War Tax Resistance in the Friends Journal in 2001

War tax resistance in the Friends Journal in

A new millennium is upon us, full of hope and… whoops, there goes a terrorist attack and suddenly the U.S. adopts psychosis guanorrhea as its national pastime. How did the Friends Journal’s coverage of war tax resistance reflect this slide from hope to insanity in ?

An obituary notice for Marian Dockhorn in the issue noted that among her many peace and justice activities, “[d]uring she was led to become a war tax refuser.”

The issue noted that “[t]he Internal Revenue Service has placed a lien on the home of Jim Satterwhite and Olwen Pritchard, at Bluffton College in Ohio, who have been withholding the military portion of their federal taxes for the last few years. The Bluffton Worship Group has agreed to act as an ad hoc committee to react if the IRS takes the extraordinary step of foreclosing on the house.”

An obituary notice for Mary Barclay Howarth in that issue described her this way: “A lifelong tax resister, Mary believed in simple living as a tool to promote world peace.”

A letter-to-the-editor from Kerttu Kay Barnett published in the issue recommended fifteen things Friends could do that might help them “to build a community and… integrate new attenders into the life of the meeting” and suggested that readers try out a few of them. Some of these were very simple and mundane (“Borrow a book from the meeting library,” “Introduce yourself to somebody in the meeting you don’t know well”) but #5 was “Declare yourself a conscientious objector to war taxes, and mail that part of your taxes that go to support the military to an escrow account.”

A report on the Britain Yearly Meeting, which was held , included the vague note that “[w]e renewed our commitment to further our corporate concern for the right to conscientious objection to the payment of tax for military purposes and for its diversion towards peaceful uses.”

The issue had a feature on Iraq and on the sufferings of people there under the Hussein dictatorship and the international sanctions against the country. The article mentioned the work of Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness and mentioned her war tax resistance in passing:

Kelly pays no taxes, not wanting to support weapons and prisons. She lives in voluntary poverty, operating Voices in the Wilderness out of her elderly father’s home in Chicago. She says the IRS agent who showed up to assess what could be seized in lieu of taxes, “looked around and said, ‘You don’t really have anything, do you? I’m going to put you down as uncollectible.’ ”

An obituary notice for William F. “Bill” Hayden in that issue said: “A pacifist and antiwar activist, he vigorously protested the Vietnam War and resisted certain taxes on the basis that they funded the military.”

An article by Chuck Hosking in the issue challenged Quakers to radically reassess their lifestyles, as what passes for normal in our culture is incredibly destructive.

And perhaps the most objectionable of all to Friends is the military role that undergirds our privilege. There’s no need to acquiesce to the Pentagon’s semantic ploy of defining its role as “service.” The only ones served by the U.S. military are the global elite and arms corporations. Once Friends are convinced that the overriding purpose of U.S. militarism is to protect our privileged way of life, there will follow a strong impetus to relinquish our wealth advantages, live on less than the taxable minimum (in part, to avoid subsidizing the military in our name), and trust in the peacemaking potential of global sharing.

In an article by Carol Urner in the issue she recalled: “When [her husband Jack] retired he did not want to return to the United States. he found the contrasts of unrestricted wealth and dire poverty obscene, and he had never wanted to pay the taxes that supported the U.S. military. We agreed to stay in Lesotho and Southern Africa where both of us could continue to be useful.”

An obituary notice for Mary Mikesell in that issue noted that “she became a tax resister and in lieu of income tax, sent an equivalent amount, her own alternative tax, to a private organization for relief work in Vietnam.”

That issue also noted that the Haverford, Pennsylvania, Meeting had decided to rededicate itself to trying to get a Peace Tax Fund law passed:

“A Peace Tax Fund, which would allow people of conscience to pay the full amount of their federal income taxes into a fund designated strictly for nonmilitary purposes, would represent ‘alternative service’ for taxpayers and their tax dollars,” the minute asserts. The meeting will work with other faith-based communities and organizations to develop a stronger network advocating for a Peace Tax Fund and work with legislators and other public officials to cultivate their support for this initiative.

So in 2001 I count five references to recently-deceased Quaker war tax resisters, two to living American Quaker war tax resisters, one to a Quaker war tax resister outside the U.S., and another to an American war tax resister who isn’t a Quaker. Not a very encouraging sign for the vigor of the practice in the American Society of Friends.