Tax Resistance in “The Catholic Worker” 1992

Today, some excerpts from The Catholic News Archive concerning tax resistance in .

The first comes from the Catholic Worker:

Eviction And Arrest For Tax Resisters

Although acts of civil disobedience and conscientious objection take varied forms in our country, few in recent memory have resulted not only in loss of freedom but of hearth and home as well. It is perhaps the latter event which placed North Americans closest to those who lose homes through eviction, war and other forms of violence.

Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner were arrested in , after the Colrain, Massachusetts home, where they lived with their daughter Lillian, was forcibly seized by the federal government for non-payment of taxes. Betsy was later released, while Randy remains in jail as we go to press, to serve a six-month sentence for contempt of court. Their home was put on the auction block in , with the federal government ending up as the only bidder and subsequent “owner” of Randy and Betsy’s place, but it has taken two-and-a-half years of other legal maneuvers before they have finally been removed and charged with contempt, despite strong local support and publicity. Betsy and Randy lease the land on which their home is situated through the Valley Community Land Trust, a non-profit corporation using land for conservation, garden and agricultural purposes, and for affordable housing.

Like many resisters who pay local and state taxes, Randy and Betsy are in disagreement with federal levies used for nuclear weapons production, military intervention and other acts deemed criminal by international law. Despite all talk of arms reduction carried out in saw Congress giving its approval to $270 billion dollars for the military budget.

The court ruling in favor of ownership by the United States further stated that the government had the right to padlock the house since it “had proper title to, and was entitled to possession of” the home in which Randy, Betsy and Lillian have lived for the last twelve years. When asked in their court appearance if they planned to reenter their home, Betsy agreed not to when released, and Randy added, “It is my intention neither to occupy or not occupy my house. It is my intention to oppose the use of my tax dollars for killing and preparations for war.” But friends, neighbors and other sympathetic supporters have, since the time of the seizure, occupied the house. On the following morning, for instance, a group of fourteen resisters, including the indefatigable 84-year-old Wally Nelson, who has been “just saying no” to federal war taxes , removed the government’s padlocks and remained in the house for several days, risking arrest in doing so. As of this date, these occupations continue.

The eloquent response of Betsy Corner to those who have asked if they were “nervous” about the loss of their home, illumines one method of solidarity for these hard times: “Sure we are. We’ve lived here for over twenty years, and our twelve-year-old daughter Lillian was born here. We love this place, and the land, and our neighbors too. But we have to ask ourselves, is our home more important than the tens of thousands of homes that have been destroyed by our brutal bombing of civilian neighborhoods in Panama and Iraq or by the US-sponsored bombing that’s going on at this very moment in El Salvador? More important than the hundreds of thousands of homes our country has denied to homeless people here in America? More important than the millions of homes here and around the world that will be incinerated in a flash or irradiated forever, if we don’t stop building nuclear weapons and generating more and more nuclear waste?”

For further information on Betsy and Randy’s current status and ways of assisting their efforts, please contact: War Tax Refusers Support Committee (WTR), c/o Traprock Peace Center, Keets Rd., Deerfield, MA 01342, (413) 774‒2710 or (413) 773‒7427.

―Jane Sammon

The same issue had an additional article about war tax resistance:

War And Taxes

The CW listed some boycotts suggested as one route to follow “the little Way" of peace. Now, as the income-tax-returns season is in full swing, is the time to urge a further boycott — of the Internal Revenue Service. Once we know about the military pursuits in the Persian Gulf over the past year…, surely we must say “No!" to the government as clearly and as concretely as possible. Nor can the Persian Gulf War be seen as an isolated incident, a regrettable aberration from national policy. The very existence, for instance, of a “School of the Americas” in Fort Benning, shows how deep-seated is the pursuit of violence in the practices of the US government. The fact of the matter is that more than half the money collected by the IRS goes to pay for war or to prepare for war.

According to the old adage, “Death and taxes are inevitable” but, according to our faith, murder is not allowed. True, our Lord did say, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed” (Matthew 24:6 and Mark 13:7); He did not add though, that we should take an active part to promote them. And, on the mundane level of financial considerations, modern warfare would be rendered well nigh impossible if nobody would foot the bill.

During the war in Vietnam, someone who promoted tax resistance was once asked what to do about the money to be withheld. He answered, “Better to flush it down the toilet as waste-paper than to pay for the war.” In reality, though, practicalities about the dollars and cents demanded for taxes cannot be quite so simply swept aside, nor considered only at the moment of the due date. Peter Maurin taught a full life of voluntary poverty when he interpreted Jesus’ enigmatic reply about taxes with “The less you have of Caesar’s, the less you have to render unto him.” Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner are now paying the price, in prison, and through the loss of their home to the IRS. The War Resisters League has proposed the Alternative Revenue Service as a means to hold and channel monies not handed over to the government. These are all “hard" suggestions which reveal the iron grip of taxes.

