War Tax Resistance in the Friends Journal in 1975

War tax resistance in the Friends Journal in

By in the Friends Journal there is a lot less discussion of why people should resist war taxes, or whether war tax resistance is proper, and a lot more news about how war tax resistance is taking place, and what individual Quakers and Quaker Meetings are doing to resist or to support resisters.

The issue began with this note:

Members of Orange Grove Friends Meeting (Pasadena CA) took part in in a 30-mile walk from Los Angeles Federal Building to the Federal Correction Institute on Terminal Island. The object was to bring attention to the witness of Martha Tranquilli, who is jailed there on a charge of non-payment of war taxes, and also celebrate a call for a Year of Jubilee and forgiveness.

That issue also included the following recommendation:

A Friendly Tax Tip

With income tax time here again, we want to recommend an excellent folder, “Saying no to War Taxes — An Imperative.” Prepared by Peacemakers at 1255 Paddock Hills Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45229, copies can be ordered at 35 for $1, 100 for $2 or 300 for $5. A more detailed 52-page booklet also is available at 65 cents per copy.

Much of the other editorial comment about war tax resistance up to this point had been sympathetic but noncommittal, so I thought it was somewhat remarkable that the Peacemakers’ folder got the Journal’s unreserved and caveat-free recommendation. This may be an indication that war tax resistance had by this time become a thoroughly mainstream position in the Society of Friends in America, or at least in that part of it that was the Journal’s target market.

The issue noted a letter that “two members of the Albany [New York] Meeting” had sent to the IRS:

They explain that their reason for not paying forty percent of their tax “is that we find we can no longer pay taxes to finance wars, preparation for wars, or furnishing arms to other countries for them to use in wars with their neighbors… We will instead send (this amount) to UNICEF, because its program is for saving life, for enhancing the health of children, and for binding the human family more closely together in mutual help and love…”

The issue remarked on an experiment that the Stamford-Greenwich (Connecticut) Friends Meeting conducted, in which they asked Friends “to write down anonymously one-quarter of the amount of the income tax they paid” (an amount they suspected was “probably too modest” but was meant to represent the percentage allocated to the military). The result: “5 respondents, including one paying no tax, $12,070.00.” Assuming this was a representative sample: “85 tax-paying units from Meeting list × ⅕ of above sum: $205,960.00.”

In that issue also, Gertrude P. Marshall, who for had been a member of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s “Representative Meeting” (a sort of ongoing Yearly Meeting body with representatives from the various Quarterly Meetings that make up the Yearly Meeting), wrote in about her experiences — and in particular about how that body struggled to cope with demands from more politically radical members to take bold stands that some other Quakers thought were far too bold.

“It became increasingly clear to me,” she wrote, “that although Friends in the local meetings might trust Representative Meeting for more routine decisions, on large matters of policy, especially in peace and race, it is vital to communicate with and to listen to the monthly meetings. Our lack of unity on the matters of the proposed refusal to pay the Yearly Meeting’s telephone tax or of the proposal to join Project Equality testify to that.”

In the issue, Sue Kinchy wrote in response to an article that urged “the [U.S.] taxpayer who provides those billions for the Saigon regime” to raise his or her voice to “bring about the necessary change in U.S. policy towards Southeast Asia.” Kinchy wrote:

I am inclined to believe the billions of dollars will cease to be sent to Saigon only when we all refuse to provide the money to the U.S. government. As long as the U.S. government furthers the war in Indochina, supports political dictatorships and continues to commit crimes against peace and humanity, we must refuse to provide the money needed to carry on these activities.

…I suggest that Friends consider to what purpose their tax money is going. The necessary end to the continuing war in Vietnam may only come when we refuse to pay for it. As the April 15 deadline comes near, Friends should consider putting their money in an alternative tax fund and support life rather than death.

