Here are some excerpts from The Catholic News Archive concerning war tax resistance from :
The National Catholic News Service carried this dispatch on :
Episcopal Diocese Pays Protesting Priest’s Tax Bill
By NC News Service, Philadelphia (NC) — The Episcopal diocese of Philadelphia has decided to pay $545 in income taxes withheld by one of its priests as a protest against the Vietnam War.
After the Rev. David Gracie, an urban missioner here, had refused for 10 months to pay half of his income tax assessment, the Internal Revenue Service went to his employer asking the Episcopal diocese to turn over $545 of the priest’s salary.
Refusing to do so would have made the diocese liable for possible criminal charges for non-payment of the taxes.
Father Gracie appealed to the Episcopal council “to join in a corporate act of resistance against this barbaric, immoral war.” Paying the bill, he said, “will finish me as a tax resister.”
Voting to pay the tax bill, the council also set up a committee to study the theological implications of conscientious tax resistance and tax exemption.
Tom Cornell reviewed the book Ain’t Gonna Pay for War No More (Robert Calvert, The War Tax Resistance, ) in the issue of Catholic Worker:
Ain’t Gonna Pay No More
This book represents a tremendous contribution to the movement against war and for a more decent society, in itself and in the War Tax Resistance campaign from which it emerges. Probably the most significant development in The Movement during the past two years has been the growth of organised tax resistance along with its alternate funds. Tax resistance has long been recognised as a pillar of anti-war activity, at least in theory. After long incubation since the beginning of the Cold War in , tax resistance is taking its place in the minds of many pacifist activists alongside such stances as conscientious objection and draft resistance.
Ain’t Gonna Pay is an unusual movement publication. It is pocket size, has a soft cover, is handsomely but modestly produced. The type is legible and generously spaced. It is crammed with useful information in a digestible form, and it is sprightly and wryly humorous. To Bob Calvert is due not only credit for this most useful book, but also for the cohesion and outreach the national tax resistance has attained. A most extraordinary man, you may read more about him in his own disarming paragraphs “About the Author,” in the comments about him by Bradford Lyttle on the back cover, and in David Dellinger’s Preface.
Much of the impetus for the tax resistance movement has come from the writings of Karl Meyer. Karl has recently been released from Sandstone federal prison where he served 10 months for one of his experiments with tax resistance. An important new development he has spurred has been the alternate fund. Basic reasoning behind both tax resistance and the fund is well stated by Karl himself in his CW article. It is well to repeat portions of it:
If we pool all of the tax money that we did not pay in locally administered funds, we can create a model for a future in which men can regain direct control of their common institutions and effectively deny their consent to governmental programs they believe evil.
In each community or region we can set up a common fund. Each contributor will have one vote, as in a cooperative. The members will meet from time to time to set priorities and guidelines for administering it according to their guidelines.
Assuming that the federal income tax contributions of most people in the movement probably exceed their voluntary political, organizational and charitable contributions, we would expect that the tax alternative funds could become one of the most substantial sources of money for the projects and purposes in which we most strongly believe. But beyond that we could hope that our experience in mutual aid through these cooperative funds would bear fruit in the development of ashrams and communities for closer economic and social cooperation, for it is when our constructive action and our resistance to evil become for real that we see the need and value of mutual aid and begin to create cooperative alternatives within the competitive society on which we live.
If we ignore or neglect the great potential of tax resistance joined to constructive action, we must be deaf to history and blind to experience.
Do we not know that tax resistance has been one of the greatest sources and strategies of revolutionary movements throughout history? Has not history shown that taxation is a process requiring the general consent and cooperation of the populace? Has it not been shown that when numbers of people reject a government by withdrawing their consent from the elaborate bureaucratic process of taxation, that government is in deep trouble? Did not the French Revolution begin with tax resistance? Was not tax resistance the slogan and rallying cry of the American Revolution: “Taxation without representation is tyranny I”?… Did not Thoreau fashion the cornerstone of American resistance theory out of his own experiences as a tax resister? Was not Gandhi’s largest and most significant campaign of civil disobedience, the Salt March, based on the strategy of tax resistance?
Can we not see what the IRS knows full well: that even where the public gives general consent to the process of taxation it is always and everywhere a grudging and tentative consent, a resentful and querulous consent, a fragile consent that must always be nursed and safeguarded by positive relations? There exists among the public at large a great reservoir of grievance, a vast subliminal potential for tax resistance and evasion that only needs to be aroused by news of widespread tax resistance.
Let us learn from the experience of the draft resistance movement and the telephone tax refusal campaign. A few years ago, many people regarded draft refusal as a personal witness of the solitary conscience. Today it has taken on the dimension of a social movement. It is, however, restricted by the narrow age and sex range of those who are subject to conscription, and even more restricted by the narrowness of the draft as a single focus of action.
When we combine real war tax resistance with the tremendous constructive potential of a Fund for Humanity, we will have raised a banner to which all honest and courageous men of conscience can repair.
