This is the twenty-first in a series of posts about war tax resistance as it was reported in back issues of Gospel Herald, journal of the (Old) Mennonite Church.
In there was a lot of discussion of war tax resistance, and a lot of individual Mennonite war tax refusal and redirection, but Mennonite Church institutions seemed more reluctant than their General Conference to take corporate stands supporting their war tax refusing employees.
The issue brought an update in the case of a Mennonite war tax resister who was fighting his case in court:
Tax resister gets sentence of one year in MVS program
Bruce Chrisman of Ava, Ill., a General Conference Mennonite who was convicted on of failure to file an income tax return in , was sentenced on to one year in Mennonite Voluntary Service.
Chrisman is a war-tax resister. He believes conscientious objectors should be exempt on First Amendment grounds from paying that portion of federal income tax that supports the military.
Judge J. Waldo Ackerman of the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Ill. ordered the unusual sentence, giving Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) staff 30 days to work out a program with Chrisman.
“I’m amazed,” said Chrisman. “I feel very good about the sentence. The alternative service is probably the first sentence of its kind for a tax case. I think it reflects the testimony in the trial and its influence on the judge.” Chrisman could have been sentenced to one year in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Chrisman and his wife, Mary Anne, and two-year-old daughter, Venessa, live on a small farm near Ava. Plans are for them to join MVS as a family. They will remain in their home community and engage in prison ministries and peace education work along with their farming. Charles Neufeld, regional MVS administrator, is working with the Chrismans and local support committee headed by Ted Braun, pastor of United Church of Christ in Carbondale, Ill., to give guidance to this ministry.
At the trial Bob Hull, Jim Dunn, and Peter Ediger joined with Chrisman in testifying to Christian conviction against warfare, including payment of taxes for support of war. When the prosecution cross-examined Chrisman from the Bible they also called Ediger as a trial witness. Ediger, who is director of Mennonite Voluntary Service, articulated Mennonite pacifist beliefs and how the tax code infringes on the First Amendment rights to religious pacifists.
Dunn, who is pastor of the First Mennonite Church in Champaign-Urbana (Ill.), was a character witness. Hull, secretary for peace and social concerns of the General Conference Mennonite Church, and Ediger testified about Mennonite beliefs during the earlier pretrial hearing.
An appeal of the case has been filed by Chrisman’s attorney, Jeffrey Weiss, not to contest the sentence, but to test the court’s rulings denying relevance of First Amendment rights in this case. Persons interested in helping with court costs may contact the General Conference Mennonite Church, Commission on Home Ministries…
The Chrismans are ready to share their faith and concerns for peacemaking in their community and beyond. Persons or churches interested may write them at Route 2, Ava, IL 62907.
I found the following filler-paragraph in the issue:
A prayer for believers who voluntarily pay war taxes: “Father, forgive them, even though they know very well what they are doing.” ―from Daniel Slabaugh, a conscientious objector to voluntary payment of war taxes, pastor of the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Mennonite Church.
Mennonite attorneys held a meeting in . A report on their meeting included this note:
Elam Lantz, currently residing in Washington, spoke on “First Amendment Religious Freedom.” He spoke at some length on the “free exercise” phrase as some have tried to apply it to war-tax resistance.
The Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries met in and was unwilling to endorse war tax resistance:
[T]he board responded to an inquiry from James Longacre, Mennonite Church representative on MCC Peace Section (U.S.). Longacre sought counsel on whether Peace Section should approve a proposal for advocacy of “war tax” resistance. The Board acknowledged that there is a lack of consensus on the subject in the church and counseled caution, urging sensitivity toward those who hold to different practices.
The bishop board of Lancaster Conference also refused to boost war tax resistance at the Conference’s assembly:
In a controversial decision, the bishop board reported that “after careful consideration… we do not support promoting participation in a war tax resistance campaign.”
Meanwhile, activists at the Assembly on the Draft and National Service urged Mennonites to buckle down:
Calling on congregations to stand with draft-age young people in a costly peace witness, meeting participants urged “a stronger stand” in resistance to the payment of taxes for military purposes and called for “increased participation in existing and expanded service programs by young and old alike.”
