War Tax Resistance in Friends Bulletin in the 1980s

Here are a few more items concerning tax resistance that I found in back issues from of Friends Bulletin, the journal of the Pacific Yearly Meeting of Quakers.

The issue included an announcement from the Orange County Monthly Meeting of the launch of “The Conscience and Military Tax Resolution.” This sort of thing is frequently proposed in modern war tax resistance circles, but has yet to show much success. In this incarnation people who “are not ready to resist now” could sign on to the resolution to “show that you are at least ready to begin when 100,000 others agree to do so.” Once that target was reached, signers of the Resolution would begin to refuse to pay at least a certain percentage of their taxes. The goal of this was to pressure the government into passing “the World Peace Tax Fund Bill or similar legislation which would provide a legal alternative for taxpayers morally opposed to war.”

The issue had several items on war tax resistance, beginning with this statement and commentary:

A Refusal to Cooperate with War

We express our love for God and all the peoples of this earth. A vital act of this love is to refuse cooperation with registration for the draft and payment of our tax money for war. We testify against rendering unto Caesar that which is God’s. We, the individuals who serve on the Pacific Yearly Meeting Peace Committee, join with those Friends who refuse to cooperate with war taxes and registration. As a result of this call, we have chosen to protest war taxes, some refusing at least a “Token Ten” dollars.

Friend — what canst thou say?

Lonnie Valentine
Betsy Eberhart
Gladis Innerst
Mike Turner
Ellen Lyon
Duane Magill
Franklin Zahn
Ed Flowers
Bonnie Wells

The above statement, written by the Pacific Yearly Meeting Peace Committee and others came with labor over several minutes on conscription and peace from monthly meetings as well as Friends General Conference minute, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s statement, and Sarasota Monthly Meeting’s Statement of Peace. The intent was a minute of action in which our Peace Testimony would be not just words but applied to our lives in .

Two suggestions came out of a subsequent threshing session: 1) that the statement be made available for others to sign and 2) that the Peace Committee be available to labor with monthly meetings on this statement.

All monthly meetings have previously received Franklin Zahn’s “War Taxes–Minus a Token Ten” of which develops the idea and makes suggestions on alternative uses of the token ten dollars. In essence, withholding $10.00 in objection to the federal government’s use of our tax money for war is similar to withholding the U.S. Tax from telephone bills which was done during the Vietnam War.

I am raising the question within monthly meetings and among Peace Committee members whether PYM Peace Committee should sponsor a weekend conference at Quaker Center. Your suggestions and/or responses would be appreciated.

Also, I hope that monthly meetings, meanwhile, are taking advantage of Lonnie Valentine’s availability to provide workshops on War Tax Objection.

In peace and love,
Ellen Lyon, Clerk
PYM Peace Committee

Lonnie Valentine also penned a separate article on “War Tax Objection” for that issue:

How can we who are above the draft age support Friends faced with registration? In Our Peace Testimony it says:

Our witness to the way of peace requires that we refuse military service of any kind, and challenges us to consider whether we can in any way submit to that involuntary servitude which is conscription. Friends should work to abolish state conscription — whether for military or other purposes — and should refuse personally to cooperate with the draft.

Since many of us do not have this opportunity to refuse to register for the draft, we must look to those other ways in which we can refuse cooperation with the draft.

One way is refusing registration of our money for war through the taxation system. When we willingly submit a tax form, we are supporting registration for the draft; when we willingly pay taxes of which over half is used for war, we are supporting registration for the draft. When we do these things, we are withdrawing support from Friends who are refusing to register for the draft. Therefore, one unequivocal way we who are above draft age can support Friends resisting the draft is to resist payment of those taxes which, in part, go for registration and conscription.

If we recognize our “involvement in militarism through the payment of taxes used for military purposes” but do not act to end such involvement, then are we not hypocritical to tell Friends faced with registration to refuse military service? If draft age Friends take the Peace Testimony to heart and refuse to cooperate with the draft, then is it not time that we who are no longer of that age refuse to cooperate with the drafting of our money for war?

