War Tax Resistance in the Friends Journal in 1977

War tax resistance in the Friends Journal in

War tax resistance kept charging on through the early issues of the Friends Journal, though there was some indication of post-Vietnam War war tax resister fatigue.

The issue gave an overview of how various Friends in various places were meeting the war tax challenge:

  • “Friends in Illinois and Massachusetts, for example, have shared letters to the IRS, to their elected representatives, to newspapers, and to the meetings in which they have expressed the wrongness of militarism and their conscientious refusal to support governmental expenditures for military purposes.”
  • In Philadelphia, “when the IRS seized a car owned by Margaret (Meg) Bownan… [this] was met by many members of the meeting and other supporters who went with her down to the garage where the auction was held. A bouquet of bittersweet was placed on the car’s hood, cranberry juice and cookies were passed out to everyone (and graciously accepted by the police and the IRS representatives), and meeting members formed a special support corporation and bought the car so that Meg and others may use it in their travels in and about the city.”
  • Robert Anthony was fighting a Tax Court battle from Moylan, Pennsylvania, with First Amendment freedom-of-religion arguments: “compelling the payment of that part of the income tax that is used for war or war preparation makes it impossible for a Quaker to practice his religion.”
  • Thomas L. Carter of Santa Barbara, California, quoted Peter J. Ediger in a parable about the Quaker peace testimony:

    The devil took the Quakers to a very high mountain, the mountain of academic-socio-economic success and showed them all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and he said to the Quakers all this will I give you…

    • financial security
    • acceptance in your society
    • many opportunities for doing good
    • tax exemption for your worship centers and your service programs
    • many other benefits too numerous to mention

    if you will fall down and worship me…

    • bless the armies which protect your privileges
    • pay taxes without question for my armies around the world (a few words of dissent to support your moral image are OK as long as you refrain from any form of civil disobedience)

    And the Quakers said (multiple choice/check one):

    • we want to keep our service program going, so…
    • we’re uneasy with your terms, but we like the benefits…
    • would you serve as one of our Trustees? We need more practical minds like yours…
    • as children of God and members of the Religious Society of Friends we are under obligation to free ourselves from this complicity.

In the issue, the clerk of the Nashville (Tennessee) Friends Meeting wrote in about that Meeting’s decision to disregard the legal exemption on local property taxes for church property and to go ahead and pay the property tax on its meeting house.

The meeting’s decision had, according to Bob Lough, the clerk, four reasons behind it:

  1. The sense that churches are just as much the beneficiaries of city government services (like “fire protection, road maintenance, libraries, schools, social services, parks, etc.”) as anyone else.
  2. That “a position in favor of paying taxes form which we are exempt may enhance our credibility as tax resisters. we decided to continue refusing to pay the excise tax on the meeting telephone as symbolic of our opposition to a foreign policy which we cannot support.”
  3. Being in favor of the separation of church and state, the meeting was opposed to the implicit government subsidy of religious bodies owning property that the tax exemption represented.
  4. The meeting also felt that the property tax exemption for religious bodies had encouraged churches to become property owners — erecting “modern day ‘steeplehouses’ which resemble country clubs more than places of Christian service.”

The piece concluded by encouraging other meetings to consider following their lead. “As Quakers we are noted for being conscientious about taxes, and resistance of taxes for war-related purposes has a long history in our tradition. Perhaps our tax record should not merely reflect our opposition to the evils we see in society, but also demonstrate that we have a responsibility that calls for support as well as dissent.”

Ross Roby wrote in again (see ♇ 24 July 2013 for his earlier letter) to express his puzzlement about why Quakers hadn’t gotten all enthusiastic about the World Peace Tax Fund bill. “[T]he National Council for a W.P.T.F. is still operating on a shoe-string and still being warned by sympathetic Congressmen that there is little apparent concern about the bill if they can judge by their mail.”

Has Friends Journal any interest in developments in the W.P.T.F. bill…? There have been frequent opportunities in the last year for the Journal to support and encourage lobbyists for the W.P.T.F., and the chance was again present in the article of on “Friends and the IRS.” For some inexplicable reason, the Journal has again missed an opportunity to remind us that the tax laws can be changed by legislative action — that the W.P.T.F. bill is a reasonable way to put conscientious objection as an alternative in every citizen’s form 1040!

Again, Roby seemed blind to the real concerns that Quakers and other conscientious war tax resisters might have with the plan advocated by the “peace tax fund” advocates.

In the issue, George Lakey shared his annual letter to the IRS, accompanying the letter with a telling comment: “I thought you might like to print part or all of it to remind your readers that some of us Quaker tax refusers are still doing it!” Although from my perspective, the coverage of Quaker war tax resistance in the Journal seems to be going strong, it seems that from the perspective of this particular Quaker tax resister the practice had begun to wane in the post-Vietnam War period. Excerpts:

Again I am asked to pay taxes to support an approach which reduces my actual security as a human being… for paying taxes to this government means giving a license for various kinds of international misadventures.