People are always anxious to know the penalties for various forms of tax resistance. There is a chapter of questions and answers taken from the column by Payno Warbucks in Tax Talk, organ of the WTR ($2 a year subscription). It is practical and accurate. Stories of individuals who have dealt with IRS’ and the courts’ attempts to make them pay are told succinctly. Long-time readers will recall the stories of Wally and Juanita Nelson, Rev. Maurice McCracken, Walter Gormly and Eroseanna Robinson. Some recent efforts to collect taxes-due through confiscation of property and sale at public auctions are related with hardly suppressed glee. Here is the story of Bob Marcus:
On , the IRS auctioned the car of Bob Marcus at the National Guard Armory in Boulder, Colorado for $1.25 in phone tax money. People from the Institute/Mountain West, a branch of the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence and Denver War Tax Resistance decided to make good use of the opportunity. They sent out a leaflet to the 3500 people in the Institute’s mailing list, telling them what had happened and asking that they contribute to a fund to buy Bob’s car back at the auction. It was explained that all money bid for the car above the unpaid tax and fees is refunded to the tax (non)payer. The excess money would be put into the war tax resistance alternative fund. The auction was promoted as a “joint IRS/Institute for the Study of Nonviolence fund-raiser for war tax resistance.”
About thirty people showed up at the auction, held in a stiff wind outside the armory. “We passed around cookies in the shape of the resistance omega, tossed balloons of all colors into the air, and held signs which read ‘I ain’t gonna pay for war no more’ and ‘celebrate life — don’t pay war tax.’ ”
Beneath a skull and crossbones “Jolly Roger” kite that went wild in the wind, two revenuers read the IRS ground rules. They told Bob that he could still redeem the car. He stepped foreword and said, “But can I redeem my soul?” The car was sold for $277.00. It took about twenty minutes to complete the transaction because much of the money was in twenty dollar bills.
After the IRS got its blood money, and the Institute expenses had been paid, the war tax resistance alternative fund had netted $203.35. Bob donated the car to the community. He decided that he preferred bicycling to polluting the air.
In addition, all the media covered the story extensively and pretty sympathetically. It can be stated that the IRS bought tens of thousands of dollars worth of publicity for the idea of war tax resistance. “A final benefit is that we showed the people of the community that tax resisters will stick together and help each other out.” How’s that for a bit of nonviolent jujitsu? (pp. 89–90.)
The book ends with a listing of the eighty-nine local War Tax Resistance centers around the country (as of press date ). There are now almost one hundred more, as well as twenty-three alternate or “Life Funds.” These centers offer tax-resistance counseling, supply current literature, buttons and bumper stickers, coordinate speakers, produce demonstrations, and administer Life Funds. I suggest you buy at least five copies of this book to give to friends who might then help you to organise a war resistance center in your locale. You will get all the help you need from Bob Calvert
The National Catholic Reporter covered Karl Meyer’s war tax resistance in its issue:
An act of “political significance”
Resister urges withholding of taxes
By Jerry De Muth
Special to the National Catholic Reporter — Chicago — “Tax resistance is now like draft resistance was in ,” Catholic Worker Karl Meyer told 1,000 persons who gathered to greet him on his parole from prison where he had been serving a two-year sentence for falsifying his federal income tax deductions.
“When I tore up my draft card in , it was an act of personal witness,” the 34-year-old Meyer explained. “Today it has become an act of political significance because so many do it.
“In , eight of us refused to pay the telephone excise tax. Now at least 100,000 do not pay that ten per cent tax.” The tax was levied for the expressed purpose of raising funds for the war in Indochina.
Today, Meyer sees the number of income tax resisters as numbering at least 10,000 and perhaps as many as 20,000. And, he hopes that soon this act of personal witness will also become an act of political significance.
In an interview after his talk, Meyer said, “I like concrete results. If you don’t send $500 to Washington, you can spend that $500 as you wish on something positive. That’s concrete, but there’s no other concrete result unless tax resistance becomes organized and grows.
“The first step,” Meyer said, “is nonpayment of the ten per cent telephone tax. Then there is nonpayment of any balance due or nonpayment of $50, $100 or a significant amount of the income tax. If many do this it does have political significance.”
The affair for Meyer included a $5-a-plate dinner, with the proceeds going to the Chicago Peace Council, Peoples Coalition for Peace and Justice and the Catholic Worker movement. Referring to the people who promoted the dinner, he said:
“They should have decided not to send $500 in tax money to Washington and instead sent it to the Peace Council. But instead they send $500 to Washington and send $5 to the Peace Council, and then they wonder why Washington is strong and the Peace Council is weak.”
Meyer was first exposed to pacifism by his mother, who taught him about Gandhi, and his father, William H. Meyer, a former U.S. representative from Vermont who was a conscientious objector during World War Ⅱ. , the elder Meyer proposed the abolition of both Selective Service and the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
In , young Meyer became involved in active resistance, joined the Catholic Worker and converted to Catholicism. Also a believer in such “educational” acts as peace marches, he has participated in many such actions, including a ten-month, 6,000-mile San Francisco to Moscow march in .
Meyer’s frequent protests against the war have resulted in numerous arrests. In , he was expelled from South Vietnam for antiwar activities and, he says, similar efforts resulted in his being beaten up by delegates to the Lions International convention in Chicago in .
Meyer began his protest against the use of tax money for the military in by having his income tax underwithheld. In , he progressed to all-out resistance through the influence of a Chicago tax resister, Eroseanna Robinson, an Olympic high jump champion.