An commentary by Michael Shank and Richard Kremer pushed Mennonites to take a stand with their taxes, if only a small, symbolic one:
A call for tax resistance
During the past year, the Mennonite congregation of Boston has felt a growing concern about the enormous military expenditures of our government and about our silence as a church. Events of the past months — Americans increasing demands for military intervention to “solve” the stalemate in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and President Carter’s requests for sharply increased military spending, for opening new military bases near the Middle East, for restoring draft registration — have made us realize, yet again, how close a nation ostensibly “at peace” can be to war.
, we spent several meetings discussing militarism and war taxes so that our congregational representative could speak for us at the General Conference Mennonite Church consultation on war taxes held in . Since that time we have been grappling with our responses to the war tax issue, both as individuals and as a congregation.
Why do we think this issue is so important? First we assume that as Mennonites our commitment to reconciliation and our refusal to participate in war-related activities remain fundamental to our understanding of the gospel. In this respect, we remain in continuity with the conscientious objection to war voiced by our predecessors, particularly during World War Ⅰ and the wars which followed.
Although this commitment has not changed in any fundamental way, the world situation in which we find ourselves is significantly different from that of our parents and grandparents. Until very recently, manpower appeared to be the crucial ingredient for war. Since we could not in good conscience participate in war, we objected to the government’s demands for our military service. This stance led to the imprisonment of Mennonites and other conscientious objectors during World War Ⅰ, and later to alternative service legislation during World War Ⅱ.
During , however, the character of warfare has changed in drastic ways. The threats to human life and peace presented by large armies, unfortunately, have been completely dwarfed by nuclear weapons, which our country did not hesitate to use on an earlier occasion. These weapons of large-scale and indiscriminate death presently exist in quantities sufficient to destroy all human life many times over, and the stockpiles continue to grow.
Under such circumstances, the military branches of our government no longer need our bodies as badly as they need our money and our silence. Every year they need new funds:
- to research, develop, and test more accurate and efficient means of carrying bombs to their targets;
- to produce, deploy, and maintain these weapons;
- to train technicians to use them; and
- to attract, recruit, and pay people who presently “volunteer” for the armed forces.
All of these activities take place without our direct participation (unless, of course, the draft is cranked up again); none of them could take place without money. These expenditures are authorized by our representatives and paid for by the taxes we contribute.
In contrast to the Roman Christians to whom Paul wrote, we have alternatives beyond silent submission or open revolt. Our government expects its citizens to voice their concerns. Our constitution and laws have provided channels for doing so. These include, among others, communications to representatives, and provisions for challenging bad laws by testing their validity (e.g., by refusing to comply so that a higher court will need to examine the law). Under such circumstances, our government and representatives can be expected to interpret our silence, both as individuals and as a church, in only two ways: either we approve of their policies, or we do not care.
Many in our congregation are convinced that the biblical teachings and arguments which led Mennonites to the conscientious objector position in World War Ⅰ (when this position was not legal) and in World War Ⅱ (when it was) lead us also to object to the use of our tax dollars for weapons of mass destruction. The quiet payment of war taxes today is as inconsistent with the spirit of Jesus life and teachings as the act of joining the army was earlier (and indeed still is). The same concern for obedience today demands a response suited to the new circumstances into which military developments have placed us.
There is yet another reason why we must voice our concerns. Many of us would undoubtedly make use of the World Peace Tax Fund, if such an option were presently open to us. But how will we honestly be able to call ourselves conscientious objectors to war taxes in the future (if and when such a possibility becomes legal) if we raise no objections whatsoever now? What grounds will the government have for believing our sincerity if it has no record of our past objections either as a church or as individuals?
, a number of our members took the symbolic step of withholding $10 from their income tax payments and forwarding this amount to the Mennonite Central Committee. Others included letters with their tax returns protesting use of their tax monies for military purposes. We plan to reconsider our tax-paying responsibilities as approaches once again. We encourage other Mennonite congregations to join with us in seeking to build peaceful relations among all peoples and nations and to denounce the tendency to solve world problems solely through military might.
D.R. Yoder wrote a letter to the editor in response, rejecting war tax resistance for lack of scriptural support.
