War Tax Resistance in the Friends Journal in 1972

War tax resistance in the Friends Journal in

In the issues of the Friends Journal, more attention is being given to the practical concerns of how to best go about war tax resistance in a way that is most effective and that most honors the Quaker way of going about things.

There’s another example of backlash in the issue: a letter from Stephen C. Conte in which he explains why he is leaving the New York Yearly Meeting for the First Evangelical Friends Church. He lists a number of reasons, including the New York Yearly Meeting’s positions opposing laws against marijuana possession and homosexuality, and what he sees as a lack of appropriate respect for scriptural authority. But the first example he mentions is war tax resistance:

The Christian is bound to pay his taxes. This is the point of the famous “Render to Caesar” passage in Matthew, which we Quakers have been quite willing to quote in support of the Peace Testimony. We, who are so willing to invoke the authority of certain passages, must likewise accept the authority of all scripture. I cannot, therefore, as a Christian and a Friend, accept the position of the Yearly Meeting in support of nonpayment of the telephone tax. My Christian freedom consists in rendering to God my allegiance and love, rather than in playing games with the Internal Revenue Service.

That same issue of the Journal covered the Sweden Yearly Meeting, which seemed to have tried to grapple with the question of war taxes in the most round-about way possible, by suggesting that Quakers “work for establishment of a differentiated tax [which] would mean that part of the tax that goes for military defense could instead be channeled into, for instance, the social sector.”

Sara P. Cory wrote in to the issue to say that for her, phone tax resistance had become “too feeble a gesture” and that she was going to withdraw further from the “life as usual” which was “helping to keep our war economy going” — for example, by giving home-crafted Christmas gifts or donations to charity in place of store-bought items.

The “Sufferings” column of that issue noted that Bill Himmelbauer had finished his prison sentence “for resisting the payment of war taxes.”

In the issue, Donald Ary advised those Quakers who were unwilling to reduce their incomes below the tax line to instead try to take advantage of some of the tax provisions designed to help wealthy people shelter their income from taxes.

For example, consider a Friend who is paying income tax at a twenty-percent rate and has two thousand dollars in a savings and loan account. If the account is paying five percent interest, the Friend has a one-hundred-dollar income from it and pays a twenty-dollar tax on that income. If the Friend puts his two thousand dollars into common stocks that pay a dividend of one hundred dollars a year, he pays no tax, as the first one hundred dollars of dividend income is exempt from taxation.

The Friend might choose to send the twenty-dollar saving to American Friends Service Committee. The war effort is poorer by twenty dollars, AFSC is richer by twenty dollars, and the Friend is four dollars ahead when he deducts his contribution to AFSC. The value of common stocks can go down, but, remember, the tax laws encourage speculation. If the Friend sells his stock for one thousand dollars, the whole loss is deducted from his income; therefore eight hundred dollars is the Friend’s loss and two hundred dollars is the government’s. If the stock increases and is sold after six months for three thousand dollars, the tax laws provide preferential treatment for this increased income. It is classed as long-term capital gain, and the Friend pays ten percent tax on this, rather than the twenty percent he pays on his salary.

“Friends may ask: ‘This is legal, but is it moral?’ ” Ary notes.

I would reply that the tax structure in the United States is grossly immoral, and any participation in it is immoral. The tax structure is immoral because the taxes are used for war and because the tax laws are an instrument of gross injustice.… Friends who allow their incomes to reach a taxable level must choose the lesser of two evils by minimizing their tax.

Friends have spent too much effort refusing to pay unimportant symbolic taxes, such as the telephone tax. If Friends were to employ systematically and blatantly the rich people’s tax-avoidance procedures, the people of this country might just sit up and take notice.

In the same issue was a brief note that the “Peace and Social Action Committee” of the Twin Cities Friends Meeting had “recommended that the Meeting not pay the Federal telephone tax, which is used to finance the Vietnam war.”

The issue included a brief review of Robert Calvert’s war tax resistance guidebook Ain’t Gonna Pay for War No More.

In the issue, Horace Champney shared his letter to the IRS. Excerpt:

Since I returned [from Vietnam] in , I have openly refused to submit any tax return to the Internal Revenue Service. I have preferred to risk jail than support an immoral, insane war.