So that no income tax would be withheld from her pay, Miss Robinson would change jobs every time her income from a job totaled more than $600. At the end of the year she did not report any of her income. She was arrested and while detained in Cook county jail in Chicago began to fast while Meyer and others picketed outside. Sentenced to a year in prison, she continued to fast. After 108 days the Bureau of Prisons, Meyer said, asked the judge to release her and the judge complied.
“I said to myself then that I was not going to pay taxes any more,” Meyer said. “I began by leafletting the IRS IRS offices.”
At the time Meyer was supporting a House of Hospitality in Chicago and legally claimed as exemptions the persons who were living there. As a result, no taxes were withheld. “But as I phased out the house,” he added, “I no longer legally had a sufficient number of exemptions. But in I claimed 12 anyway, and in I claimed 10.”
Meyer was legally entitled to four — for himself; his wife, Jean; a son, William, now eight, and a daughter, Kristin, now four. (They since have had a third child, Eric, now one year old.) It was for those extra exemptions that Meyer received a maximum two-year sentence plus a $1,000 fine last . He was released from the federal prison at Sandstone, Minn. — where Joe Mulligan and Ed Hoffmans of the Chicago 15 are also imprisoned — on and will remain on parole until .
Meyer has frequently changed jobs to avoid a lien on his wages. Once, the government got $46.60 before he quit one job. It is the only income tax he has paid in the past 11 years, he says. He has also avoided paying all but $8 of the federal excise tax on phone service.
“My jobs were determined by my radical pattern of life,” he explained. “I was in jail a lot. I was not thinking of building a career, which was good because, as soon as you stop living as the poor live and stop working as the poor work, you stop caring about their needs.”
A simple lifestyle is a very important part of tax resistance for the Meyers. “There are essential principles more important than tax resistance,” Meyer emphasized. “They are the idea of voluntary poverty and simplicity of life which we have done through our House of Hospitality, sharing our income with others.
“The other major principle is the refusal to do harm to others, especially to claim control of our own productivity and not pay for the killing of others. We can claim control of our lives through tax resistance.”
Meyer said there is only one reason why more persons, even if they strongly oppose the war, do not refuse to pay part or all of their income taxes — “They’re afraid.”
“But the first time it’s done, there’s certainly no risk,” he said confidently. Partly for this reason he backs mass tax resistance as a national antiwar action.
“The question,” he said, “is how do you tell people about their own strengths. They mistakenly think that Karl Meyer is stronger then they.”
Meyer, who frequently delves into history with a preference for the writings of Thomas Paine, fondly points out that the American Revolution, the French Revolution and Gandhi’s movement for Indian independence all had their roots in tax resistance.
The step of tax resistance, he feels, is important for those who have unsuccessfully urged their senators to vote against military appropriations. “When the time comes for us to vote against appropriations — and that day comes April 15 — do we vote against appropriations?” he asked. “The courage we ask of our representatives should not be greater than the courage we ask of ourselves.”
As for the Meyers’ future, Meyer said that they will not pay the $2,000 in taxes owed for , will not pay the telephone tax and will not pay his $1,000 fine.
“But in order that we may be allowed to remain together and not be separated by imprisonment,” he added, “we will limit our income to an amount that will not be taxable, to about $4,800. It’s easy to live on this. In fact, I think we can live on $4,000 by the simplification of our life. We will then be in a position to share the surplus with others not so fortunate as us.”
Meyer was working at a hospital when he was arrested a year ago and now is employed by “an association,” working with the mentally retarded. “We will continue to do productive work for the good of society,” he vowed. “We will continue to oppose this war and all other wars and all militarism by the testimony of our lives and the witness of our actions.”
From the The Catholic Advocate:
Promotes “Tax Resistance” to War
A 27-year-old priest refuses to pay the “war share” of his federal income tax. Rev. Thomas McKenna, assistant pastor at St. Luke’s, St. Paul, Minn., in a letter to more than 100 priests inviting them to discuss possible tax resistance, said: “No matter how we vote, no matter what we say, no matter how many statements, marches and demonstrations we endorse, we still support the war (and the weekly death toll) with a large portion of every dollar we pay in federal income and telephone excise taxes.”
A follow-up on this from the National Catholic Reporter, :
17 clergy to withhold tax
Special to the National Catholic Reporter — St. Paul, Minn. — Seventeen Twin Cities’ area priests, ministers and seminarians have announced that they will refuse to pay a portion of their federal income tax to protest the Vietnam war. Among the group are five priests of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese.
“We cannot before God support or finance this unjustifiable killing of fellow human beings whether American or Southeast Asian,” said Father Thomas McKenna, a leader of the group, in a statement read at the federal building here. “Therefore, we feel that we must in conscience refuse to pay that portion of our federal income tax that goes to support this inhuman, ungodly war.”
Father McKenna, an assistant pastor at St. Luke’s Catholic church in St. Paul, said that 25 priests of the archdiocese had indicated to him that they might join in the tax resistance. The 20 who did not join, he said, are still considering other forms of protest, such as withholding the federal telephone tax.
The tax resisters’ statement came at the conclusion of a peaceful demonstration by more than 200 clergy, seminarians and laymen who marched from St. Paul’s Dayton Avenue Presbyterian church to the St. Paul cathedral and then to the federal building. The march was organized by the Ecumenical Witness for Peace.