Perhaps our Peace Testimony states what we believe too rigidly when it calls on Friends to refuse cooperation with the draft. Perhaps, however, the testimony does not state what we believe with regard to the payment of war taxes strongly enough. If we agree that we should refuse cooperation with the draft, then it is time we should refuse cooperation with war taxes.

That issue also included this on-point notice from one Quarterly Meeting:

College Park Quarterly Meeting Minute of Support for Non-Registrants and War Tax Refusers

In these times of draft registration and military buildup, many persons may be led to actions in harmony with the Quaker Peace Testimony. College Park Quarterly Meeting supports those who feel spiritually led, for reasons of conscience, to perform such actions, including non-registration for the draft and war tax refusal.

A letter to the editor from Walter Klein in that issue suggested that Quakers, instead of resisting war taxes, should pay twice their normal tax, but pay the extra amount for a non-military purpose, perhaps one chosen as a group. “It would be legal, it would be a statement of conscience, wars and armament would continue; but the message might be loud and clear and perhaps more effective.” He suggested the program be called “ ‘The Better Use of Government’ Fund or ‘BUG’ Fund for short.”

Lonnie Valentine reminded Quakers of their historical tradition of war tax resistance in the issue:

Saying “NO!” to Taxation for Draft Registration

by Lonnie Valentine, Orange County Meeting

A.J. Muste once remarked that “The two decisive powers of the government with respect to war are the power to conscript and the power to tax.” Now it can be claimed that the government’s ability to wage war depends decisively upon its power to tax. After all, our nuclear age began beneath one airplane, twelve men, and millions of drafted tax dollars.

As early as American Friends recognized the connection between taxes and war. In an epistle to Pennsylvania Friends, John Woolman, John Churchman, and others wrote:

As we cannot be concerned with wars and fighting, so neither ought we to contribute thereto… though some part of the money be raised… is said to be for such benevolent purposes, as supporting our friendship with our Indian neighbors, and relieving the distresses of our fellow-subjects… we could most cheerfully contribute to those purposes, if they were not so mixed, that we cannot in the manner proposed, show our hearty concurrence therewith, without at the same time assenting to… practices, which we apprehend contrary to the testimony which the Lord hath given us to bear…

Indeed, the Friends’ clear apprehension of the connection of money and war was reflected in the Constitutional debates (about whether to include a conscientious objector amendment) with regard to the conscription of men and money. Roger Sherman of Connecticut remarked that “It is well know that those who are religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, are equally scrupulous of getting substitutes or paying an equivalent. Many of them would rather die then do either one or the other.” How much are we now ready to do for our scruples about conscription?

If we were all to be subject to the military draft in the next war, we would not pay a fee to hire someone in our place. However, we seem to have forgotten that with the payment of taxes we are hiring substitutes. We are paying to have someone go in our place. In being unable to say “No!” to the payment of taxes used to register and conscript others, we nullify our ability to say “No!” in other ways. After all, the government cares little if we leaflet post offices, learn draft counseling, or even advocate draft resistance as long as we continue to pay our taxes. Simply put, when we pay our taxes, we enable the government to conscript.

If other Friends are concerned enough about conscription to contemplate saying “No!” to the drafting of our tax dollars, please write me at 27122 Cipres, Mission Viejo, CA 92692 to let me know [sic] about the many ways we can protest and resist paying war taxes. Also, please feel free to ask those Friendly questions about justifying suffering for such a witness!

Joshua Evans reflected my feelings long ago when he said: “I found it best for me to refuse paying demands on my estate which went to paying the expenses of war, and although my part might appear at best a drop in the ocean, yet the ocean, I considered, was made of many drops.” Are there other Friends who are willing to be drops in this ocean?

