War Tax Resistance in Friends Bulletin in the 1970s

Here are a few more items concerning tax resistance that I found in back issues of Friends Bulletin, the journal of the Pacific Yearly Meeting of Quakers. First, a brief note from the issue about a group who were supplementing their tax resistance with a lawsuit:

“Inter-Pleader” Suit

Phil Drath explained that this suit has been filed by a group of people who are refusing to pay the 10 per cent telephone tax on the Vietnam War. The courts are being asked to decide if it is legal to make citizens pay taxes in support of an illegal war. The litigants are asking for permission to pay the amount (which is now being held by a bank) to the American Friends Service Committee to wage peace. Phil Drath will be glad to furnish information to anyone interested.

Next, from the issue:


“I’m convinced,” comments Virginia O’Rourke of Berkeley Meeting, “the best way to undertake witness against the illegal use of our tax monies by the government (over 70 per cent of every tax dollar is used for war preparation) is to make oneself invulnerable to IRS collection tactics by radically altering one’s life style. This I have attempted to do personally and as much as possible. An individual can easily adjust and adapt. But with the responsibility of teen-age children, I feel trapped in the white, middle-class ‘bag.’ I hope in a year to have the last of my children graduated from high school and on his own. Then I hope to devote my full time and energy in joining others who are attempting to build alternate life styles for a new society.”

O’Rourke had been an active war tax resister for some time already, and at one point petitioned the Tax Court to recognize that her war tax resistance was valid on Constitutional grounds: to find a First Amendment right to conscientious objection to military taxation, and to find that the government was prosecuting an illegal war and so it was a citizen’s right (or duty) not to fund it, among other things. (The Tax Court did not deign to address her arguments but agreed that the IRS had grounds to assess an income tax on her for the years in which she refused to file.)

The issue included a letter on “Taxes and Giving” from Samuel R. Tyson (Delta Meeting), urging Quakers to be more conscious and conscientious about taxpaying (excerpts):

Each year we are faced with the inescapable task of whether to file an income tax form or not. The President has certainly given the world a demonstration about paying taxes and about the merit of giving, an attitude which is not wholly admirable. [President Nixon was a few months away from resigning in the face of the Watergate and other scandals, including allegations of tax evasion.] Each year it becomes more imperative to ask ourselves why we comply with the tax laws. What is reflected from our computations for Form 1040?

Third– we have the expectation of gain from giving. What happens to the income left after the withholding of taxes for governmental violence? Do you give (donate) as much as you pay by federal fiat? Are the gifts dependent upon tax deductibility? Do you give as much where there is no tax advantage? Do you give directly to people with no strings attached?

Fourth– Taxes are used to kill people. Is the federal state more concerned with life giving or death dealing? Because your resources can be levied, does it matter whether your voluntarily pay your taxes to the state? Does rendering unto Caesar relieve the individual from personal responsibility for the uses of tax money? There are jobs with withholding and self-employment; does it make any difference how long we hold onto our income?

Fifth– peace comes with giving all. Will peace come by continuing acceptance of taxes for killing? Is it more likely to come when we begin the process of being liberated from self and becoming less dependent upon governmental functions? Is there need to resist taxes? For torturing of prisoners, for the wars over the world, for the building of 1984 information storage banks, for supplying our present energy “needs” by nuclear reactors with their explosive radioactive potential which may be at the expense of our children’s children, and for the establishment in California of a violence center to change the behavior of violent individuals: chemically, surgically, or by behavior modification?

What are we giving our lives for? It is always our choice. Don’t blame the administration which gives us exactly that for which we pay.