Eastern Mennonite College hosted a “New Call to Peacemaking” seminar in :
Seminar participants elected workshops, Saturday afternoon on organizing public peace witness, war tax alternatives, the draft and conscientious objectors, and the arms race and the economy.
A commentary in the issue promoted income reduction, simple living, and charitable deductions as a war tax resistance method:
We try to avoid supporting the war machine
by J. Michael Loss
The Mennonite brotherhood stands firmly on the position that Christians should not serve in the military. The basic reason for this position is that the military is a force and a power of destruction, and it cannot be brought together with the role of a servant as we understand the call to commitment in the New Testament. To avoid military service in various countries and centuries Mennonites have used different methods. Substitutes have been hired, men have refused to serve and have been imprisoned and killed. Since the 1940s, Mennonites have been excused from serving and have been allowed to do alternative service.
The methods of fighting wars and being a power have changed greatly since the 1600s. World War Ⅰ and most of World War Ⅱ were fought with the same methods as for thousands of years, that method being vast numbers of men and hand weapons.
World Wars Ⅰ and Ⅱ also brought new ideas and methods to the “act of war”: the fighter plane and the bomber, that now destroys women, children, and the old who are not in the military through the bombing of cities; tanks and rockets and (the thing that ended the war with Japan) the atomic bomb, not by destroying or defeating the army, but by destroying two cities and killing old people, women, and children. War and power are not measured today so much by the number of men carrying a rifle but by the number of atomic bombs, tanks, bombers, jet fighters, aircraft carriers, submarines, other ocean vessels, and even computers.
War is fought today not so much with men but with machines. I believe that this change in war methods also calls for a change in the way we as Christians respond. We need to refuse to serve, as we have done in the past, but we also need to refuse to support the war machine with our material resources.
President Carter has recently asked for a large increase in military spending. Since the peak of the Vietnam War in , the amount spent on military in the U.S. has gone from $77.3 billion to the $142.0 billion projected for . What is or should be our response as followers of the Prince of Peace? Do we continue to pay our taxes without speaking out against or doing something about the insanity of war and the terrible waste of money and natural resources, to say nothing of the potential for destruction? What should be a Christian response to the enormous spending for the military? I will not argue with the right of the state to determine its own course, but I believe that we as Christians have a responsibility to decide whether we participate with the state in destructive goals.
My wife and I have attempted since the early 1970s to avoid supporting the war machine by not paying income taxes. We have not withheld payment from the government but have used another method that has been taught in our fellowship. I must say, we have not been 100 percent successful with our method. In the last six years we have paid small amounts of income tax of under $100 for two or three years, one year we paid a larger sum and the other years we paid nothing.
This method is adaptable to just about everyone and is very legal. We have attempted to reduce our income below taxable levels by giving it to the work of the church and deducting it from our income taxes as an itemized gift. This method has two very positive goals; the first, it gives needed money to the mission and service programs of the Mennonite Church and, second, it speaks out against our consumeristic society because we have to learn to get by on less than normal in the line of material possessions, but usually still more than we actually need.
The second goal is difficult to fulfill. We find out continually how our society has an influence on our lives. Simple living is not easy to accomplish, but by reducing our incomes we can speak out forcefully against the excess consumption and the senseless military spending. I believe that our money is an extension of ourselves, that is, when we give money to MCC or a mission in the Mennonite Church we are in reality there working, where that money is being used. In the same way when we give money to the government for taxes and the government buys and builds weapons of destruction, we are there too, every bit as much as on the mission field. Can you imagine the force for good and the amount of work that could be done in the world today if the people in our brotherhood would reduce their income in an attempt to defer support of war through giving to our church missions and relief organizations?
The decision is yours and mine whether we want to further the kingdom of God or give our money to the building of a war machine. Let us seek the Lord and seek broader counsel in our brotherhood for the answer on how to be faithful today.