Even if success for the tax resistance movement is not imminent, any withholding of federal income taxes marks a break in the deadly power of the economic system in which we are all complicit. It is a system whose principal “product” is war, whose motive is profit, whose organizing principle is usury. Usury (charging interest on a loan to make money from money) is the word Peter Maurin emphasized in his discussions on economics, one we seldom hear anymore. It is the basis for all our financial institutions, from the International Monetary Fund and the world debt to the Savings and Loan frauds (which have been described as “pure capitalism,” that is, effectively unfettered from constraints of either human labor or natural resources) to the stock market to insurance plans, right down to your local bank account. But the guarantor of usury is the Federal Reserve System, through our taxes. Barry Peters’ study on the ban on usury in the Hebrew Scriptures, makes it clear how this practice is violent robbery and oppression.

January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. , his memorial was eclipsed by the formal outbreak of hostilities against Iraq. This year, let us rekindle the light of his life and martyrdom by a dedication to his ways of active nonviolence, by a refusal to render unto Caesar the ways of violence. Instead, let us find alternative ways to render the fruits of our labor unto God, and to His children, to whom they belong.

―Katharine Temple

An Alternative Revenue Service

The Alternative Revenue Service (ARS) is a project of the War Resisters League (cosponsored by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee and the Conscience and Military Tax Campaign) designed to educate public opinion about the realities of military spending in the federal budget, and to give people a chance to redirect $1 or more of their money “owed” in federal taxes to an established alternative fund. Last year, people who wished to practice tax resistance, to put that money towards peaceful purposes, put $12,000 into the ARS. For further information or advice, please write to Lisa Harper, Alternative Revenue Service, 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012, or telephone their “hot-line” 1‒800‒955‒7322.

Attention New York City CW Readers!

Are you interested in finding ways to channel the grief and anger felt in the aftermath of the Gulf War, while discovering alternatives to war in general? New York City War Tax Resistance (WTR) offers support and information meetings the first Monday of each month — , , etc. —  at 6:30 pm. The meetings are held at 339 Lafayette St. (IRT Number 6, Bleeker St. station). For more information, please contact Sallie Marx at: (212) 929‒4833.

The issue of The Catholic Worker included an article by Karl Meyer about a road-trip taken by him and Kathy Kelly. Here are some excerpts that touch on tax resistance:

After we went on to Salina, Kansas and Newton, Kansas, where we visited with Mennonite friends in the war tax refusal movement.

Everywhere we stopped we found the peace movement vibrant, active and numerous, contradicting the falsehoods that President Bush and much of the press tell about the demise of our efforts.

In New Mexico

The same energy was evident in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we visited friends in the war-tax refusal movement. Don Schrader in Albuquerque had arranged two television news interviews, two newspaper interviews, eight radio talk show appearances, and a lively public meeting. We renewed acquaintances that showed us how the web of peace action stretches its stands all over North America and Central America.

Perhaps these were the very fields and ditches where Ammon Hennacy worked when he came to Phoenix in , with only a penny in his pocket. He worked as a farm laborer in order to avoid the withholding of taxes for war. , he picketed the IRS to let them know why he refused to pay any taxes for war. In , he began to fast and picket one day for each year that had elapsed since Hiroshima. (A few copies of his autobiography, The Book of Ammon, are still available from his widow, Joan Thomas, P.O. Box 25, Phoenix, AZ 85001, for $20.)

I am eager to picket with the Peace House this spring at the IRS office in Phoenix, to remind them of Ammon Hennacy, who made a radical and a tax resister out of me thirty-five years ago: We have come back to bother you again.

This society, and each one of us personally, must put our income into servicing human needs, not into the works of war. Only then can we rise from the economic ashes of the arms race, the Vietnam War, and our brutal indifference to the needs of the poor in the years since then.

The issue of The Catholic Worker gave an update on the Randy Kehler / Besty Corner house seizure:

War Tax Refusers Update

Although Randy Kehler, Colrain, Massachusetts war tax resister (CW ), was released from jail after a little more than two months, the occupation of his family’s home by friends and supporters continues. The federal government seized the house for non-payment, and later arrested Randy and his wife, Betsy Corner (briefly held) for contempt after their refusal to surrender it. Their home has been auctioned off, and is now owned by someone from a nearby town. At press time, the new “owner” has yet to move in, while groups sympathetic to the cause of tax resistance are taking turns at occupying the home, despite threats of arrest.

For more information, please call the War Tax Refusers Support Committee at: (413) 774‒2710, or write: c/o Traprock Peace Center, Keets Road, Deerfield, MA 01342.

There were also a handful of brief passing references to tax resistance in other issues of The Catholic Worker in .