A skeptical reporter for the Pittsburgh Catholic penned this for its edition:
Most pay little attention
Peace marchers get mixed reaction
By William McClinton
A procession of 25 people, even when escorting a black coffin and led by a man with a cross, doesn’t make much of a ripple in the hurrying crowds in downtown Pittsburgh at lunch time.
So it was with the 25 clergy and laity — mostly Catholic — who marched some 10 blocks to the Federal Bldg. to protest the escalation of the Vietnam war and the use of their tax money to finance the war.
Their sidewalk procession drew attention in some less busy areas, but in the main blocks was separated and absorbed by the crowd.
Nevertheless, the war headlines at every newsstand illustrated the relevancy of their concern, and the news media was present, almost as numerous as the marchers.
The 25 were members or friends of the recently opened Thomas Merton Peace and Justice Center, an interfaith but predominately Catholic effort on the South Side.
Larry Kessler, director of the Center, said the cross was to illustrate the religious motivation of the protesters who cannot “in conscience” support “this atrocity we call the Indochina war.”
Asked if the escalation wasn’t the result of North Vietnam’s attack, several responded in essence: “What do you expect? We’ve had plenty of time to get out. We shouldn’t be there in the first place.”
The demonstrators chose the front of the Diocese of Pittsburgh Bldg. to form, unknown to diocesan officials. As they filed through town they passed out handbills signed by 45 persons, including 12 diocesan priests and three nuns, announcing the undersigned were withholding part of their federal tax payment or the 10 per cent phone excise tax to protest the war. The handbills urged others to “conscientiously object” the same way. Many people took the bills and read them impassively.
The procession stopped at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on Sixth St. for a brief prayer service and again at the Methodist Bldg. on Smithfield at Seventh where the closest thing to an incident occurred.
The ground floor of the building houses a bank branch, and Fr. Donald Fisher had hardly begun paraphrasing a psalm through a portable mike when the building manager rushed out and announced that “You can’t do that here.” It was private property, the manager said tensely and when the demonstrators tried to discuss it, he hurried off to call the police. By the time he returned, however, the demonstration had moved on.
At the Federal Bldg. on Liberty Ave. where several more demonstrators were waiting, the group set the wooden coffin down in the outdoor plaza, and after Kessler read from one of Fr. Daniel Berrigan’s writings, they tossed into the coffin some old phone bills and income tax forms as a symbolic gesture.
Several dozen persons who gathered to watch included four or five young men preparing to enlist at Armed Forces offices inside the building.
“It’s a shame.” said Robert DeRose Jr., 18, from Gallitzin in Cambria County, a sturdy, dark-haired youth who said — looking at his watch — he was to be sworn into the Navy “in 10 minutes.”
“All they’re doing is letting Communism spread around the world,” he said heatedly. “Yet they’ll be the first to scream when Communism comes in.”
There was a humorous moment when five of the priests went inside to pay their self-reduced income tax and — even as any hapless taxpayer — were unwittingly directed by a solicitous Internal Revenue guide to the wrong line.
“I don’t take any money here,” the official told them after they had worked their way up to his desk and Fr. Donald McIlvane had introduced everyone all around and explained their purpose. “You have to give it to the cashier.”
The cashier proved to be an attractive redhead at the other end of the room who listened politely to the priests’ explanations, smiled and said, “Thank you,” as she accepted each payment.
The procession’s religious aura commanded respect — the prayers, the obvious concern for peaceful protest, the appeal to Christian principles, as the marchers see those principles.
But the intensity of the division this war has generated was reflected by the reaction of a stumpy, graying man on one streetcorner. “They’re a bunch of Communists,” he told a companion contemptuously. “They wouldn’t do that in Russia.”
“Not in East Germany either,” his friend replied in a strong foreign accent.
The National Catholic News Service carried this dispatch on :
Tax Problems Dog Catholic Worker Movement
By NC News Service New York (NC) — “My little case is to explain to the court that performing the corporal works of mercy is indeed charitable even under the standards imposed by our government, and I refuse to apply for tax exemption.”
With those words Dorothy Day, the 74-year-old founder of the Catholic Worker movement, has summarized what she expects to say when she appears in a federal court in Lewisburg, Pa.
Miss Day will have to explain why the Catholic Worker movement has not paid $296,359 in fines, penalties and back income taxes to the Internal Revenue Service for the past six years.
A confirmed pacifist, Miss Day has opposed the theory of a just war, a theory that has been foremost in her decision not to apply for federal tax exemption.
“Our refusal to apply for exemption status in our practice of the works of mercy is part of our protest against war and the present social ‘order’ which brings on wars today,” she said.
“One of the most costly protests against war in the way of long enduring personal sacrifice is to refuse to pay income taxes for war,” she wrote recently in the Catholic Worker newspaper.
She argues that the Catholic Worker organization has never paid salaries. Its volunteer workers are given room, board, clothing and free instruction in the Catholic Worker movement.
“So we do not need to pay federal income taxes,” she contends.
“I’m sure that many will think me a fool indeed, almost criminally negligent for not taking more care to safeguard, not just the bank account, but the welfare of all the lame, halt, and blind — deserving or undeserving poor — who come to us.”
Miss Day told NC News Service she considers the tax investigations a “harassment by the federal government” because the Catholic Worker movement is against all war.