A letter to the editor, from Jon Byler () also promoted the simple living technique:
Why, when the Lord Jesus spoke so clearly about the dangers of wealth, and when we have so many people seeking ways to avoid supporting the military machine, has this been overlooked? If we are willing to reduce our standard of living to help our brothers, we can speak positively against the consumer waste, materialism, and disposable society; we can similarly be in complete obedience to all the laws, and still refuse to support a military machine that we all believe is wrong. I realize this is easier for myself, being young (25) and single, but I am happy to say that I have never paid a single cent that was used to bomb innocent children or to burn their homes, or to support political torture by our “allies.”
Gospel Herald interviewed war tax resisters Loretta & Paul Leatherman in the issue:
The payment of taxes for military purposes is a growing source of concern for more and more people. In response to the increasing awareness of the function of taxation in the world arms race. Peace Section (U.S.) is sponsoring an educational effort to aid in the search for a biblical response. As part of that effort, Paul and Loretta Leatherman were interviewed by Ron Flickinger for Peace Section. Excerpts from that interview are presented in the hope that the Leathermans’ convictions and experiences will provide useful information to those who are considering their own action in the future. Paul and Loretta began resisting war taxes when they returned from an MCC term in Vietnam in . Paul is presently employed by MCC as director of the Self-Help program and Loretta is teaching in the Ephrata public school system. Their home is in Akron, Pa.
- What led you to begin resisting war taxes? Did your experience in Vietnam influence your decision to do so?
- We saw the war effort change from manpower to money power. Men aren’t used as much anymore and, instead, our money was being used to do intensive bombing. We would not go to war ourselves and so we thought we should resist having our money being sent to war also.
- I think serving in Vietnam radicalized us in that sense. About every night we were there, we went to sleep with the sound of bombing and we saw bombs exploding from our house. We lived in the middle of the war and saw what it did to children and families. You recognize that it’s done through your taxes and you begin to take a pretty serious look at it.
- Do you also see consequences in the future if people do not start resisting the use of their money in this way?
- Well, this is supposedly peacetime but I see the military budget increasing in real dollars. It goes up in addition to inflation while many other government programs are being trimmed. It doesn’t make much sense to keep building up and building up the military machinery which is capable of destroying the world. I think history shows that whatever military equipment is made is always used, so I think sometime there is going to be a big nuclear war.
- There isn’t much sense in being able to destroy oneself so many times. It’s a terrible waste.
- Many people who are resisting war taxes have voiced specific concerns for their families, their children, their grandchildren. I’m sure this has a part in your thinking, too.
- Well, I think it does. I don’t know that we’ve specifically said we’re going to resist taxes because of our own children, but more simply for the world community. Our children are certainly a part of that.
- Do you feel as Christians that you have something to say to government? Many people don’t think they are responsible for what the government does with their money once their taxes are paid.
- I’m pretty convinced that we have to say something. If Christians don’t, who will? Where does the conscience come from? How is man going to see the sin and evil of his ways unless someone speaks up to it? As we would understand the way of Christ and what He has taught us, we need to be prophetic in terms of what that means in the world. We can’t be Christians and be quiet about it. If we are going to be citizens of another kingdom, then we have to speak out about what it means and live it out as well.
- What kind of reactions do you get from friends and acquaintances?
- I think we get a strong resistance from people in the church who are thoroughly convinced that we must pay all of our taxes and that any tax resistance is going directly against biblical teaching. Mark 12:17 says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…” and those who don’t pay all of the taxes Caesar asks for are specifically disobeying the teachings of the Bible. I don’t know all of their motives behind that sort of conviction, but I think there is a stronger resistance there than any place. Now, there are also outside the church the superpatriotic people who believe that anything that tends to speak against the structure of the U.S. military is bad. But there are also a lot of people who are sort of questioning the direction of things in the world today. They are open to thinking about ideas and, while they may not agree with all of it, at least they see some of the reasoning behind it all.
- How do you respond to people who don’t agree with you?
- That depends very much on who it is. I don’t think there is much point in arguing, but if people want to discuss it in a real way, then I think we can. It’s not a point one can win by arguing and I think we could probably do more harm than good by doing so. We’re not out waving the flag of tax resistance every place we go, not at all. Simply when the opportunity presents itself, we will discuss it. I think we have felt the importance in doing this as much within our own church as any other place. It’s within our own church fellowship that we need to help our brothers and sisters understand what our tax dollars are doing around the world, such as we saw happen in Vietnam. We want to try to help sharpen consciences on this issue.
