American Brethren and War Taxes in 1987–88

The Church of the Brethren stood firm and refused to honor an IRS levy filed against pastors Louise & Phil Rieman in , and the church’s Messenger magazine also brought news of war tax resisters from other denominations.

Messenger: Church of the Brethren

There were several passing references to war taxes in the early issues of Messenger, but it wasn’t until the issue that there was anything substantial. That issue brought a brief update on Presbyterian war tax resister Maurice McCrackin (source):

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has publicly asked the forgiveness of an 81-year-old Cincinnati minister who was defrocked 26 years ago for his anti-war activism. The Rev. Maurice F. McCrackin, pastor of the non-denominational Community Church of Cincinnati, was deposed from the ministry by the Cincinnati Presbytery in after he refused to pay the portion of his income taxes that would have gone for military spending. The denomination’s General Assembly in formally confessed error and endorsed an action to restore him to clergy status.

The following page brought this news:

Tax resisters’ fund issues 11th appeal

, more than $40,000 in tax-resistance fines has been covered by a network of people who contribute to a “Tax Resisters’ Penalty Fund (TRPF).[”] The fund, which aids those who refuse for conscientious reasons to pay taxes for war, issued its 11th appeal for funds in .

Founded in by Dave Leiter, then coordinator of the North Manchester Fellowship of Reconciliation, in Indiana, the TRPF provides financial and moral support to war-tax resisters, allowing those who do not directly resist war taxes to support those who do.

War-tax resisters resist funding militarism by refusing to pay all or a portion of their income taxes. They are not tax evaders, says the TRPF committee, because they do not use withheld money for personal benefit. Many channel the withheld taxes to organizations that work for peace and justice.

Using US federal budget figures, the committee says that 62 percent of income tax monies go to pay for current and past military expenses.

, the Internal Revenue Service has levied $500 in penalties on deductions it considers “frivolous,” including war-tax deductions.

Resisters submit requests for reimbursements of such charges to the Penalty Fund. The TRPF does not pay the original tax burden — only penalties and interest.

Between two and four times annually, requests are evaluated and tabulated by a committee of eight people, and an appeal is sent to supporters of the fund. The amount of the appeal is shared equally by supporters.

The 11 appeals issued have ranged from $1 to $15 per supporter. The fund has about 570 supporters and has given more than $40,000 to more than 80 war-tax resisters, according to the committee. The next appeal goes out .

The War Tax Resisters Penalty Fund is still in operation today and still operates much as described in the above article.

At the Annual Conference, the committee that had been set up to yet again study the war tax issue and make recommendations announced “that it was choosing not to write a new statement on the issue of conscientiously opposing paying taxes that go for military purposes.” Instead, they recommended that Brethren go back and study the previous reports issued by previous committees, and heed the calls from previous conferences to seriously study the issue. (source)

The Church of the Brethren stood firm against an IRS levy in , as reported in the issue:

Tax resistance action results in IRS levy

The Internal Revenue Service has issued a tax levy on funds the General Board holds for Phil and Louise Rieman, co-pastors of the Ivester Church of the Brethren, Grundy Center, Iowa. The action is a response to the Riemans’ tax withholding as a conscientious objection to paying taxes that are used for war.

The levy requires the General Board to take money held on their behalf from the Pastor’s Housing Fund and send it to the IRS. If the board fails to do this, the IRS has declared its intention to levy the board’s bank accounts and take the amount plus a 50-percent penalty.

The Executive Committee voted not to send the required amount and to file a protest letter that supports the Riemans’ right to engage in tax resistance. The committee also told the IRS that the Pastor’s Housing Fund is of such a nature that the government does not have the right to levy against it.

In , representatives from Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker groups had come together for a three-day conference about war taxes, sponsored by a “New Call to Peacemaking.”

Peace churches meet, discuss war taxes

“People who express opposition to war need to consider conscientious objection to paying for it,” stated Chuck Boyer, General Board peace representative, after returning from a three-day discussion of war tax issues.

Thirty-six historic peace church members — Brethren, Mennonites, and Friends — including Boyer, and Julie Garber, of the Manchester Church of the Brethren, North Manchester, Ind., met to discuss issues surrounding withholding of war taxes.

Prior to that consultation, 18 leaders from the historic peace churches met to discuss how best to work together for peace. It was the first meeting of the heads of the peace churches in more than 10 years.

The simple fact that the leaders met and got to know each other better was the highlight of the meeting, said Donald E. Miller, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren.

In addition to Miller, General Board executives Joan Deeter, Melanie May, and Roger Schrock; board chairwoman Anita Smith Buckwalter; and church historian Donald F. Durnbaugh represented the Brethren.

Both meetings were sponsored by New Call to Peacemaking, a cooperative peace church organization.

The war tax consultation focused on options and consequences for church agencies that refuse to withhold employees’ federal income taxes. One Mennonite and two Quaker agencies already have policies of breaking the law by not withholding federal taxes of employees who oppose paying the military portion of their taxes.

The Church of the Brethren has not dealt directly with this issue, said Boyer, since no General Board employees have asked that their taxes not be withheld. At the St. Louis Annual Conference, however, the larger issue of corporate civil disobedience will be discussed.

Of greater interest to the Brethren was lengthy discussion of the US Peace Tax Fund bill in Congress. Consultation participants agreed to organize a group of leaders to visit Washington, D.C., to register concerns about tax withholding and to support the bill.

Boyer has begun organizing “Six-by-Six” clubs of Brethren to promote the bill. Groups of six will visit their legislators in Washington or at local offices six times to promote the bill.…

The Peace Tax Fund bill would allow conscientious objectors to put the portion of their taxes that would support the military (presently about 53 percent) into a special fund to promote peaceful programs. Conscientious objectors could then pay all their taxes without violating their consciences.

The issue reported on the policy the General Board of Friends United Meeting had adopted of refusing to withhold taxes from the paychecks of employees who were conscientious objectors to military taxation (source). The issue followed by reporting on a similar action by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (of Friends), which decided “to withhold but not forward to the Internal Revenue Service the estimated military portion of its employees’ federal income taxes” (source).

The issue brought the news that the Church of the Brethren General Board’s Executive Committee “is studying whether the board can withhold the telephone excise tax as a protest against military expenditures” (source).

The issue reported that the Mennonite Church was jumping on the bandwagon too: “The General Board of the Mennonite Church has recommended that church agencies honor the requests of employees who wish to withhold payment of taxes used for military purposes” (source).

That issue also reported on the Brethren Revival Fellowship, which was trying to prod Brethren back in a more conservative direction (source). It quoted their newsletter on the tax resistance issue: “We believe that those who are loyal to Christ are bound by the biblical mandate to respect the government of the land in which they reside, and should pay their taxes when due. What the government does with the money is no longer their responsibility.”