Tax Resistance in “The Catholic Worker” 1994–95

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

The issue of The Catholic Worker summarized the then-current argument for war tax resistance this way:

Resist Taxes! April Is Coming!

The peace dividend — the transfer of military funds to humanitarian purposes after the end of the cold war — was indeed only wishful thinking. The percentage of the federal budget spent on the military has remained virtually the same since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Also, a law ensured that any defense cuts would be applied to the deficit. No weapons systems have been eliminated, and the 24% troop reduction doesn’t mean any change in the strategic power of the US armed forces.

In light of all this, we remind our readers once again: tax resistance is a concrete way to refuse to participate in preparing for war. Some suggestions — don’t pay all or part of your federal income tax — subtract the federal excise tax from your phone bill — and follow in Ammon Hennacy’s footsteps by fasting and picketing the IRS on April 15.

Tax resistance in any form is not an easy thing, but in the spirit of St. Francis’ Holy Poverty, to earn less than the taxable income level (to have less of Caesar’s, to paraphrase the Gospels) is to resist military spending as well. That amount is $5,550 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple, and is, admittedly, easier to manage in the context of community.

A similar announcement appeared in that paper , adding the U.S. contribution to global sales of military hardware to the list of complaints, and recommending that readers contact NWTRCC (at a post office box in Monroe, Maine).

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

Colrain Resolution

The War Tax Resister Support Committee (WTRSC) in Colrain, MA celebrated their two year nonviolent campaign in . The celebration comes after a settlement between the Valley Community Land Trust (VCLT) and the young couple who purchased the seized home of tax resisters Randy Kehler and Betsy Corner at an auction from the IRS. Negotiations concluded with the VCLT being deeded the house from Danny and Terry Franklin in exchange for an undisclosed sum of money as well as the withdrawal of civil suits between the parties. The WTRSC celebrates the resolution and more so, the sustained support of individuals who nonviolently refuse to pay for war.

The prolonged action in Colrain (CW and CW ) always had its complexities, perhaps best reflected in the WTRSC’s assessment of the situation:

“There had been hopes that Danny and Terry would have a change of heart and remove themselves from between us and the IRS because of the action, or that the courts would invalidate the transfer of the land-lease, or that they’d affirm Randy and Betsy’s Nuremberg/International Law argument and strike down the IRS seizure altogether, or that the resistance action would carry on in high gear. Was it our nonviolent action, the legal conflict with the VCLT, the lack of water, a new baby, or all of these things over time that brought the Franklins to the negotiating table with the Land Trust? We may never know. That all parties are relieved to be free of that situation and moving forward is clear and, in that sense, there has been a victory for everyone.”

At present the VCLT is in the process of finding a new lessee for the house. Randy, Betsy, their daughter Lillian and Betsy’s mother are exploring the possibility of building a new, larger home on the Land Trust and rejoining the community. In nearby Greenfield, a housing project spawned by the Colrain action progresses and contributions of labor, materials and money are welcome. With approaching, the WTRSC is available to inform you about war tax resistance and the Colrain action. (WTRSC c/o Traprock Peace Center, Keets Road, Deerfield, MA 01341)

―Brian Harte

Catholic Worker was itself a beneficiary of tax redirection, according to letters in the and issues:

Bronx, NY

Dear folks at the Catholic Worker,

Hello! Once again I am withholding 32% of my federal tax in an act of war tax resistance. I wanted to send you (and other peace groups) a contribution instead. So here it is. Keep up the good work — and I’ll do my best to visit every so often.

Gail Presbey

Bronx, NY

Dear Folks at the New York Catholic Worker,

I am enclosing a donation to your ongoing worthy cause. The money I am sending is from my personal war tax resistance funds. I withheld 37% of my federal income taxes from the IRS, and told them that I was instead sending it to organizations which:

  • are working on an international level to find nonviolent resolutions to world conflicts; and/or
  • are providing needed services to the members of our own society who are neglected and shortchanged because of our nation’s over-funding of the military.

Our government still spends billions of dollars on nuclear weapons. Trident subs are still being built and launched. House Speaker Newt Gingrich wants to continue funding ballistic missile defense spending. At the same time, the poor will have their meager, underfunded programs cut even more. This state of affairs goes against my conscience, and I cannot pay for war.

I am sure that you will put these funds to good use. In the meantime, I can only hope that my small witness by this act of war tax resistance can, when joined with others, challenge the budget priorities of our government.

Gail M. Presbey