War Tax Resister Julia “Butterfly” Hill

The war tax resistance movement got a big boost when the well-known environmental activist Julia “Butterfly” Hill held a press conference at the Federal Building in San Francisco to announce what the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee is calling “the single largest war tax resistance in US history.”

Hill attracted international attention when she climbed 180 feet up into the branches of a thousand-year-old Redwood tree and refused to come down until it was safe from the Pacific Lumber Company’s harvesting. 738 days later, she came down with an agreement to save not only the tree she’d named “Luna,” but a three-acre patch of trees that surrounded it. Hill’s commitment and her ultimate success proved inspirational to environmentalists and other activists.

After her successful tree sit, the wireless company OmniSky and two other companies used her story and likeness in unauthorized ad campaigns. Hill sued to stop the ad campaign — “I do not endorse products,” she said today, “I endorse actions and beliefs.”

She and a volunteer legal team worked on the lawsuit. Hill says, “I wanted 100% of the proceeds of the settlement to go toward the social and environmental causes for which I work so hard.… Shortly before settling out of court in , I found that even though I was not making a single penny off of this lawsuit, the federal government was going to demand that a very large percentage of the settlement be paid to taxes.” The total tax bill was over $150,000. “When I found this out I was sickened.”

“I struggled for a long time with the knowledge that if given to the government, this money would be used for terrible things, but that if I refused to pay, I faced consequences, some of them potentially very serious. When the first US bomb dropped in Iraq in , my decision became crystal clear. I could not in good conscience allow this money to be used for the murder of innocent people.”

Hill said, “I was raised by Christian parents who taught me about the Ten Commandments, the first of which is ‘Thou Shall Not Kill.’ Paying for the murder of innocent people with my tax dollars is something that I cannot do in good conscience.”

She notes that “the greatest accumulations of weapons of mass destruction exist right here in the United States. These weapons of death are funded by US citizens’ tax dollars stolen from the basic necessities that better our society such as social services, education, health care, and the safeguarding of human rights and our environment.”

Hill will be redirecting the amount she would have been paying in taxes to into various not-for-profit social service and environmental organizations. “Thousands of others before me have taken this stand,” she says. “I have thought through this very carefully, and with a clear mind and heart I am humanely re-directing my tax payments to where they belong, because our current federal government refuses to do so.”

Asked whether the large amount she is withholding and her celebrity might make the IRS eager to come after her, Hill said she wasn’t sure. “It could make me a target, or it could make them not want to draw more attention.”

Julia “Butterfly” Hill in her tree-sitting days.