St. Mary’s Catholic Church Refuses to Pay Phone Tax in Vietnam Protest

Here are a couple of curious overlapping articles about a tax resisting American Catholic church during the Vietnam War period, both published on :

Fort Wayne Church Refuses To Pay Tax

 The Internal Revenue Service has threatened to seize assets of St. Mary’s Catholic Church if the parish carries through its refusal to pay a 10 per cent telephone tax to protest the Vietnam war.

The church holds folk guitar masses every Sunday and includes several blacks, longhaired youths, and poor people among its congregation.

Lawrence Williamson, president of the 22-member parish council, said the governing body voted 19 to 1 last week to withhold the tax from its monthly bill of $100 to $150.

The tax was initiated during World War Ⅱ and reimposed during the Vietnam war. Legal penalty for non-payment is one year imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

Harold Kenner, a tax supervisor for the IRS’s Fort Wayne office, said if the church refuses to pay the tax and a penalty, the IRS has the authority to attach and auction assets.

“This was one specific thing we could do to protest the war,” Williamson said. “All our earlier marching and vigils and letter writing were simply acts of faith.

“We know they (IRS) ultimately will collect, but our conscience wouldn’t let us pay any longer… we hope they take an old school building,” he added.

Church Refuses To Pay Tax In War Protest

 An inner city parish that attracts hippies and disaffected catholics has voted to withhold its 10 per cent telephone tax to protest the Vietnam War.

The Internal Revenue Service says it will collect the tax and a penalty from St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The church’s limited assets will be attached, if necessary.

“This was one specific thing we could do to protest the war,” says Lawrence Williamson, president of the 22-member parish council that approved the withholding. “All our earlier marching and vigils and letter writing were simply acts of faith.

The tax first was imposed during World War Ⅱ and reimposed during the Vietnam War. Nonpayment means withholding 10 per cent of the parish’s monthly telephone bill of $100 to $150.

Williamson says the protest is the first of its kind in Fort Wayne and possibly the first in Indiana.

The parish council, which includes the sympathetic pastor, the Rev. Thomas O’Connor, voted 19 to 1 last week to withhold the “war tax.” The council is the church’s sole governing body.

Williamson says most of the 800 parishoners agreed with the council. Only a few elderly persons were panicked at the possible one-year’s jail sentence and $10,000 fine that are on the books but have never been imposed.

The old German Church is in an integrated downtown area. It tries to make religion relevant, Williamson says, and holds folk guitar masses every Sunday. Many of its worshippers are black, many are young and long-haired, many are poor.

Harold Kenner, a tax supervisor for the IRS office in Fort Wayne, sees headaches instead of symbolism in the church’s decision.

He says the telephone tax is no more earmarked for Vietnam war expenses than the income tax and the gesture is misplaced.

I’m impressed at the lengths to which the unnamed writer or writers went to make it clear that these church-going people are not ordinary decent church-going people like you — they’re hippies, and “disaffected” people, and blacks, and longhaired youths, and poor people!