I see no reason, therefore, to change my own policy of refusing federal income taxes. I very much support the principle of taxation, and encourage the government to tax at a much higher rate the corporations whose interests it so faithfully serves. Since it does not serve my interests nearly so well, I withhold my hard-earned money until I see a basic change in values. I want to see the government focused on human security, not “national” security. I want to see the government make a serious commitment to environmental quality. I want to see in all its policies the government taking the side of life, not death.

To implement my tax refusal policy, I return the form only partially filled out, lacking the financial information which would enable you to collect the tax.

Virginia Snow Mountain and Darrell Bluhm shared their letter to the IRS in the same issue. Excerpts:

We have given ourselves a War Crimes Tax Credit for the amount your charts would otherwise have had us owe and we request that you refund us the money withheld from our incomes last year.

…Through our involvement with the Religious Society of Friends and our personal experience of the Divine Spirit we have come to know that all life is sacred. We are called to live in such a way as to “remove the cause of war.”

…[O]ur vocations involve the nurture and education of children. Daily we work to help guide young people to grow up to be peaceful, responsible adults. They are our joy and our hope for the future. It is unthinkable to us that any part of the wages that we earn in this work should be used to support weapons systems or armies whose effect is to injure and kill people, or to add to the great potential for nuclear holocaust that already exists with our huge stockpiles of weapons. Knowing that more than half our tax dollar goes to the death and destruction the American military represents has caused us to conclude that we will no longer pay our Federal taxes. We cannot support the military’s protection of corporate profit at the expense of human needs.

That issue also reprinted the text of a “petition” written by R.L. Anthony (and invited others to sign or use it):

Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) since the Society’s beginning have been guided by a belief in the sacredness of life and have implemented this by seeking ways of peace. This compels in conscience their refusal to participate in war.

I believe the U.S. tax laws deny us the constitutional right to religious freedom by not providing under law an alternative to paying that portion of the income tax devoted to war preparation.

If I should at present follow my conscience and my religious beliefs by refusing taxes for war, I would have to face the prospect of forced collection or legal prosecution and penalties. I believe the U.S. tax laws thereby deny me the free exercise of my religious beliefs.

In keeping with my beliefs and conscience, I wish to pay the war portion of my income tax to a peace fund, such as the World Peace Tax Fund presently in a committee of Congress, set up as a legal alternative under U.S. law. I would make this alternative payment instead of the war portion of my income tax if the U.S. tax laws provided such an alternative for all citizens conscientiously opposed to war and the taking of life.

I wish my position made known to all branches of government concerned, including the U.S. Congress, the courts and the IRS.

In the issue, Allyn Eccleston compared the reemerging Quaker opposition to paying for war to the emergence of Quaker abolitionism in American in the . Excerpts:

Today we have a different impediment in our relationship with God and we are called, each one of us, to hold it to the light and test whether we feel at ease. Our continued commitment to a world-wide arms race not only deprives the world of comparable expenditures for human service, it enslaves the world in a struggle for real and symbolic power that engenders hatred, fear and greed. We are the masters in an arms race that enslaves the people of this earth.

Do I feel at ease knowing that approximately fifty cents of each of my tax dollars goes to military expenditures?

Do I feel at ease knowing the United States spends more money on armaments than any country in the world?

Do I feel at ease knowing United States arms merchants have been peddling ever more sophisticated weaponry to other nations, totalitarian and democratic, undeveloped and developed, poor and rich; that in Greece, Turkey, the Near East, and Latin America we have armed both sides of existing (or potential) conflicts, as well as equipped and trained some of the most repressive governments in existence?

Our country’s dependence on military manpower has been reduced even to the point where conscription is no longer necessary. During the Vietnam conflict it became the explicit policy of the United States to substitute wealth and technology for manpower. This policy is directly responsible for more indiscriminate killing and destructiveness (in ways contrary even to the international conventions of warfare). We annihilated women, children, old people and, in designated areas, all living things, and we did this by remote control, thereby removing and insulating the killers from the acts. Regardless of who actually handled the equipment, it is you and I and every other taxpayer who paid for the weapons and are therefore responsible.

It is not as though a madman picks up our sledgehammer or another useful tool and hits someone over the head with it. When soldiers, hired by us, use our weapons to kill, it is not misuse-that is what the equipment is designed and purchased for. And we must presume any future use will be as destructive (at least) as what we witnessed in Vietnam.