The Catholic Worker is not incorporated as a religious organization and therefore is not exempt from paying federal income taxes. She said the Catholic Worker does not incorporate because it is a principal of the movement to avoid all ties with the state.
She says the Catholic Worker did not set up a defense committee to campaign for Catholic funds.
“I can only trust that this crisis will pass,” she said. “I am sure that some way will be found either to avert the disaster, or for us to continue to care for our old, sick, helpless, hungry and homeless if it happens,” she said.
The National Catholic Reporter reported that the “peace tax fund” idea had captured Catholic attention as well:
Applying papal suggestions
From tax dollars to peace fund
By Phil Haslanger
Special to the National Catholic Reporter, Madison, Wis.— Trying to apply papal suggestions to political realities is not the easiest job in the world. Take, for example, Pope Paul’s suggestion in his encyclical Populorum Progressio that a world fund be established “to be made up of part of the money spent on arms, to relieve the most destitute of this world.”
For Dr. Daniel J. Guilfoil, a 39-year-old philosophy professor at Edgewood college here, that suggestion provided the key to his dream of having part of his tax money be deferred from military expenses to help the poor.
With the introduction of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives which would enable citizens to avoid paying war taxes on grounds of conscience (N.C.R., ), Guilfoil saw his dream moving closer to reality.
Although Guilfoil had worked for about two years to have his congressman, Rep. Robert Kastenmeier (D-Wis.), introduce such a bill, the push which finally got the bill introduced came from a citizens group in Ann Arbor, Mich. under the leadership of Dr. David Bassett, a physician.
Neither Guilfoil nor the Ann Arbor group had any knowledge about each other — a fact Guilfoil interprets as both a weakness in the tactical effort and a sign that the bill embodies an idea whose time has come.
The path Guilfoil followed which led him to work for such legislation was not dissimilar from that followed by other liberal Catholics in the wake of Vatican Ⅱ.
As enthusiasm for the declarations of the council yielded to frustration over the pace of change, Guilfoil, his wife, Barbara (“She’s probably more activist than I am”) and their nine children became a part of Madison’s John ⅩⅩⅢ experimental community.
With the community, they worked on civil rights and open housing legislation and, in Guilfoil’s words, “moved into the peace movement, if you will, as a connected issue.”
Working with the social action committee of Madison Area Community of Churches to establish a draft counseling center, Guilfoil became sensitive to the witness offered by conscientious objectors and he began to think that “the principle of alternative service should be extended to all people,” not just to draftable young men.
At the same time, he was aware of the growing tax resistance movement to protest the war and he was considering the implications of Populorum Progressio.
The various threads were woven together by Guilfoil and other members of John ⅩⅩⅢ into a petition, signatures were gathered and a resolution was adopted by the social action committee of the diocesan priests’ senate urging “legislation to create an alternate fund to administer to the needs of people.”
From there, more signatures were collected and on , Guilfoil talked with Kastenmeier about the possibility of having legislation to that effect introduced. The congressman responded favorably and suggested the petitions and information be sent to his administrative assistant.
Kastenmeier’s office considered the proposal, but decided that the time was not yet ripe for such a bill.
Some time later the idea of just such a bill was stirring in Ann Arbor. By fall the World Peace Tax Fund steering committee had been established. According to Arthur Mack, the committee’s corresponding secretary, a second committee was established in Washington to lobby towards such legislation.
Rep. Ronald Dellums (D-Cal.) liked the idea and put his office to work on rounding up cosponsors. In , he and the other nine congressmen introduced the “bill and saw it referred to the House Ways and Means committee.
, Guilfoil prodded the faculty of Edgewood college to “go on record as supporting the right of all citizens to the privilege of the status of ‘conscientious objector.’ ” , he convinced the social action commission of Blessed Sacrament parish in Madison to unanimously adopt a resolution asking the parish council to educate the parish “on the theology of alternate service.”
Resolutions written by Guilfoil supporting the passage of the World Peace Tax Fund act the bill pending in the House were adopted by both the Second District caucus of the Democratic party (Madison) and, most significantly of all, by the State Democratic party as a part of its platform.
Guilfoil sees his efforts on the local level as part of the push to draw national attention to the bill. He said he hopes the National Conference of Catholic Bishops will consider supporting the legislation, and he would like to see other national groups support the bill.
As for the realistic chances of getting the bill out of committee and passed into law, Guilfoil admits, “I’m not optimistic. But if you told me two years ago it would even be a bill now. I wouldn’t have believed you.”
He sees lobbying combined with education as the lever to getting the bill moving. “There’s enough sentiment today that taxes are being directed foolishly,” he says. “It’s a matter of getting people aware that straight people can think about these things.”
For Catholic groups, he added, the concepts of the bill “must be tied to the pacifist and just war traditions of the church — the doctrine of the church is surely important.”
As for Guilfoil himself, he is not waiting for the government to pass legislation which will make that papal suggestion a political reality. He has joined with others in the state to form a Wisconsin Peace Fund.
The specifics of the group haven’t been worked out yet, but basically, members will put a part of their tax money into the fund and the group will disperse it to local causes.
What Guilfoil and the people in Ann Arbor hope is that someday that peace fund will be on a national or even international level. The World Peace Tax Fund act has helped sustain that hope.