- You have to think of the saying, “Those who do not stand up for the powerless are acting against them.”
- The thing that we’ve been doing on taxes has given us the chance on numerous occasions to at least talk about it, share it in a way that has helped us as people in the church understand what it means to live in a complicated world.
- What has been the IRS reaction? Tell us about some of your contacts with IRS agents.
One of the first years we resisted paying war taxes, we actually owed a little bit of money at the end of the year. We claimed a war tax credit and asked for a refund. The IRS turned it down and called us in to audit the credit and also our contributions, which were somewhat above the norm. The inspector took 25 minutes to audit our contributions and concluded that they were exactly right to the penny. He said that was okay but that he simply could not allow the war tax credit and there was no use in talking about it.
“Now look,” I said, “you asked us to come in here for an audit and we had to leave our jobs to come. You’ve taken 25 minutes of my time auditing something which I knew all along was correct and I’m equally convinced that I’m entitled to the war tax credit. I’d like at least 25 minutes of your time to discuss it.” He said okay, let’s talk. We discussed the pros and cons of why we were opposed to paying war taxes, why we thought it was wrong. He listened and sort of entered into the discussion and then at the end of 25 minutes, I said, “Well, you’ve given me 25 minutes now, but there are still many more things we could talk about. Would you be interested in reading a little more about this? He said he would, so I gave him Kaufman’s What Belongs to Caesar? and a few other things. Then I said, “After you have had a chance to read these, why don’t you come over for dinner next Wednesday and we can talk about it some more.”
He accepted the invitation. We weren’t sure if he would come but he showed up and we had a very good discussion with him for about three hours. He was very much against the Vietnam war but he thought that our tax resistance was completely useless and that there was no way to succeed.
One year, we took our case all the way to court. Loretta didn’t take off from teaching but I took our case all the way through the appeals process. We were turned down at each place and were finally scheduled to go to the tax court in Washington, D.C. At that point, I decided to take it out of that court and asked to have it tried in the small tax court in Harrisburg, Pa. The decision in the small tax court was not precedent setting nor could it be appealed. If I had kept the case in the tax court in Washington, D.C., I would have been able to appeal that decision all the way to the Supreme Court. I decided not to do that because the preparation for the case would have had to be much more careful in order to be heard and not simply dismissed on a technicality. I wrote my own briefs and presented the case myself. It was about three to four months before we got the judge’s opinion turning it down.
- Have you ever felt that you have risked a prison sentence by refusing to pay?
Well, that’s another story I can tell. After the court trial, an IRS agent came to see me at the office. The receptionist called me and told me there was someone out there to see me but I didn’t recognize his name. Only when I got out there and he showed me his credentials did I realize who he was. That was when we had the open office at MCC so rather than taking him into a conference room, I brought him in beside my desk. I wanted to be on my own turf when he questioned me.
He asked me about the bill and I said, “Yes, IRS thinks I owe that amount and the judge thinks I owe it. I acknowledge that from the IRS perspective it is a legitimate bill but I don’t have any intention of paying it.”
He replied that he was here to collect the bill and he didn’t expect to leave until I paid it.
“Well,” I said, “I already told you that I don’t expect to pay it and since I’m not expecting to pay it, I think you ought to put me in jail. My wife has been expecting that you might come around sometime and she said that if I go to jail, she’d like to know where I’m going so she could write to me. I would also like to know how soon it would be so that I can make arrangements for somebody to take my place at this desk.” He looked at me and said he had never heard anybody talk like that before. He went up to the bank the next day and issued an order to draw the money out of my bank account.
I must admit that even when I was talking to him I didn’t think I was risking a jail sentence. I didn’t think the IRS would put anyone in jail because they have other ways to collect the money. It is too hazardous for them to take someone out of the MCC office and put them in jail. I don’t think they can risk that.
- What has been your experience with the IRS attaching your bank account?
- Usually they have just issued an order for the money and the bank notified us that the money was being withdrawn. One time, though, we didn’t have enough money in the account to cover the bill, so the IRS attached the account and nothing could be paid out of it until they got their money. It took about a month before we got our account cleared again.