[Lonnie Valentine has travelled in the ministry among Friends in Pacific Yearly Meeting this past year under the auspices of the Fund for Concerns to share with Friends his concerns about paying taxes for war.]

A letter from Harold Waterhouse in the same issue warned Quakers against making their war tax resistance “an act so private in nature that sometimes its sole impact falls on some harassed IRS clerk [and, a]s an act of witness… is chiefly between us and God.” While such an act “relieves our conscience… if it reduces our drive for peace to the point that we fail to act in more effective ways, then war-tax-withholding, on balance, is counter-productive.”

A letter from David & Janet Hartsough to the IRS, reprinted in the issue, explained why the Hartsoughs were refusing outright to pay $10.40 of their federal taxes (redirecting that to the Oakland Catholic Worker “to feed the hungry and house the homeless”), and paying the remaining $747.60 but in the form of a check made out to the Department of Health and Human Services instead of to the U.S. Treasury, in the hopes of thereby keeping the money out of the hands of the Defense Department.

A letter from Elinor Gene Hoffman to the IRS, reprinted in the issue, explained why she was withholding 33⅓% of her taxes (“approximately the amount we are spending for future wars and present armaments”), redirecting them “to organizations I believe are dedicated to peace and to furthering life on this planet,” and declaring this on her tax return as a “Quaker Peace Witness” tax credit. She wrote, in part:

Please observe that by withholding only one-third of my taxes, I demonstrate my willingness to pay for past wars and veterans’ benefits. I believe we should honor past debts and that veterans of all wars should receive our cherishing care.…

I take this stand in full recognition of the many benefits we all derive from our representative form of government and the freedoms it enables me to enjoy. But I firmly believe nothing good my government has done or will do can endure if we do not halt our military pollution of the planet.

The issue included a special section on “Conscientious War Tax Refusal”:

  • A reprinted letter from DeAnne Butterfield and John Huyler, Jr. of Boulder Meeting to the IRS explained why they were withholding 39% of their taxes and declaring a credit in a similar manner to Hoffman’s action explained above. Excerpt:

    We hope most fervently that legal options (such as the proposed World Peace Tax Fund) may be available in the future and would gladly pay into such a fund. Until then we see war tax refusal as the only avenue which allows us to follow our religious principles.

    We welcome your scrutiny of this return. You will find that we have been forthright and complete to the best of our ability. Furthermore, we hope that this commitment on our parts can be a useful catalyst for dialogue. We will welcome you our your agents into our home in hopes that, together, in a spirit of mutual concern and respect, we may discover better ways to bring about an end to all wars.

    A note appended to this letter added: “Through the efforts of DeAnne Butterfield, John Huyler, and others, Boulder Meeting adopted a one-year trial program of reducing war taxes and diverting them to peaceful uses through hiring a part-time Peace Secretary who will help stimulate activity in the Meeting and in the community.” (See ♇ 7 June 2018 for more information about this.)
  • A reprinted letter from Gerald Morsello of Eugene Meeting to the IRS explained his tax refusal, which involved redirecting “a portion of my Federal Income Tax” to “the Oregon Urban Rural Credit Union for use by people most affected by recent Federal domestic budget cuts.” He said he was doing this although he would prefer “to be able to place the money I owe the Federal government in a legally recognized alternative, such as the World Peace Tax Fund.”
  • An letter from Constance Jolly of the Berkeley Meeting to the IRS, excerpted from the newsletter of the National Council for a World Peace Tax Fund, explained her redirection of 35% of her taxes to “an organization that works for peaceful reconciliation, for human rights, and for disarmament.” Excerpt:

    I am not one who breaks the law lightly, but for me the law that commands its citizens to do evil is less binding than the higher law that commands that “Thou shalt not kill.”

