War Tax Resisters in Eugene, Oregon

An article by Ann Baker from the Eugene Register-Guard gives a peek at how the war tax resistance movement in Eugene, Oregon looked then. The Peace Investors of Eugene group no longer exists, I don’t think, though there is still a thriving war tax resistance group in Eugene.

Anti-war group urges tax resistance

If you happen to walk by the state employment office in Eugene around , don’t be surprised if someone hands you a tiny sliver of pumpkin pie and says, “We wish this was bigger but the military gets the rest.”

The pie is a symbol for two things — a new Eugene antiwar group called PIE (Peace Investors of Eugene) and an often-used pie-shaped illustration of the federal spending budget.

Members of PIE group think too much of the federal “pie” goes for defense spending. They would like to see people reduce the amount of money available for that purpose by refusing to pay the 10 per cent federal excise tax on their telephone bills and by reducing their federal income tax liability.

The group hopes to collect the money people save through these two methods and donate it to local organizations such as free schools; medical services; legal defense funds; cooperatives; peace, resistance and liberation groups; employment centers for “peace jobs” and child care centers.

When members of the group hand out the pieces of pie in front of the employment office , they will also set up large “pie charts” purportedly to show the portion of the federal budget which goes for military spending in relation to the amount allocated for other purposes.

According to Justine Heavilon, one of the organizers of PIE, the group selected the state employment office as the site for its kick-off event because “we wanted to target one of the population groups that needs the kinds of services the federal government should be providing — the unemployed.”

Mrs. Heavilon said the members are primarily people who have refused to pay their federal telephone taxes for a number of years. She estimates the current membership at about 40.

In addition to collecting and allocating money, the group plans to provide tax consultations to tell people how they can legally reduce the amount of federal income tax they have to pay. The group sponsored a clinic for this purpose and has scheduled another clinic for at Harris Hall adjacent to the Lane County Courthouse.

According to Bates, the people who refuse to pay the phone tax attach a note to their phone bills explaining the reason for the refusal.

When a person refuses to pay the phone tax, Mrs. Heavilon said, the phone company turns the unpaid bill over to the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS sends several notices over a period of months, then contacts the person and asks if he would like to pay the tax plus six per cent interest, she said.

“Many people pay at that point,” Mrs. Heavilon said. “If you refuse to pay then, they ask if you have a bank account, if you own a house or car, and if you have a job. The procedure usually used then is to take the amount (of the unpaid tax plus interest) from your bank account.”

Richard Armony, information officer for the Portland IRS district — which includes Eugene — confirmed that this is the procedure used in all tax delinquency cases. Armony said that, in addition to the six per cent interest charged for delinquent payments, there is a “failure-to-pay penalty” charged which is also six per cent of the unpaid tax amount.

Armony also said that he doesn’t know how many people in Oregon have refused to pay the phone tax because tax delinquency cases of all types are lumped into one category.

Members of the PIE group estimate there are about 100 people in the Eugene area who have consistently refused to pay the phone tax.

The PIE group’s headquarters are in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Gray, 1059 Hilyard St., Eugene.

Charles Gray died in . Here’s a news story that covers his life of activism and tax resistance. “Mrs. Charles Gray” — Leslie Brockelbank — died . The Eugene Weekly also did a recap of her life.

And yes, Virginia, they really did start newspaper articles with phrases like “An attractive woman newspaper editor” (Rome News-Tribune, ):

Woman Dares Court Fight on Social Security Tax

An attractive woman newspaper editor refused to pay her social security tax, closed out her bank account and dared Treasury Secretary Snyder to “pop your whip” and jail her.

“To force me to pay this outrageous demand you must either confiscate my business or put me in prison,” Mrs. Mary D. Cain, editor and owner of the weekly Summit Sun, wrote Snyder, “I hope you choose the latter course.”

“This is a test case in the matter of paying this thing,” she said. “Pop your whip, Mr. Snyder. I am ready.”

Last year the government attached the bank accounts of a number of Texas housewives who refused to pay social security on their domestic help.

Mrs. Cain announced that she had closed her bank account, farmed out the task of printing her paper, and released her husband from any obligation to pay either her own or the newspaper’s debts.

Mrs. Cain’s 1,500 word letter to Snyder sounded a great deal like a playback of the anti-New-Deal-Fair-Deal platform on which she stumped Mississippi last summer as the state’s first woman candidate for governor.

Lately she has been mentioned as a possible candidate for congress or the U.S. senate this year. She has denied both reports.

According to Cain’s obit in the New York Times:

Although she lost a battle that went to the Supreme Court [over her Social Security tax resistance], the Government eventually dropped the case. The Social Security program, she said, was “unconstitutional, immoral and un-American.”

Two revenue agents secured her weekly newspaper office in Summit with a padlocked chain. Mrs. Cain sawed off the lock and chain and mailed them to the Internal Revenue Department with a defiant note.

The story of the lock and chain is also told in Westbrook Pegler’s column for , which adds these details:

To frustrate the collectors she assigned her weekly paper, Summit Sun to her niece, Mary Lou Butler, 20 years old, but retained the authority of editor and manager, without pay.…

The government set a marshall to padlock the Summit Sun

Mrs. Cain sawed off the padlock and mailed it to the marshal. She repeated the job for the benefit of newspaper, newsreel and television cameras. She made her crime as flagrant as she could. She gloried and gloated. The violence against the court’s padlock probably also made her guilty of deliberate, defiant contempt of the federal district court, but still the Department of Justice, like the Treasury, looked the other way.…

…She has received more than 7,000 letters and unsolicited donations of $700 for her legal expenses.…

On , the St. Petersburg Times covered the early days of the modern American war tax resistance in the Peacemakers group:

Group Plans Tax Strike

Pacifists Balk At Helping Pay For U.S. Defense

A pacifist Presbyterian minister said 150 members of a peace-seeking group had decided they would not pay any Federal income taxes to be used for financing “war preparations.”

The Rev. A.J. Muste, national secretary of the Peacemaker said yesterday he himself was one of “about 15” members of the organization in the New York City area who have launched the tax resistance movement.

Muste described the Peacemakers as a “non-violent revolutionary pacifist group engaged in a campaign similar to that of the late Mahatma Gandhi in India.” The organization has about 2,000 members, he said.

The 150 persons throughout the country who have joined in the tax resistance movement, Muste said, have either decided “to withhold all their taxes or just that part of them which proportionately would go to war preparations.”

Muste predicted general resistance to war preparedness in the form of refusals to register for draft and the tax resistance movement would increase.

He said the Peacemakers organization is “completely non-political, opposed to totalitarianism in any form, including communism.”

Muste also is national chairman of the Fellowship of Reconciliation which he described as a religious organization numbering some 15,000 and dedicated to peace.

Meanwhile, in Yellow Springs, O., a 75-year-old Quaker widow deducted 32.2 per cent from the first installment of her income tax because she said “war and preparation for war in the atomic era is a crime against humanity.”

Mrs. Caroline Urie failed in a similar protest. She deducted 34.6 per cent of her estimated tax for the year, but, after taxes in her bracket were reduced, she had still paid more than was called for and at the year’s end the government owed her money.

She said yesterday she had made sure the same things wouldn’t happen . She said she would withhold the full amount of military taxes by paying only the first installment of the tax now and giving herself until , to pay the final quarter.