- Every time we wanted to cash a check they would have to call Lancaster to find out if the account was clear. It was embarrassing. I wanted to run in quick to withdraw some cash and it would take all of 45 minutes before I found out I couldn’t get any.
- Our banking was really skewed. The checks we issued that had not been cashed all bounced because the IRS had withdrawn all the money. The bank stamped on the cheeks that the account had been attached by the IRS. One of the checks we had written was a contribution to the World Peace Tax Fund. When it bounced we got a note from the WPTF office saying, "Good work, brother. Keep it up. We don’t mind losing this kind.” That was sort of interesting but it was a very marked inconvenience for us. That was one of the worst experiences we have had in tax resistance.
- That was when the people in the bank knew what was going on.
- Yes, one of the brothers in the bank is from the Mennonite Church. The first time my account was attached, he took the money out and I just got the notice in the mail. I scolded him for that and told him that he should at least let me know before he took the money out. The next time it happened, he called me saying he had a notice to attach my account and asked me to write a check to the IRS so he wouldn’t have to attach the account. I said, “No way, brother. Thanks for calling me, but now it s on your conscience. If you think you can be a tax collector, then go ahead and do it.” I was kind of mean to him. I won’t think less of him if he pays the IRS, but as least he has to think through what he is doing.
- What keeps you working at this in spite of the inconveniences and the people that disagree with you?
- I thing we’re getting a little tired. That’s our mood actually now, that we re getting a little tired.
- It’s kind of a lonely struggle.
- It’s a question of how much you really ought to share what you are doing, whether it’s a real sharing of where you are or whether you are bragging about what you are doing. In the final analysis, when the time comes to fill out your IRS form, you’re not doing it in a support group and the consequences are going to be yours.
- What suggestions do you have for someone who is thinking about resisting war taxes?
- Do it. The first time we did this it was a very difficult, emotional experience.
- And even when the telephone rang. I was just terribly worried about what it might be.
Well, I have a strong feeling that we ought to pay what is due. I think it’s correct that we ought to render unto Caesar or anybody else what is their due. We also give unto God what is due and I think that is the important thing. When these two come in conflict, then my moral, ethical training is not to pay Caesar. But not to pay becomes a very difficult struggle whether it’s 34¢ or $34 or $340. The one was about as difficult as the other when we started, and starting this is not easy. But in starting, you make a kind of commitment that does something to you.
The other thing is the time and energy to do it. You know it’s easier to do the status quo thing. Resistance takes a lot more energy and time.
A letter to the editor in response () from Allen King noted “There are a number of people in our community who believe the same way but do not know how to go about it.”
In an International Mennonite Peace Committee meeting was held, which allowed for an update from the war tax resisters of Japan, though this is all that Gospel Herald readers learned about it:
Michio Ohno of Asia, remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki, demonstrates his concern about the destruction of nuclear war by his resistance to payment of taxes used for military purposes. He is president of the Tokyo (Japan) Mennonite Conference.
A pair of Mennonites went to court to try to gain legal conscientious objector to military taxation status:
Circuit court judge agrees to hear CO case
On , a federal circuit court judge agreed that Janet and Stan Reedy of Elkhart, Ind., had a case worth hearing after they had claimed a conscientious objector deduction on their income tax report.
Supported by members of their church, the South Side Fellowship of Elkhart, the Reedys presented testimony in opposition to the motion of the Internal Revenue Service that the petition for a conscientious objector deduction is “insufficient, immaterial, and frivolous.”
“As the motion to strike points out,” said Janet Reedy, “there is presently no provision in the IRS code which authorized the deduction we are claiming. That is precisely the problem. The First Amendment to the (Constitution states, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…’ I want to argue that the present IRS law violates our rights and the rights of all persons who are conscientiously opposed to war by requiring us to pay for war even though it is contrary to our religious beliefs. Thus we are denied a right guaranteed to us by the First Amendment.”
In support of this argument, Janet told of her conviction that killing is wrong and that paying the tax for killing is no different than killing. She asserted that “the law should recognize the right to refuse to pay the taxes that make it possible for others to kill.” She concluded that “the First Amendment guarantees us rights to the free exercise of our religious beliefs which are not being honored by the present IRS code.”