  • An announcement for an upcoming conference on “A Religious Response to Growing Militarism” sponsored by College Park Quarterly Meeting said that it “will be a nurturing and supportive gathering for those Friends and others who are facing issues related to draft and tax resistance, [etc.]”
  • A note read:

    The 1981 Tax Resistance issue of Newsletter is available (40¢ each) from 331 17th Ave. E., Seattle WA 94112. Contents include information about forms of tax resistance or refusal, possible penalties, resources for decision-making, a national listing of counselors, Centers, and Alternative Funds.

    Those contents sound like the sort of stuff NWTRCC puts out nowadays. But NWTRCC wasn’t founded until , so I don’t know who was putting out such a newsletter in .
  • An article concerning statements by Episcopalian and Catholic bishops on nuclear weapons included this section:

    [I]n Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen of Seattle proposed that “a sizable number of people in the state” undertake a taxpayers revolt to protest the buildup in nuclear arms. He argued that refusing to pay fifty per cent of income taxes “in resistance to nuclear murder and suicide” would be “a definite step toward total disarmament… Our paralyzed political process needs that catalyst of nonviolent action based on faith. We have to refuse to give incense — in our day tax dollars — to our nuclear idol.”

  • Brief summaries of the activities of various meetings included such notices as these:
    • “Conscience and Military Tax Campaign [and] Consequences of Tax Refusal” were among topics on the agenda of University Meeting’s “study hour.”
    • “Eugene friends held a threshing session on tax resistance: ‘No consensus was sought, and the Meeting was clearly divided on this difficult issue.’ ”
    • “Conscription of Taxes” was discussed by the Phoenix Meeting in the context of “discussions growing out of the New Call to Peacemaking statement.”

Finally, the issue included a report from Anne Friend of the Santa Monica Meeting on The Friends Committee on War Tax Concerns:

The Friends Committee on War Tax Concerns is well on the way to working itself out of a job. The committee was established early in to accomplish three tasks: (1) to publish a guidebook on war tax concerns; (2) to encourage consultation on war tax issues throughout the Society of Friends; and (3) to develop queries and advices for Quaker employers.

The proposed guidebook has become a series of pamphlets and a bibliography. Three of the pamphlets, the ones on Quaker history and recent statements of Friends, on the Biblical basis for conscientious objection to war taxes, and on the spiritual and rational bases for war tax concerns, should be in print by , along with the bibliography.

In mid-continent and mid- there will be a conference for employers. Invitations will be sent to schools and religious organizations operated by all the groups participating in the New Call to Peacemaking. About 100 people are expected to gather and explore the positions that can be adopted vis à vis the Internal Revenue Service and the range of possible solutions to problems which may arise.

Two regional conferences, “Money and Conscience” and “Paying for War/Paying for Peace,” were held in . Both were very successful. Several more are planned for . FCWTC will provide resource material and assistance with program planning for conferences wherever there are Friends who recognize the importance of war tax issues and are willing to do the basic planning and arrangements. I hope this means some of us.

Each of us on the committee represents a different Friends organization. Most of us refuse to pay some or all of the taxes that pay for war. However, the committee is concerned with “concerns,” not just resistance. We believe that all Friends should go as far as they can, but not all are called to go in the same direction. What aspect of this explosive issue do you most want to learn more about, discuss with other Friends, make the subject of a conference? If you can’t give time, can you give money? The basic program of the committee is to prepare resource materials, distribute them where they are needed, help people with similar problems and concerns to get in touch with each other and then to lay the committee down, probably about .

I will try to get to any meeting in Southern California (maybe further) and hope to get to Intermountain Yearly Meeting in (Anne Friend, 836 N. Beaudry, № 5, Los Angeles, CA 90012). Lon Fendall at the Center for Peace Learning, Newberg, OR 97132, is willing to visit some meetings in North Pacific Yearly Meeting, as way opens, and/or to help plan a conference. Linda Coffin is the staff at FCWTC, P.O. Box 6441, Washington, D.C. 20009. Any of us would like to hear from you.

If April 15 is getting to you more every year, think about what you can do about it. And while you’re thinking about it, do something to get others thinking about it, too.