The issue of National Catholic Reporter reported on a national war tax resistance conference and included a sidebar on “How tax resisters resist taxes.” From the opening paragraphs, it appears that a political endorsement was on the agenda, suggesting that the conference was much more mainstream-liberal then than it is now (I doubt such an endorsement would be seriously considered by a NWTRCC conference these days):
War tax resisters
Can’t quite “endorse” McGovern
Jim Castelli, Associate Editor
Kansas City, Mo. — The second National War Tax Resistance Conference, attended by about 40 persons from around the country, gave what amounted to a qualified endorsement to the presidential candidacy of Senator George McGovern.
The tax resisters approved a statement praising McGovern for his promises to end the war, cut military spending, restudy the entire tax system and support a guaranteed annual income.
The statement also said the political climate in the country would substantially improve with McGovern as president and that he would end “repressive” actions by the government.
But the tax resisters also said they saw a negative side to McGovern, saying he “completely believes in maintaining United States power in the world” and that providing more arms for Israel, as McGovern has said he would do, is not the way to end the crisis in the Middle East.
Despite such criticisms, the statement said that most of the participants would probably vote for McGovern. Discussion indicated that those at the conference not voting for McGovern would either vote for Dr. Benjamin Spock, the People’s Party candidate, or not vote at all.
One participant suggested that applying pressure on McGovern from the left would let voters see him as a moderate, and therefore more acceptable. Another noted that because War Tax Resistance has strong anarchistic tendencies, a statement in support of McGovern might induce some anarchists to vote in this election.
The conference was held at St. Mark’s church, an unusual church in that it is staffed by Protestant and Catholic clergy. The participants, for the most part, wore sandals, well-worn jeans and long hair but weren’t all young. They came from both coasts and such cities as Denver, Chicago and Ann Arbor, Mich.
Also coming out of the conference was an agreement to draw up a statement on what the focus of the war tax resistance movement should be when the war ends. It was agreed tax resisters should continue to oppose the domination of the federal budget by the military and the centralization of power in the hands of governmental and corporate structures.
This opposition, the participants said, should include presenting alternatives, such as a nonviolent peace-keeping force and a blueprint for converting to an economy based on peace — for example, an analysis of how to shift the emphasis at Boeing Aircraft to building mass transportation facilities.
The conference expressed opposition to key segments of the World Peace Fund Tax Act, a measure introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Ron Dellums (D-Calif.) and nine other legislators.
The bill would allow taxpayers who qualified for conscientious objector status under Selective Service standards to divert the percentage of their taxes slated for the military to a “world peace tax board,” which would study peaceful alternatives to international conflict.
The major objections to the bill were the screening process to obtain the conscientious objector status and the fact that the alternative funds would still be controlled at the national level, preventing tax money from being used in the community from which it was paid.
No specific action was taken at the conference on the bill, but Robert Calvert, coordinator of War Tax Resistance, said he expects a new national working committee to try to rework the bill in .
Calvert, in an interview, said the number of Americans withholding taxes because of the war is growing. He estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 are either refusing to page the 10 per cent federal telephone excise tax, which is used for the war, or refusing to pay all or part of their income tax.
At present, he said, there are 192 war tax resistance centers in the U.S. He added that each regional office of the Internal Revenue Service now has a person or department dealing with taxpayers protesting the war.
“We’d love to get our hands on the IRS list,” he said. “They have many more names of resisters than we have because many people resist on their own without working with a local center.”
The two main purposes of the conference were organizational: the creation of a working committee, and the question of whether or not to move the national office from New York to Kansas City.
The proposal to move the office was approved, partly because of expected lower operating costs, but mostly because War Tax Resistance wants to be closer to “middle America.” The move is expected to be made by the end of the year.
The working committee, now being assembled, will consist of representatives of national regions and the seven state area around Kansas City. The committee is to meet every two months beginning in .
How tax resisters resist taxes
Special to the National Catholic Reporter, Kansas City, Mo.— How do you resist paying taxes as a protest against the war, and what happens when you do?
Interviews conducted at the second annual National War Tax Resistance Conference and materials put out by the movement provide these answers:
There are a variety of ways to resist taxes: Withholding the federal telephone excise tax, withholding all or part of the federal income tax, not filing a tax return at all, paying taxes under protest and keeping one’s earnings below a taxable level. All have a different set of consequences.
The most common form of resistance is withholding the telephone tax, says Robert Calvert, coordinator of the War Tax Resistance organization. The telephone tax, which helps finance the war, currently is 10 per cent.
To withhold it, resisters simply deduct the tax when they pay their phone bills, explaining that it is a protest against the war, not against the phone company. Members of War Tax Resistance say that telephone companies have told resisters that their service will not be interrupted, and that they regard the protest as a matter between the individual and the government.
They point out, however, that phone companies do provide the Internal Revenue Service with the names of resisters. The experience of resisters is that, after several written demands for payment, IRS can usually secure payment by attaching the resister’s bank account, taking the amount of the unpaid tax, plus up to six per cent interest.
Technically, a person who resists the telephone tax is liable to a year’s imprisonment and a $10,000 fine, but so far the government has been satisfied with collection, resisters say.
In Calvert’s opinion, the government might still decide to arrest telephone tax resisters. But, he adds, it has been the history of movements such as tax resistance that they are strengthened by governmental crackdowns.
