War Tax Resistance in Friends Bulletin in the 2000s

Today, a few final notes from the Friends Bulletin archives, as we reach .

The issue was haunted by the U.S. attack on Iraq that would begin that month.

A statement from the Santa Cruz meeting in that issue included this remark:

The Meeting urges all of its members to find direct expression of their opposition to this escalation of violence — including war-tax resistance, public demonstration and public civil disobedience, [and so forth]…

Also in that issue, Bob Runyan wrote up this thoughtful reflection on the implications of taxpaying and tax resistance:

We Don’t Look Dangerous

by Bob Runyan
Chico (CA) Meeting

I missed my chance to be a conscientious objector when my number didn’t come up in the last year of the draft. It was . During high school I got the opportunity to think through whether I could kill other people in a war. I couldn’t see how I could possibly allow myself to be trained to shoot or bayonet another human being.

Well. It’s and my wife Kathy and I’ve been well trained in killing. Not the kind of face-to-face killing that kept me awake in my high school years. Like a bomber pilot, we never see our victims unless they show up on the news. Maybe we can’t even be directly implicated. We don’t look dangerous, but we are accomplices.

Over the years we’ve been trained to look the other way as our federal taxes paid for others to kill, or threaten to kill, in our places. From Vietnam to Afghanistan and beyond, we’ve had a hand in financing the deaths of millions of human beings. With the nuclear weapons and delivery systems we’ve helped pay for, billions of others are threatened.

Well, we didn’t have a choice did we?

We didn’t think we had a choice. If we didn’t pay our taxes we’d go to jail. That simple, right? The idea of resistance never even occurred to either of us until . Since that time Kathy and I have wrestled with the idea of conscientious objection to the draft in high school. The two ideas are closely related.

Our family’s bodies and minds are useless to the military at this point. Our tax dollars are valuable. They are being drafted and have been drafted since we started working and making a living wage. In today’s high-tech military, warm bodies are of secondary importance. Cold cash is key.

Military spending makes up between 40 to 50% of the federal budget, depending on whose statistics one uses.* In order to resist conscription of my family’s share of this money, I submitted a new W-4 to my employer and adjusted dependent allowances to reduce my withholding. Now only about half as much is removed. At the end of the year we will correctly fill out and file our federal income tax return as usual, but we will only pay 50 to 60% of the balance due. The remainder, the military portion, we will redirect to worthy causes. With our tax forms we’ll enclose a letter that will explain the reasons for our action.

What will happen to my family and me? Lord knows, but if past events are good predictors of the future, then this is the likely scenario. First, the IRS will send us letters. These will go from brusque to threatening. There might be a personal visit. At some point, maybe in a few months, maybe in a few years, they will come after the money. This they will easily find in our family bank accounts or by garnishing my pay. They will take interest and penalties beyond our unpaid balance. They will almost certainly not put Kathy or me in jail (as I said, the Federal Government has little use for our bodies, and no one is known to have been jailed for war tax resistance in the U.S.A. for over a decade, though there are thousands of resisters).

So what’s the point? If they’re going to take the money anyway, why go through all of this?

The point is that we have a choice about whether to look the other way while my money is used for murder. In our way of thinking, we have an obligation to object when we see evil, to avoid participating in it willingly or tacitly, and to try to do what we can to stop it. The military will likely get our tax money, but we will not have handed it to them. They will have to take it.

We don’t look so dangerous. But maybe we are. Instead of being a threat to world peace, we’ve taken a step toward being a threat to world war.

* Good sources for this information are the American Friends Service Committee, War Resisters League, and the Center for Defense Information.

That issue also reprinted an article from the San Francisco Chronicle about Elizabeth Boardman’s trip to Baghdad shortly before the war. That article mentioned in passing her war tax resistance.

The issue included an article by Vickie Aldrich on “A History of War Tax Resistance in the United States.” Another note in that issue mentioned that her Meeting, the Las Cruses, New Mexico, Monthly Meeting had adopted a minute “in support of war tax resisters.”

Another article in that issue included the following minute, approved by the Intermountain Yearly Meeting:

Our religious convictions lead us to take a stand against war. There are many ways to do this, one of which is war tax resistance. We support those in our Yearly Meeting who feel called to war tax resistance.

The issue featured a query from Peg Morton of the Eugene Friends Meeting: “Are We Ready to Refuse to Pay for War and Accept the Consequences?” She asked Quakers to remember their history of war tax refusal, and invited them to take part in the “War Tax Boycott” that NWTRCC had organized that year.