The Monterey Peninsula Friends Meeting contributed a parable and an exhortation to the issue that ends with one of the strongest corporate declarations of war tax resistance that I have found from 20th Century Quaker meetings:

On Paying War Taxes: Considerations


The devil took the Quakers to a very high mountain
the mountain of academic-socio-economic success
and showed them all the kingdoms of the world,
and the glory of them;
and he said to the Quakers

all this I will give you…

  • financial security
  • acceptance in your society
  • many opportunities for doing good
  • tax exemption for your worship centers and your service programs
  • many other benefits too numerous to mention

if you will fall down and worship me…

  • bless the armies which protect your privileges
  • pay taxes without question for my armies around the world
    (a few words of dissent to support your moral image is OK as long as you refrain from any form of civil disobedience)

And the Quakers said (multiple choice — check one):

  1. we want to keep our service program going, so…
  2. we’re uneasy with your terms, but we like the benefits…
  3. would you serve as one of our Trustees? We need more practical minds like yours…
  4. as children of God and members of the Religious Society of Friends we are under obligation to free ourselves from this complicity.

Historical References

  • . William Penn informed the queen that his conscience would not allow “a tribute to carry on any war, nor ought true Christians to pay it.”

(I still have not been able to track down a source of this quote in the writings of William Penn. The earliest mention of it I’m aware of is in William Rakestraw’s pamphlet from around , “Tribute to Cæsar”.)

  • . Monterey Peninsula Friends Meeting, “It is not enough to recognize an evil and our participation in it. We recognize that the Light not only tells us what to do, but also what not to do. Thus, the words of Margaret Fell speak to us: ‘Now Friends, deal plainly with yourselves, and let the Eternal Light search you… for this will deal plainly with you; it will rip you up, and lay you open…’

    [Minute:] We, Monterey Peninsula Friends Meeting, urge Friends as individuals to stop paying war taxes; likewise, we urge Friends to corporately adopt the position favoring the nonpayment of war taxes.”

* Adapted from Peter J. Ediger’s “Temptation” by Walter and Sali Damon-Ruth, Monterey Peninsula Meeting [which in turn is a riff off of the temptation of Jesus described in Matthew 4:8–11]

A letter-to-the-editor from John Fitz of Berkeley Meeting in the edition was skeptical about the proposed “World Peace Tax Fund Act” legislation that had captured the hearts of many people who were conscientiously troubled by paying war taxes and were hoping some democratic accommodation would make the problem go away.

“I am not able to support the push to obtain passage of the [Act]…” Fitz wrote, “in spite of the fact that I am a long-time advocate of tax refusal and have myself often been a refuser. I believe that Friends should ignore the movement to obtain passage of this Act… and should refuse to avail themselves of its provisions if it ever passes.” The Act, he felt, would keep the war tax system intact while enabling some people to feel aloof from it: a “salve” he called it. He compared it to conscientious objection to the draft, which reinforces the legitimacy of military conscription by exempting its potentially most potent foes. “The only Quakerly way of facing the draft is to refuse to let that system dictate our lives, and accept the costs of such refusal” he wrote, and similarly “the only Quakerly way to face the seizure of our tax moneys for the military is to refuse to pay it at all.”

The same issue also contained these notes:

The annual issue of war-tax payments becomes a deep concern for many Friends. John and Louise Runnings of University Meeting invite other Friends to join with them in protest. They are preparing a brief for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is hearing their case against the IRS. John Fitz, Berkeley Meeting, urges Friends either to refuse payments or, at the least, to write a letter of protest when filing returns; he makes a cogent case for tax-refusal. Albuquerque Meeting reports on correspondence with Robert Anthony of Pennsylvania, whose article in Friends Journal started them moving toward tax refusal. He had claimed a War Claims [sic — “war crimes” I think is correct] tax reduction, which was denied by the courts but is on appeal; if the appeal goes to the Supreme Court that body faces the dilemma of denying First Amendment rights or penalizing an individual for following religious convictions.

The issue added these notes:

Orange County includes in its newsletter a statement by Lonnie Valentine, clerk of Peace and Social Concerns Committee, “Why I Refuse to Pay Taxes for Military Spending.” She [sic] writes, in part: “The payment of taxes for military spending is only one of many ways I participate in the killing I would not do… (It) is the tightest bond to the death of others that I feel I can change… If I do not pay, the armies still exist, but I have removed my helping hand… I do not refuse to pay in hopes of peace, I am at peace and therefore refuse to pay… War tax refusal is for me a beginning, not an end.”