Tax Resistance in “The Mennonite”, 2003–2006

This is the forty-fourth in a series of posts about war tax resistance as it was reported in back issues of The Mennonite. Today we reach the mid-2000s and the start of the war on Iraq.

The Mennonite

Earl and Pat Hostetter Martin wrote of their war tax resistance for the issue. Excerpts:

Once again Caesar asks for more money to provide more weapons — this time to launch a war in Iraq. Even the Pope and nearly all the major Christian denominations in the United States, not just those in the historic peace church tradition, have said this is not a just war. We know 25 to 35 percent of our tax money will go to support the machines of war that have taken the lives of our friends. In the current hi-tech war-making, Caesar covets our dollars more than our bodies.

We agonize in our consciences. If a man were to run into our house and demand we give him a knife because he wants to go kill our neighbor, would we give it to him? Of course not.

Is it different if it is Caesar who asks for that knife? What shall we give Caesar? Anything Caesar asks for? Or only what belongs to Caesar? What does belong to Caesar? We try to seek the mind of a compassionate Christ in this dilemma. Within our souls we feel we cannot willfully put that knife into the hands of those who will bring harm and death to friends — known and unknown — around the world.

Once again we fill out our 1040 Tax Form correctly, but again we write a letter to the Internal Revenue Service — and government officials — to explain why we cannot pay some or all the military percentage of our income tax. We explain that we direct our monies instead to our church’s relief and development programs. Such efforts, we believe, build sustainable, peaceful lives for people around the world and probably do more to engender good will and security for Americans than any war. Under biblical principles and under the principles of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals after World War Ⅱ we know we cannot hide behind the inhumane orders of an official or even a government. Each of us is ultimately responsible to God and our fellow human beings for our actions.

The IRS sends us notices of “unpaid taxes.” Eventually they may freeze our wages or bank account in order to seize the money. (Under the “aiding and abetting” considerations, it feels different to us whether the man seizes the knife from our kitchen or we give it to him without protest.) Sometimes the IRS has not followed through. We especially salute our friends who live under the taxable income level as a way of affirming life and walking lightly on the earth.

When our international friends hear there are Christians who withhold even a token amount of the “military tax” as a cry for peace, many of them — including friends of other faiths — have expressed appreciation that Christians here are ready to witness in this way for a God of peace.

Susan Balzer wrote in to note:

The April issue of Mennonite Central Committee’s A Common Place reported that , MCC has given more than $4.5 million to Afghanistan relief. According to War Resister’s League, the United States spent $46 million in one hour of the war on Iraq — more than 10 times the amount MCC gave to rehabilitate Afghanistan. If for no other reason than Christian stewardship, we should refuse to pay the 47 percent of federal income, estate or gift taxes that fund the current and past military budget. Redirect them instead to do what Jesus asked of us: Care for the enemy, teach our children, heal the sick, lend to the needy without interest.

I urge all who work and pray for peace to support the passage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act, a bill that would provide that the federal tax payments of conscientious objectors to war be used only for nonmilitary purposes. Until that bill is passed, I urge you to use all legal and ethical ways to lower your taxable income and to consider redirecting the military percentage of the tax money you owe. The Mennonite Church needs to become more proactive, prophetic and pastoral as we address the consequences of the draft of war taxes.

The MCC awarded Zachary Kurtz top honors in a “Peace Oratorical Contest” for his speech on war tax resistance, according to the edition.

The edition noted the ongoing court battle between the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (Quakers) and the IRS. “The Internal Revenue Service is threatening PYM with a penalty of more than $20,000 for refusing to garnish the wages of employee and war-tax-resister Priscilla Adams. PYM has decided to challenge the IRS on all possible grounds, including constitutional and statutory religious freedom…”

Timothy Godshall’s article on death & taxes appeared in the edition. It pointed out the grotesquely enormous U.S. military budget, and the sacrifices conscientious objectors are forced to make to reduce their complicity with it, and used this as a launching pad to plug the Peace Tax Fund bill.

Rex J. Rempel and Lenae K. Nofziger wrote in to the issue to say that because “[r]oughly 53 percent of our current income taxes” will be spent “on soldiers, weapons, and debt from prior wars” they had decided they would be “withholding $53 from our payment due. Obviously this is a symbolic amount, but it is a step toward fully following God’s call for us.”

Incurable letter-to-the-editorialist Don Schrader put in his 2¢:

After World War Ⅱ, a Jewish rabbi in Germany said what shocked him most was not the terror of the Nazis but the silence of the good people in Germany. Today what disturbs me more than the horrendous atrocities of presidents Bush, Clinton and the U.S. Empire for many decades is how most U.S. peace activists, progressives, Quakers, Mennonites and members of Amnesty International pay U.S. federal income tax for these atrocities: to rob, terrorize, blind, cripple, paralyze, make homeless and murder our sisters and brothers worldwide. We get what we pay for.

Nothing in life is more important than refusing to pay federal income tax for war — no matter who is president. The best way to refuse to pay federal income tax for war, with no fines and no threats from the IRS, is to live simply under the taxable level. The federal income taxable level for for a single person who is under 65 and not blind is $7,950. I lived on $3,390 — less than half the federal income taxable level.

I have no right to pay tax to do to other people what I do not want them to do to me. I have paid no federal income tax for 25 years. I pledge now, at age 58, to live simply, to own no car and to pay no federal income tax for war for the rest of my life. This is nonviolent revolution.

There was a brief write-up about the 10th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns that happened in , in the edition.

H.A. Penner wrote in to the edition to explain his symbolic withholding formula:

To express my conscientious objection to war, I am withholding from my current federal income tax payment an amount equal to one dime for every billion dollars in the U.S. military budget. I am donating that amount — $78.30 — to the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund to be used in the pursuit of peace.

The edition profiled Carol and Sam Bixler. It noted:

For a time the Bixlers withheld the U.S. telephone tax but found that this decision resulted only in confused correspondence. Now their deductions are sufficiently large to cut payment of federal taxes. “When charitable donations go up,” says Sam, “taxes go down.” One time the IRS asked them to show receipts.