This year again, although legally required to file, I must publicly refuse to do so. I have been deducting the war tax from my telephone bill.

I will gladly pay Federal taxes when my Government turns off on war and mobilizes against real enemies: Pollution, poverty, disease, ignorance, chauvinism, and gadget-hungry, profit-crazed overproduction.

I must urge every compassionate and concerned American, no matter what uniform he wears, to face up to his Government and find his own way to say “No!” to this war.

Henry Thoreau’s famous words to Emerson during the Mexican war — Don’t ask why I am in jail, ask why you are outside! — are as relevant today as they were one hundred twenty-three years ago.

The “Sufferings” column of that issue led off with the case of Sally Buckley:

Convicted of three counts of claiming extra dependents on a W-4 withholding form. Sentencing was put off indefinitely by Judge Miles Lord, who expressed reluctance to sentence her. At he sentenced her to thirty days and stayed sentence for sixty days to give her another chance to pay the taxes.

Her Meeting approved the following minute: “The Twin Cities Friends Meeting supports Sally Buckley in her act of war tax resistance and those of our Meeting and other war tax resisters who have followed their consciences in not contributing to the support of war and the preparation of war.

“In addition, the Meeting takes a further concrete step in support of these actions by withholding its telephone tax as a protest against the Indochina War.”

The “Sufferings” column in the issue moved forward in the magazine to share the page with the masthead and table of contents. It included these listings:

Ellis Rece, Jr., attender of Augusta Meeting, Georgia: Sentenced to one year in prison with 320 days suspended and fined $500 for refusing to pay taxes that go to the war. Ellis had openly claimed additional dependents on his W-4 form to prevent deductions from his earnings. A called meeting for worship was held in Augusta Meetinghouse before the trial.

Mark Riley, attender of Sacramento Meeting, California: Has completed a six-month sentence in Terminal Island Federal Prison for refusing to pay taxes that go for war by altering his W-4 form.

A note on the Baltimore Yearly Meeting in the issue noted that although “[w]e spent much time and prayer on the best methods of protesting the Indochina war, reaching agreement on some, [we were] unable to find unity on corporate involvement in the refusal to pay war taxes.”

In the issue, David Green wrote in to promote a different tack on telephone tax refusal:

, I explained to the secretaries in the law school where I work that I will not use the telephone, either to make or to receive calls, as long as the government continues to impose the war excise tax on its use. I have told the same thing to the people where I am living. I commend this course to the consideration of Friends.

I understand and support those who continue to use the telephone while refusing to pay the war excise tax. Complete telephone refusal does, however, have advantages over telephone-tax refusal.

First, it communicates more effectively. The telephone-tax refuser can explain his reasons to the government agents who try to collect the tax and to someone in his bank where the government seizes the tax money. The telephone refuser, however, has repeated opportunities to explain why he cannot be reached by telephone, for either business or social reasons.

Second, the telephone refuser shares in the inconvenience caused by his position. The telephone-tax refuser inconveniences the government and bank employees, but the telephone refuser finds himself fully involved in the inconvenience his decision causes. In the past month, I have trudged all over Washington on errands I would have performed in a few seconds by telephone. On other occasions I have had to write notes and letters instead of making telephone calls. But this gives some unsought rewards too — there is a real gain in simplicity. Life is less cluttered, less hectic, if one is not a slave to every jangle of a telephone bell. And, faced with the effort involved in using only written or face-to-face communication, much is eliminated.

Third, refusing to use telephones withdraws financial support from the telephone company — a prime war contractor — as well as from the government. And here, as another byproduct, the refuser saves money. Instead of a considerable charge for long-distance calls, last month I owed nothing. A refreshing change.

Fourth, telephone refusal eliminates the tax completely instead of merely postponing its collection. I understand, sympathize with, and support the position of the telephone-tax refuser. I unite with his desire to be clear of voluntarily paying a tax used only in war-making. But I ask all Friends to consider that by entirely refusing to use the telephone, they could be clear, not only of voluntarily paying the tax, but of paying the tax at all.