Stan followed with corroborative testimony, stating that “the United States government, through its instruments of the IRS and the courts can of course force what appears to be obedience… But some day the hard, inflexible, and brittle mass of the IRS code will shatter upon or be dissolved by the soft voice of conscience.”
As reported by Kathy Rohrer, one of the Fellowship members in attendance, when Stan was seated the judge asked one question: “Do you come to this court with a new argument?” Janet answered that they had never before claimed the First Amendment in their arguments. The judge was so impressed by their evidence that he denied the IRS claim that their petition for a hearing was “irrelevant, immaterial, impertinent, and frivolous” and granted them a hearing in federal court where the constitutionality of the case will be judged. No date has been set for this hearing.
Ken Reed touched on resistance and war taxes (though not explicitly war tax resistance per se), in “Setting our faces toward Lockheed” ():
Ken Reed: The Mennonite Church has been a beautiful experience for me, but it’s only been the past several years that I’ve seriously asked myself: What is the vision of the Anabaptists? and I’ve concluded it says something about us being both a community of love and a community of resistance. We’ve emphasized the love side perhaps — MCC, Voluntary Service, and giving ourselves in service (the towel and the basin). Perhaps we haven’t emphasized resistance to evil. Then I look at Luke 4, where Jesus says: “This is what my mission is all about in coming to the world” — He talks about a mission of love and a mission of resistance, a mission of identifying with people and also a mission of saying “no” to the evil that was around Him. I take His life as a model for my own. , I was thinking about taxes and where my tax dollars go. I was looking through a book on Hiroshima which was produced by a committee of Japanese journalists and it just struck me that my money is paying for future Hiroshimas. At that moment, I made a commitment to myself, “I don’t want to be part of that.”
The issue noted that the Southern New England Conference of United Methodists “supports those who oppose preparations for or participation in war, and those who refuse to pay taxes for military purposes.”
A report on the General Conference Mennonite Church triennial noted its growing corporate support for war tax resisters in its congregations:
G.C. Mennonites to challenge tax collection for the state
The General Conference Mennonite Church will “initiate a judicial action seeking exemption from withholding taxes from the income of its employees” and take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. It is planned to base the case on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which embodies the separation of church and state. The action was approved by delegates to the church’s triennial sessions at Estes Park, Colo., held .
Duane Heffelbower, a Mennonite attorney from Reedley, Calif., and member of the conference’s task force on tax withholding, said that the suit would be aimed at seeking an injunction against the Internal Revenue Service, which presently requires the church’s central offices to withhold the income taxes of its employees. “We hope to move the suit to the district court level within a year,” he said.
The Estes Park resolution stated further that all General Conference churches in the U.S. and Canada support the Task Force on Taxes through special offerings or budget allocations and that U.S. congregations support efforts for the passage of the World Peace Tax Fund. This proposed fund would allow those who object to paying taxes in support of military causes to channel their taxes toward peaceful and humanitarian projects. The church hopes to find some support for its tax collection test case among its fellow historic peace churches; namely, the Church of the Brethren, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and the Mennonite Church.
The newly adopted resolution grew out of a motion passed at a special conference session in Minneapolis, Minn., in which asked the General Board of the conference “to engage in a serious and vigorous search to use all legal, legislative, and administrative avenues for achieving a conscientious objector exemption from the legal requirement that the conference withhold income taxes from the wages of its employees.” Should the GCMC be successful in gaining the injunction against forced tax collection, the conference’s employees would receive their wages in full and then follow their individual consciences in deciding whether to pay or not pay war taxes.
A pair of commentaries from Peter Farrar ( and ) urged Mennonites to “Refuse war taxes! Refuse registration!” without waiting for the government to grant them special conscientious objector status. Farrar wrote of the traditional Mennonite “nonresistance” position: “We may choose not to resist aggression against our persons. We cannot countenance being the means of aggression against others.”
