American Brethren and War Taxes in 1974

Again in it was all about the Messenger, as none of the other Brethren publications I skimmed seemed to want to engage in the debate about war tax resistance.

Church of the Brethren: Messenger

In the issue, O.E. Gibson shared what he had learned about war taxes from the Spirit of Truth (source):

Here is what I hear the Spirit of Truth saying to us Christians about paying taxes to support the military:

“War is dependent upon two supports — soldiers and money. Because enough drafted young men choose the jail to the demands of our government, we have been given alternative service.

“When enough property owners prefer to have their property confiscated by our government rather than willingly pay the war tax, then we can hope for an alternative tax plan put into law.”

A few such people are calling us to join them.

Priscilla Zigler shared her reactions to the previous year’s Annual Conference statements (source). Excerpt:

I experienced mixed emotions when our proposals from Southern Ohio, concerning the need for further study of the tax issue, were defeated. Immediately, feelings of frustration and anger surfaced — but then, also, a determination to keep communication alive and well, in spite of the polarization we were experiencing. However, I know a witness was made in behalf of the importance of tax resistance in relation to our peace stand — and a witness is always an education for someone. I hope it was for many that afternoon.

The hardest thing for me to understand or accept during the discussion on tax refusal was the “why” of it. It was as though the church had absolved itself from any guilt about the Vietnam war. No mention was made, in the study, of the life at stake in our payment or non-payment of taxes — and our choosing to support either life or death. I’m wondering if the committee had looked at the issue in that light whether that very well-researched justification (the study committee report) could have ever come to be our position.

Brethren — we are opposed to war, to the destruction of human life and to any system that supports it. Our way is peace — the gospel of love. Why then, when the fact is that the phone tax was created specifically to aid in the destruction of the people of Vietnam, did we to the estimated tune of $145,000 per year support this lax? Senator Frank Church said in reference to the renewal of the tax in : “We are about to vote on an added tax which, when all the rhetoric is stripped away, is simply a war tax. The need for it, as everyone now admits, is occasioned by the skyrocketing costs of our involvement in Vietnam.” We supported that need. The phone tax consistently remains, until , a part of the “life-giving blood” of the defense department. If we continue to support the tax, we are nourishing an ever-growing evil.

Arlene and Cliff Kindy shared their below-the-tax-line tax resistance method in a letter in the issue:

We are happy to share with Messenger readers that we have again been able to keep our income below the taxable level of $2,800 for the past year. It has not posed any financial problems for us, but instead has been a very freeing experience.

We took this conscious step initially because of what we felt to be a Christian responsibility to refuse to pay taxes when such a large portion of those taxes go to hurt and destroy others of God’s children here and around our world. In addition, we felt that this might be a small way for us to attempt to correct the injustice of our small population in the United States using and controlling over 50 percent of the world’s material resources. We can’t be sure at all that these actions will have any positive effect, but we continue them because of a call to try to be obedient to the life and teaching of our example, Jesus Christ.

We invite you to take a similar step out of obedience. We do believe that for you this decision is a viable option because over 85 percent of our world population lives well below this level. If you do face problems after making such a step, please feel free to contact us for help.

You’d think that a within-the-law form of resistance like this would satisfy the render-unto-Caesar set, but no. Edgar O. Slater shot back in the issue that it was bad that the Kindys, by lowering their incomes, would “not pay a fair share for the government that makes this freedom possible.”

The issue announced that legislation purporting to legalize a sort of conscientious objection to military taxation had been introduced in Congress (source). Brethren were among the promoters of this early version of “Peace Tax Fund” legislation. The Messenger listed the following Brethren lobbyists who had gone to Washington D.C. to push the bill: Clifford Bingham, Philip Bishop, Clifford Kindy, Kim Yamasaki, Nancy Stinette, James Drescher, Velma Shearer, Kaye Yoder, and Ralph E. Smeltzer.

“Although the World Peace Tax Fund Act is designed primarily to provide a legal alternative for taxpayers who cannot conscientiously help finance military programs, it gives all taxpayers an effective way to express their concern about the priority the Pentagon has over domestic programs,” explained James Drescher of the Brethren delegation.