Resisting income taxes is more difficult because taxes are withheld from most people’s wages during the year. Thus, resisters who owe money at the end of the year can refuse to pay it or, through the use of such tactics as claiming more dependents than they actually have, file for a refund.
Income tax resistance is viewed more seriously by the government; resisters have been jailed, but penalties are greater for falsification of income tax returns or failure to file than for refusal to pay. (Any tax returns indicating resistance should be accompanied by a letter explaining the nature of the protest.)
So far, however, either because their returns have been accepted by IRS computers, or because appeals proceedings can take years, most resisters have still not had to pay taxes.
Tax resisters advise against keeping withheld tax money, however. The organization instead advises putting the money into alternate funds which may be used to assist tax resisters who are challenged by the government.
The government can seize personal property such as cars and houses for public auction to bring in the owed taxes. (Whatever money is brought in over and above the taxes and auction fees is returned to the resister.)
These auctions have become occasions for peace demonstrations. An auction for a car that had been seized from a Kansas man for tax resistance heard bids of Vietnamese tears, coffins, and napalmed babies. Also, a resister can often arrange to have friends or a resistance center make the actual purchase at the auction.
The use of withholding allowances as a means of tax resistance was devised by John Egnal, a lawyer from Philadelphia representing resister Jack Malinowski. Malinowski was charged with supplying “false information” on his tax status; he had claimed 14 dependents (the number of other people in the Philadelphia tax resistance center), an amount which negated his tax for the year. He was found guilty, but has not as yet been sentenced.
The problem with past methods of tax resistance is that they are all technically illegal because they hinge on a yes or no answer to questions regarding certain parts of the internal revenue code. The use of withholding allowances, however, seems to avoid this situation.
An employee fills out IRS form W-4 to indicate to his employer the number of deductions he will claim for the coming year; form W-4E indicates that no tax liability has been incurred for the year, usually because of income below the taxable level.
People who expect to have a large number of itemized deductions can enter a number of withholding allowances — converted from dollar figures by a chart on the back of the W-4 form — which will reduce tax payments; this way, higher taxes are not paid and then refunded at the end of the year.
Egnal holds that “the withholding allowance claim would be applicable to any tax resister who believed that, as a result of the illegal and immoral conduct of the U.S. government, some or all of the federal taxes claimed could not lawfully be collected.
“If one held such a belief… it would be necessary to improvise some basis for preparing one’s income tax returns, since IRS has not, as yet, seen fit to follow the law of this country, which includes not only the Internal Revenue code, but also numerous principles of international law to which the U.S. has subscribed.”
This improvisation, according to Egnal, would be a “war crimes deduction” for which a withholding allowance could be entered.
Egnal, claims that if the government were to prosecute such a resister, “the only false statement they could point to would be ‘I am entitled to a war crimes deduction because…’ Such a statement reflects a legal conclusion which has never been ruled upon by any court, and which… enjoys the support of many noted scholars.”
Even if the courts eventually rule that such deductions are illegal, Egnal points out that past rulings would not allow prosecution because the fact that the legal question was in doubt erases the possibility of “willfully” breaking the law.
A similar situation exists with form W-4E, which states “Under penalties of perjury, I certify that I incurred no liability for federal income tax for and that I anticipate that I will incur no liability for federal income tax for .”
A resister could, according to Egnal, use the “war crimes deduction” to justify the claim that he was not liable for any taxes.
(A follow-up brief in the issue read: “There was some discussion at the annual conference of War Tax Resistance that if McGovern lost the election, his followers would make a prime target for the tax resistance movement. He lost, and the war is still going on; if it drags on until income tax time, it will be interesting to see if there is an increase in tax resistance.” Another, in the issue read: “The war tax resistance movement has found a new home in Mid-America — Kansas City. The organization moved from New York to save money and to be physically closer to ‘middle Americans.’ Nearby Independence, Mo. is the national headquarters of the paramilitary Minutemen, but tax resistance members don’t expect any hassles. One resister joked, ‘Maybe we can learn something from them about grassroots organization.’ The new address will be 912 E. 31st St., Kansas City, Mo.”)
The same issue included this opinion piece:
War taxes and conscience
“It is the issue of coresponsibility and complicity that will become salient”
By Roderick Hindery
Even if United States military forces in Indochina should be reduced to a residual element or less before or after the election, the war will remain an issue crucial for the conscience and morale of those who led it and those who were coresponsible. It is particularly the issue of coresponsibility or complicity that will become salient. The fact that the Indochina war was explicitly rejected by millions who simultaneously supported it by taxes and other forms of cooperation may make the judgment of Nuremberg the question of the present era: “that a person acted pursuant to the order of his government or a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”
One of the more constructive expressions of an emerging consciousness of coresponsibility for military action is the World Peace Tax Fund Act (N.C.R. ). Although the bill may never escape committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, as one attempt to legislate an alternative to economic participation in war for those conscientiously opposed, it is enormously important. The rationale attached to the bill argues that since compulsory significant participation in war against one’s religious conscience is opposed to the original spirit of the First Amendment, the law should allow a realistic alternative such as contributions to qualified peace-related activities — for example, research toward non-military solutions of conflict. The compatibility of alternate contributions with responsible citizenship is defended by reference to Christian tradition, the traditions of the United States, judicial interpretations and legal precedents.
