Tax Resistance in “Gospel Herald”, 1974

This is the sixteenth in a series of posts about war tax resistance as it was reported in back issues of Gospel Herald, journal of the (Old) Mennonite Church.

“Gospel Herald” logo, circa 1973

, Duane A. and Esther W. Diller sent a letter “to the District Director of the Internal Revenue Service… and the IRS Collecting Agent… with copies to President Richard M. Nixon; Senator Bob Packwood; Mr. William Holdner, CPA; Marcus Smucker, pastor; Senator Mark Hatfield; Mennonite Central Committee Peace Section; and the editor of Gospel Herald” that might be seen as a sort of model for Mennonite war tax resisters:

We welcome this opportunity to contribute personally to the welfare of our people in this country. For all the benefits we enjoy because of orderly government, we are very thankful. To pay for all we receive would require much more than this tax. Yet, this payment brings to sharp focus a question of loyalties. Let us share something of that with you.

Ancient seers like Isaiah envisioned a kingdom in which “they shall beat their swords into plowshares… and learn war no more.” Jesus came to model life in that kingdom. He is now the Lord of that kingdom and its advance guard, the church. We who belong to His kingdom seek to obey Him in our life together. One point where obedience to Jesus can conflict with obedience to our government is here in the payment of this income tax. We want to live in brother-servant relationships with other persons, just as modeled for us by Jesus. Yet we are part of a people that total just 6 percent of the world population but consume 40 percent of the earth’s resources. We are able to enforce this inequality upon nearly one billion hungry people by spending lavishly to support the most awesome military machine in human history. In contrast to Isaiah’s hope, we spend billions for “swords” and pennies for “plowshares.” We note with dismay, that 30 percent of our personal income tax payment is designated for current military production. Even this is misleading because the new unified budget includes large amounts from trust funds over which the federal government is merely caretaker. Considering the income tax alone, current military production is actually 48 percent. Adding the costs of veterans’ benefits and past wars’ debts, one finds we spend the majority of this tax for militarism. Now we hear the Pentagon Budget Team requesting a record-breaking $91 billion military budget for next year; this during a generation of peace!

Frankly, we are torn by the inconsistency of professing to follow Jesus Christ while we obediently pay a tax used chiefly for military-oriented production. It seems we must choose who is really Lord! Somehow, we must begin to implement our call to be a life-conserving force. And in this instance, our loyalty to Jesus Christ overrides our loyalty to this government.

With a local community of Christian disciples, we have felt led by the Holy Spirit to express our obedience to Jesus Christ by refusing to pay voluntarily the 30 percent designated for current military production in our federal budget. We are paying that 30 percent to the Mennonite Central Committee, Peace Section Taxes-for-Peace Fund, where it is used to meet needs of persons suffering because of our militarism.

In view of the constitutional protection of our religious liberties, we earnestly request that you consider our conscience in this matter by accounting this alternate payment to fulfill our income tax obligation. If you account it so, we, of course, will not deduct it as a charitable contribution on next year’s return.

With the help of our most trustworthy accountant, Mr. William Holdner, we have scrupulously computed the tax due. We have no intention to defraud or mislead you in any way.

We would very much welcome discussion in our home with anyone from IRS. This would help us to understand better any problems our action may cause you in your role as collector of the tax. We will cooperate in any way we conscientiously can to help you resolve any problems. We very much appreciated your visit last year, Mr. Pilch, and invite you again anytime you feel it would be helpful. It is not our purpose to make your life difficult.

Thank you for helping us with this matter.

The deliberate way in which this tax resistance was conducted impressed Norm Teague, who responded in a letter to the editor:

The fact that this letter was sent to the powers that be in Washington, advising them where the 30 percent was going, and sending receipt (if I understand correctly) shows a step in faith which, it seems to me, we should be taking as a church.

J.C. Wegner tried to summarize the debate about war tax resistance in the issue, but gave short shrift, I thought, to some pro-resistance arguments like (most obviously) the analogy between conscientious objection to military taxation and conscientious objection to military service. This was perhaps due to the insistence by some earlier and influential Mennonite proponents of war tax resistance that their stand was primarily an act of “witness.”

On Federal Taxes

by J.C. Wegner

A Summary of Contrasting Ethical Judgments
And a Suggested Stance Toward Those Who Differ with Us

Nonresistant PaymentCivil Disobedience
  1. Even though Rome was the № 1 military power in the first century, the New Testament commands the payment of taxes. “Revolutionary Subordination.”
  2. Governments normally operate from self-interest, not from the will of God in Christ.
  3. Realistically, tax resistance is futile; the government usually takes court action to claim the legal tax.
  4. The basic witness of Christians is to be devoted to the building of Christ’s new humanity, His new covenant people, the church — not a futile attempt to Christianize a secular state.
  1. A twentieth-century democracy is not fully comparable to the first-century Roman Empire.
  2. Sufficient pressure from concerned citizens can sometimes modify governmental policy.
  3. Compelling the state to collect taxes by force can be a witness to radical Christian discipleship.
  4. Even though the government per se does not recognize the lordship of Christ, Christian disciples should still witness to the government of Christ’s lordship and His ethic of love.

Both groups desire to be faithful.

A Christian Stance Toward Differing Disciples

All believers should give their moral support to those Christians whose ethic they themselves may not feel led to follow: draft resistance, the non-voluntary payment of tax money used for non-Christian program, and the like.

Those refusing the voluntary payment of what they consider “blood money” should not judge those disciples who meekly and regretfully pay their taxes in accord with their understanding of New Testament directives.

Might the Gordian Knot Be Cut?

As the editor of the Gospel Herald has pointed out, a bill to create a World Peace Tax Fund has been introduced… If in God’s providence this good bill should ever become law, Christ’s sons of peace could then designate that portion of their tax dollars, which is normally used to pay for wars, to said World Peace Tax Fund — for research, and for peace-related activities, not for destroying men’s lives.

Until that time, let us give sacrificially for the advance of Christ’s program on all fronts, let us pray for divine discernment to know His holy will, and let us cultivate warm agape love one for another.

This news came from the issue:

Minister, Wife Refuse Tax Payment
IRS Collects from Congregation

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has collected $1.94 from the bank account of a church in Minneapolis because its pastor and his wife refused to pay the telephone excise tax in .

Donald D. Kaufman, pastor of Faith Mennonite Church, and his wife, Eleanor, withheld payment of the tax “in protest against the Vietnam War and U.S. militarism.”

, the tax has been used to pay the costs of the Vietnam War. It has been 10 percent of phone bills but starting this year it is being decreased one percent annually until it is abolished in . The IRS levied the amount against the church’s bank account since the phone used by the Kaufmans is in the name of the church.

In a recent letter to Congressmen, President Nixon, and other officials, Mr. and Mrs. Kaufman urged reduction of military expenditures, saying there was no justification for a military budget of $88 billion in “an era of peace.”

They also called for support of the proposed World Peace Tax Fund Act…

Max Ediger advocated a more confrontational approach, in his article on “Freedom”:

Hitler was able to kill over six million Jews because the German people followed his leading despite the fact that many of them thought it was wrong. The United States government dumped tons of bombs on Southeast Asia because all those Americans who were revolted by this action continued to pay their taxes rather than be imprisoned.

Finally, a pair of articles ( and ) noted that the American Friends Service Committee had lost its war tax resistance Supreme Court case by an eight-to-one vote.