Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Holds Special War Tax Resistance Session

Excerpts from the Swarthmore Phoenix give us a peek at how the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting was addressing war tax resistance at that time:

Tax Refusals, Reparations Draw Quakers to Philadelphia Meeting

The Religious Society of Friends will hold a special Yearly Meeting Session at the Arch Street Meeting House . The Philadelphia assembly, usually scheduled for March, is taking place in October because of the significance and immediacy of the agenda.

The morning session, convening at 10 a.m. will concern the “drafting of money” for war purposes. The Friends believe that tax refusals [sic] is plausible and important manner of dealing with militarism. A great many people support youth in its refusal to fight on battlefields it did not create. A great many people should be ready to withhold money. The Friends believe that “the functions related to war have become the main pre-occupation of our government” while “social needs are given lower priority.” The Friends hope to gather support in their objection to the use of their tax dollars for military purposes.

Quotes from the report by the committee planning the special session, arguments against tax refusal are as follows:

  • Refusal to pay taxes would be anarchy.
  • The government will collect the taxes, plus interest, and thus get more money.
  • The government will not be hurt by such a form of protest.
  • The war will get first claim on all money, and thus make less for social causes.
  • The tax refuser denies money for worthy civilian activities.
  • Anything less than total tax refusal is insignificant.

It was noted that although these arguments are valid, they are far overshadowed by moral reasons for refusal to pay war taxes.

Phone tax resistance was for a long time a staple of the American war tax resistance movement, and is still practiced today. But an Associated Press dispatch from tells of an American phone tax resister with a more idiosyncratic motivation:

Housewife Says Telephone is No Sin — Refuses to Pay Tax

 — An attractive housewife here says the telephone is neither a luxury nor a sin and shouldn’t be taxed as such by the state of Michigan.

Gloria J. Mead says she won’t pay the recent 4 percent increase in the state’s use tax on telephones. “It isn’t right,” she insists, adding, “I feel like carrying this thing all the way to the death house, if necessary.”

The penalty isn’t that bad, however. The law says anyone failing to pay is subject to a maximum fine of $5,000 or a year in jail or both. But a deputy attorney, Leon Cohan, said he doubted the mother of four will ever go to jail, although he points out that is up to the discretion of the court.

  1. “I didn’t have a state senator in Lansing when the tax was passed and wasn’t represented.” (Her senator had resigned to take a seat in Congress and the State Senate seat was vacant when the tax was passed ).
  2. “I don’t consider a telephone a luxury or a sin. If it is either, why is the telephone company called a utility and put under the Michigan Public Service Commission?”

The tax, which averages about 50 cents a month, was imposed as part of a package of so-called nuisance taxes on cigarets, beer, liquor and corporation franchise fees.

The phone company says, “It is our practice not to take enforcement action against a customer if the charges for telephone service are paid.”

But Michigan Bell reported the case to State Revenue Commissioner Clarence Lick. He says, “Our next step will be to decide whether we’re going to proceed against Mrs. Mead or hold the company liable.”

Mrs. Mead quoted her husband, Marvin, as saying, “Dear, it’s going to be expensive paying for all these things you believe in.”

She said she hopes no one thinks unkindly of her stand.

“They told me not to be apathetic about government, so I’m not.”

Gloria J. Mead enters and exits the newspaper archives on this date in 1962. I haven’t yet found any record of what became of her and her protest.