Quaker Bruce Baechler was sent to prison on for refusing to register for the draft. The Journal quoted from a statement of his:

The only way we are going to have peace is by each individual (especially you) standing up to her/his government and saying “No, I won’t be a party to war.” Many of us feel that it is worth the risk of prison. I invite and urge you to join us by refusing to cooperate with or register with the Selective Service, and by refusing to pay any Federal taxes (such as those on telephones, income, tobacco and alcohol), as much of the money thus collected is used to pay for war, past, present, future. And I urge you to do this openly to inform and encourage others.

Phone tax resistance by Meetings

After the end of direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, there apparently was some question as to whether war tax resistance should continue. The issue includes this note:

Princeton (NJ) Monthly Meeting consulted Friends Peace Committee about whether to continue withholding the telephone tax from the monthly bill. FPC answered that it still advocates refusal to pay this tax as a viable form of protest against our continuing military activities in Vietnam.

The issue noted that the Community Friends Meeting of Cincinnati “decided not to pay the telephone excise tax because it is a war tax. Nor did it fill out the form sent by the tax office. Instead, the meeting sent in another statement of why it had refused to pay.”

The issue noted that the Hanover, New Hampshire, Friends Meeting Peace Committee recommended “that the meeting continue to withhold the telephone tax as a direct war tax levied to pay for American involvement in Southeast Asia,” and added:

The question of the effectiveness of this protest has been raised. How can we, by not paying a few dollars a month, possibly influence anything, particularly since the government automatically collects the tax without our consent? This, we believe, is not a good way to view our protest. If we measured everything we did against shortterm results, we would close shop today. Friends have traditionally been exceedingly patient but insistent in their protests. The tangible fruits may not be seen within any of our lifetimes, but we must be mindful here and now if they are ever to be seen. The intangible fruits of this protest, our continual education in peaceful ways and our disentanglement from a violent society, are enough to justify the continued withholding.

The issue added the Mt. Toby (Massachusetts) Meeting to the list, saying it had “ ‘reviewed and continued’ its decision to withhold the telephone tax ‘with efforts to give publicity to the refusal.’ ”

The issue repeated the news that the Lake Forest, Illinois, Meeting “reaffirmed its intention to decline payment of the war tax levied on the meetinghouse phone. It was suggested that the latter be applied to relief work in Vietnam or to an alternative tax fund that supposedly exists in Chicago.”

“Peace tax fund” plans

The issue talked up the latest version of “peace tax fund” legislation that had been introduced in the House of Representatives. It described the plan this way: “[It] would establish a fund from tax payments of those morally opposed to war. The fund would support non-violent methods to resolve international conflicts and other peace-related projects.”

The issue quotes from a monthly meeting newsletter in describing the purpose of the proposed Fund:

[U]nder the present system in this country, taxpayers who are conscientiously opposed to war are compelled to violate their beliefs by contributing to war through compulsory tax payments. Thus they must either violate what to them represents the law of God: “Thou shalt not kill” or break the federal laws which require them to contribute to the military system. “It is felt that a nation founded upon the principle of freedom and respect for the rights of the individual does not have the right to force upon them this intolerable choice. Monies contributed to the Fund (which would otherwise be used for military hardware and the destruction of human life) would be used in support of research and other activities designed to develop and demonstrate nonviolent methods of solving international conflict. How much longer will humanity continue to waste its resources, its skills, and creative capacity in the refinement of the instruments of murder? ‘Man is the only species,’ declares Erich Fromm, ‘that is a mass murderer, the only misfit in his own society.’ No animal, only man kills beyond his physical needs.”

Lloyd Lee Wilson wrote in to the issue to say:

I have been a war tax resister for two years now, redirecting a portion of my income taxes to peaceful uses by making an interest-free loan to the AFSC equal to my refused war tax. When the World Peace Tax Fund Act is passed, I intend to recall the AFSC loan and give the money to the World Peace Tax Fund.

Finally, the issue described the bill as “legislation that would allow taxpayers to divert tax money from the military into a fund for nonviolent alternatives to international conflict and other peaceful purposes.”