American Brethren and War Taxes in 1989–91

As the Cold War sputtered to a close during the Gorbachev era, the urgency went out of the war tax resistance movement — something I’ve also noticed in my recaps of Mennonite and Quaker war tax resistance — as can be seen by the reduced attention given to the subject in Brethren periodicals during this period.

Church of the Brethren: Messenger

The issue brought the news that the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (Quakers) had been sued by the IRS which was trying to force it to turn over taxes that had not been paid by two of its conscientiously objecting employees (source). Excerpt:

In its countersuit, the Quaker group contends that “for the Meeting to pay over to the IRS, in defiance of an employee’s Quaker beliefs, the amount of taxes which had been refused on grounds of religious conscience by that employee, would violate the most fundamental religious principles of the church.”

Samuel D. Caldwell, general secretary of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, said the military tax refusers are not tax evaders. “They would gladly pay their full share of taxes — and more — if they had assurances that it would go to peaceful purposes.”

A section on “Ethical Investing” in the issue touched on divestment from government (source):

[T]reasury bonds [are] a very safe investment but one which “raises the issue whether one wants to invest in the current priorities of our government where so much money is spent on the military budget”…

IRAs are another way people can reduce their tax contributions to military spending. Earnings on an IRA are tax-deferred until retirement. In many cases IRAs are tax-deductible. It is also possible for employers to set up tax-deferred retirement plans…

The issue introduced readers to tax resistance as a tactic of nonviolent resistance, summarizing the story of the tax resisting town of Beit Sahour in occupied Palestine (source).

A profile of Curtis Dubble (the recently-elected Annual Conference moderator) in the issue included his recollection of the war bonds pressure during World War Ⅱ:

“For me there were a couple of struggles,” he says. “In the shoe factory they put pressure on me to buy war bonds. I couldn’t stand that pressure, so I bought a few.” But his conscience wouldn’t allow him to continue to support the war effort in that way, so he cashed them in. The teller at the Myerstown bank “looked at me like I was crazy,” he recalls.

Later, when asked to sew soles on military shoes, he refused.

A feature on married co-pastors in the issue included this note about Louise and Phil Rieman (source):

[T]heir strong stance on war tax resistance [is] a challenge their congregation has had to wrestle with. “One of our biggest joys in this congregation,” says Phil, “is the support we’ve felt in asking the church to cooperate with us on this conviction. Perhaps because there are two of us, this has allowed them to be less hesitant, knowing that if one of us is arrested, the pulpit can still be filled.”

The issue reported on a tax day protest (source):

Last-minute taxpayers in Iowa City, Iowa, rushing to mail their returns late at night on , were met by demonstrators in front of the post office, protesting tax money being spent for military purposes.

Among the demonstrators was peace activist Marianne Michael, a member of the Panora (Iowa) Church of the Brethren. Said she to a newspaper reporter, “It’s obscene that the government spends so much on the military when there are so many things here at home that we need to work on. The US has a poor sense of values when our tax money is spent on things that destroy human life.”

Bible Monitor

Meanwhile, the Bible Monitor wasn’t budging. From the issue (source):

…we do not believe a Christian is called to picket abortion clinics, refuse to pay “war taxes,” or take a part in the many popular anti-government demonstrations supported by both “fundamental” and “liberal” wings of christendom. In our opinion, such actions are a part of the fanatic fringe and not being faithful.