Pax Christi continued to highlight how taxpaying made citizens complicit in the arms race, and continued also to encourage war tax resistance as a response ():
Meatless Fridays suggested as “penance for arms race”
A Catholic peace group has called on the U.S. bishops to reinstate meatless Fridays as “a penance for and protest against the arms race.” The statement, issued by Pax Christi U.S.A., at a two-day meeting in Maryknoll, N.Y., also calls for the establishment of a National Catholic Peace Week to promote disarmament, and urges American Catholics to “refrain from the manufacture or use of nuclear weapons” and to “support those people who refuse to pay for the war machine with their taxes.” Pax Christi U.S.A., is a branch of the international movement founded in France at the end of World War Ⅱ. The American unit was begun in .
“A New Call to Peacemaking” met again in :
Spurred by the return of draft registration, a number of Christian groups have increased their continuing efforts to counter what they see as a growing tide of militarism in the United States.
Some members of the Society of Friends, disregarding possible penalties of fines and imprisonment, have advised young men to refuse to register with the Selective Service System when they come of age. The Church of the Brethren has affirmed “open, nonevasive withholding of war taxes as a legitimate witness to our conscientious intention to follow the call of discipleship to Jesus Christ.”
Going one step further, the General Conference Mennonite Church, meeting at Estes Park, Colo., in , committed itself to go to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to secure release from its current obligation to collect from its employees income taxes used in large part to support military programs.
All three bodies work together in the New Call to Peacemaking. This coalition has invited 400 delegates to a national conference in Green Lake, Wis., , to devise additional ways for its members to reply to conscription, war taxes, and what they see as the growing hazards of so-called military security.
Larry Cornies reported on the conference:
Envisioning a future world of peace, a necessity
Approximately 300 Mennonites, Brethren, and Friends from across the U.S. have called on their meetings and congregations to intensify efforts in the search for alternatives to militarism, conscription, and the payment of war taxes.
The conference’s eight-page findings report was written and revised by a committee which attempted to integrate the minutes of 27 discussion groups which met regularly throughout the weekend. The final statement dealt with the tasks of envisioning peace, nurturing peacemakers, countering militarism, responding to the conscription of youth and taxes for war, and witnessing to peace.
With respect to the issue of payment of taxes used for war purposes, the New Call restated its commitment to urge Christian peacemakers to “consider withholding from the Internal Revenue Service all tax monies which contribute to any war effort.”
The statement of findings recommended the following as alternatives to the payment of war taxes: (1) active work for the adoption of the World Peace Tax Fund bill which, if passed by the U.S. Congress, would serve as a legal alternative to payment of war taxes just as conscientious objector status is a legal alternative to military service, and (2) individuals are urged to consider prayerfully all moral ways of reducing their tax liabilities, including sizable contributions to tax-exempt organizations and reduction of personal income.
The concern that New Call not issue a declaration more radical than meetings and congregations would be willing to hear was raised at several points during the meeting.
The Mennonite Church general board met in and cautiously decided to throw its support behind the General Conference Mennonite Church’s legal challenge to withholding taxes from objecting employees. This was one of the earliest examples of corporate support for war tax resistance from a Mennonite Church institution:
Support of GC judicial action.
One other action of significance had to do with an invitation from the General Conference Mennonite Church to join in its effort to “initiate a judicial action seeking exemption for the General Conference Mennonite Church from withholding taxes from the income of its employees.”
On the basis of action taken at the last Mennonite Assembly in Waterloo, Ont., which reads: “We encourage our congregations and institutions to seek relief from the current legal requirement of collecting taxes through the withholding of income taxes of employees, especially those taxes which may be used for war purposes. In this effort we endorse cooperation with the General Conference Mennonite Church in the current search for judicial, legislative, and administrative alternatives to the collection of military related taxes.”
The Board acted to: (1) support the judicial action of the General Conference Mennonite Church to seek exemption of our institutions from withholding taxes from the income of employees with the understanding that this implies an invitation to Mennonite members to join in financial support for this judicial action and (2) we encourage the MBCM to the task force on taxes to seek to generate a wide support for the World Peace Tax Fund throughout our constituency by appropriate General Assembly action and encouragement.
The Board was careful to clarify that this action does not constitute civil disobedience but rather attempts to work within the domain of the first amendment in the U.S. constitution.