’s way of life, to live more simply, to recognize that $600 of every $1,000 of income tax we pay supports war expenditures and $200 of that supports the war in Vietnam. They wanted me to say that the time has come for us to look honestly at our own lives in the light of what is happening in Vietnam.

They wanted me to say that we may want to tithe or tax ourselves for peace and that if our situations are such that we cannot tithe or tax in money, we may be free to rearrange our lives so that we can tithe our time for working as volunteers.

This was followed by two “statements… presented by the Peace Committee and, after consideration and revision, …approved by the Yearly Meeting” including the following “Statement on Taxes”:

Many Friends feel a growing conflict between their testimony for peace and the taxes they pay for war. Friends, individually and together, are encouraged to examine their own economic involvement in creating conditions and institutions of both war and peace.

In the Discipline of Pacific Yearly Meeting (pp. 41, 42) “Friends are urged to consider carefully the implications of paying those taxes a major portion of which go for military purposes.” An increasing number of Friends and like-minded people have been led by conscience to express their protest of such taxes in such ways as the following:

  1. By a letter of protest included with their tax payment, in which the religious basis of their objection is explained.
  2. By a letter of tax refusal in which the reasons for refusing to pay all or part of the tax are set forth.
  3. By a formal request for return of taxes paid under protest, or of taxes and penalties which have been seized from the resources of tax refusers.
  4. By bringing suit against the government for recovery of such taxes when such requests for return are denied. Technical information regarding this is available from the Peace Committee.
  5. By refusing to file an income tax form and sending a letter of explanation.
  6. By refusing to pay the 7% telephone tax recently added to monthly telephone bills to help finance the budget deficit caused by Vietnam, and sending a letter explaining this action.
  7. By pledging not to buy automobiles and other items on which the increased excise tax for Vietnam is levied.
  8. By lowering their income below the taxable level and informing the government that this is a protest against war taxes.

Whether or not Friends are moved to such acts of protest as these, they are urged to take all possible deductions when filing income tax returns. Such deductions not only reduce taxes paid for war, but make available additional money which can be invested in Friends’ work for peace.

Believing that effective protest is grounded in the vision and enthusiasm of affirmation and positive action, some Meetings are assisting their members in sending a self-imposed tax of 1% of income each year to the United Nations. Individual Friends have been moved to contribute each month to the United Nations and the American Friends Service Committee a voluntary tax for peace equal to the amount they now pay in taxes used for military purposes.

While it is recognized that such acts of protest or affirmation are ultimately matters of individual conscience, Friends would encourage concerned individuals among them in their efforts to act in harmony with the light of conscience, and would support them in such acts as they are led by the Spirit to take. To this end meetings are urged to make information about possible courses of action available to concerned members and to counsel and assist those members seeking to act on their concerns about payment of war taxes.