It isn’t necessary to document for Friends why the preparation for conflict is more likely to lead to war than to peace or how the evils of hatred, greed and fear can be addressed by practical demonstrations of love, self-sacrifice and self-confidence. Let us search for steps we might take that would set us on a new course.

There are approximately 150,000 Friends in the United States. What would happen if 30,000 Friends felt moved to take some step, however small, to register their “dis-ease” in a meaningful way?

Suppose you are one of these Friends moved to register public dissent and dismay by enclosing a personal statement with your tax return. If you owe the government money, the letter would specify that at least a token amount has been withheld as a testimony for peace. To be more effective, you would also send copies of the statement to your senators, to your congressperson and to your newspaper.

In addition to increasing the effect of your witness, this public declaration protects you against accusation of intent to defraud the government. Withholding some portion of your tax does subject you to the seven percent interest charge plus a possible monthly penalty of one-half of one percent per month up to twenty-five percent of the amount not paid. Therefore, it is you who must determine the appropriate amount to withhold for your witness. Some Friends might feel they should begin with one percent of their total tax; others might be led to withhold ten percent or the actual percentage of the budget allocated to military expenses.

If you are moved to witness this year but cannot withhold from the government (because your money was already collected), you might consider requesting a refund (form 843) of the amount you would have withheld. Whether you receive a refund or not, the witness will have been strengthened. In the current tax year, you can legally assure that you will owe some money to the government by declaring expected allowances on your W-4 form at a level that takes your peace witness into account.

If the burden of the witness gets too heavy, you can, and should, stop the process by making the payment or by allowing the IRS to find and take payment from your bank account. (Beyond late-payment penalties, the IRS cannot take punitive action once you have paid the assessed tax.) The witness already made to yourself and your friends, and the strength and truth gained by this witness, will have moved us that much closer to world peace. We will have another opportunity to witness next year, and the next and the next. Each year we will have more knowledge and more strength and, if we are mindful of the light, more love. And this will sustain us for as many generations as it may take.

Some Friends will argue that since the government gets the money plus penalty charges anyway, tax refusal is counterproductive. This is not so. The whole system of tax collection is computerized and is dependent on voluntary cooperation. By requiring the system to take special steps to collect your tax, your message is felt. The message gains weight as the IRS is forced to put more and more time and attention on this matter. Friends may feel easier about the extra money collected if they view it as a contribution toward the government’s higher administrative costs. (There is no way the additional money can be diverted into military expense.)

It will concern some Friends that this action is “against the law” or it isn’t proper to claim a deduction for “peacework” if the money isn’t actually spent or that there is no item under “Credits” where one could appropriately list “peace witness.” True enough, the way of the tax refuser is not clean and simple. We are confronting a system we believe to be immoral and, as Friends have always done in similar situations, we must compromise, following the path we believe moves us closer to the ideal.

This is why a tax refuser needs the insight, information and support of other (Friendly) resisters. We need to discuss the pros and cons of the alternatives open to us and to help each other in our witness. IRS regulations and procedures change. Individual circumstances change. If one is isolated it can be confusing and lonely. It is important to stay in touch with others, by mail, if necessary.

Regardless of the impact on the government, our witness will have an immediate impact on each of us and on our meetings. This impact is likely to differ from that which we may have experienced in visiting prisons, counseling conscientious objectors, sorting clothes for AFSC, or work in other worthwhile programs in which we minister and offer aid to others. In tax refusal, we are concerned with our own brokenness and are committed to a healing ministry of ourselves, not by words, but by deeds.

In addition to the most important witness of tax refusal, every Friend should consider actively supporting the World Peace Tax Fund. If passed, this bill would grant conscientious objector status to taxpayers in much the same way as a conscientious objector status was granted to draft resisters and would allow the military expense portion of a conscientious objector’s tax to be diverted to a World Peace Trust Fund (for peace education and research, and humanitarian use).

Those of us who are clear on this issue must act and we must support each other. We must make our testimony public that others may find clarity and courage. And when we are given the opportunity, we must lovingly and patiently labor with other Friends who have not yet been moved to hold this issue to the light.

The IRS readily admits the whole tax system is dependent on voluntary cooperation. Ultimate control is in our hands (not the Pentagon’s)! Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are the masters, the slave masters. We can learn from the early Quakers. We must seek truth in the light and speak truth to power.

Finally, the issue gave the unsurprising news that the “Ann Arbor Monthly Meeting was recently denied a claim for exemption from payment of war taxes,” which it had asserted on religious freedom grounds. Cleverly, at least from a propaganda point of view, “[t]hey supported their claim by citing the Buckley vs. Valeo case where the Supreme Court decided it was unconstitutional to limit how much money of his own a candidate can spend for his campaign, thus establishing money expenditures as a means of free expression.”