In a survey of some of the bill’s ramifications, the authors assure their readers that tried and proven standards for determining authentic conscientious objector status can also be applied to military tax objectors. As for other possible abuses, it is alleged that the Peace Tax Fund’s passage would not open the floodgates to earmarking tax dollars because opposition to war involves a right of conscience that is uniquely fundamental. In a concluding section entitled “Effectiveness,” the Peace Tax Fund proposal realistically admits that the military budget would not decrease unless Congress were persuaded by the fund’s growth to reduce the priority of military spending. Tax exemption is primarily a means to that end.
In noting that the bill would “force” taxpayers to decide whether they can support military spending, the authors underline the thesis with which we began — the importance of an emerging consciousness about coresponsibility for war through military spending.
The Peace Tax Fund, of course, is not the only path of dissent being explored. An increasing body of tax resisters (192 listed groups in the United States) have experimented with alternatives ranging from individual protests to communal resistance and harassment of the Internal Revenue Service. Taxes are withheld totally or in amounts proportionate to military spending by the government. Equivalent sums are donated to social and charitable causes. However, if the citizen takes steps to insure that military taxes are not confiscated from his salary or property, he is liable to legal sanction.
While refusal to work for taxable wages and emigration are further options, emigration alone may offer the only route toward a “pure non-cooperation.” When economic systems can support war by deficit spending and by the transfer of non-military funds to military budgets, even participation in a future World Peace Tax Fund would not neutralize the fact that living within a military economy is itself a kind of cooperation in war.
The option most commonly followed is to justify support of military spending as a means of buying time and freedom to work toward a less militaristic administration.
None of these options to economic military support necessarily presuppose a totally pacifistic position. In principle they also apply to citizens concerned with the justice of supporting particular wars, revolutions, counterrevolutions, or exorbitantly massive forms of national defense. In each of these instances it is maintained that money becomes power and weaponry which kills against one’s conscience.
What was always true is becoming increasingly obvious. Conscientious objection is a problem not only for draftees but for all taxpayers and their dependents. The fact that the problem is not yet widely recognized is partly grounded in a profound dilemma never resolved in the history of theoretical ethics and only tenuously confronted by national constitutions and international law. The dilemma can be expressed in two questions: 1) Is there not a basic and inalienable human right/duty not to kill against one’s conscience? 2) If this right/duty is inalienable, how can the right/duty of national defense override it?
Within the legal dimension the dilemma is not yet totally resolved. The Russian Constitution, for instance, legislates that the duty of defense supersedes freedom of conscience. The United States Constitution refers to no such priority, only to a religious freedom which implicitly presupposes a prior freedom of conscience in matters so basic as killing. No subsequent legislation has inverted that valuation, and judicial decisions consistently interpret the Constitution in favor of the primacy of conscience (at least in reference to opposition to war in general). This priority of conscience was explicitly confirmed by the principles of Nuremberg, which were approved by the United States and promulgated as international law by the United Nations in . In principle the United States accepts international law as an authority which obliges its own citizens.
In the United States the priority of conscience still needs clearer and more explicit legislation. The unconstitutionality of compulsory war tax may be argued from the perspective of the written Constitution (intentions or actual practice of the framers or citizens who first ratified it) or from the viewpoint of the living constitution (manifested in judicial decisions or people’s referendums). From either or both of these methodological perspectives the priority of conscience may be argued more cogently than it has in the past.
In other words, whatever may be said for or against other freedoms of conscience, the liberty not to kill, when killing is judged immoral, is unique. It is so basic to the freedom of conscience which the Constitution presupposes, that there is need of an explicit amendment or other legislation to guide courts in deciding all cases involved. A bill like the World Peace Tax Fund, while not as irreversible or desirable as a constitutional amendment, is needed to help explicate what is already implicit at the legal level.
Within the ambit of theoretical ethics which operate autonomously outside or within various world religions, the priority of the right not to kill against one’s conscience is in jeopardy due to two as yet unsolved theoretical controversies.
The first controversy is the one engendered by classic utilitarianism’s principle that morality is always determined by whatever serves the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people. As recently as John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard U. Press, ; cf. The New York Times Book Review, ), philosophers have joined in continued debate about the adequacy of the greatest happiness principle and have argued the pragmatic need to supplement it by postulating an equal and, in some ways, prior principle of justice: Since certain individual rights of life or liberty are inalienable, their inviolability necessarily, if sometimes invisibly, brings about the greatest happiness. This principle is not acceptable to everyone since it seems verifiable only in the future.
The second controversy has been sharpened by analysis of ethical language. Are rights something people merely feel about and confer or bestow on one another? If rights are dependent on what others think of us or what they contract with us, how can rights be inalienable? Or, if some rights are inalienable, what is the source of human certitude in specifying them, intuition or what?
Ethical thought which is not rooted in heteronomous religious authority continues to founder on these two controversies and lacks the ringing certitude about inalienable rights proclaimed by the United States Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers, by the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or by the international principles of Nuremberg. Consequently, the sources of national and international laws manifest a greater unanimity and authority than do conflicting approaches in theoretical ethics. Whoever does not immediately perceive the self-evidence of the liberty not to kill against one’s conscience will apparently function best when he appeals not to a universal authority in reasoned ethics but to the legal authority and presuppositions of constitutions or international law. As mentioned previously, those who are convinced of conscientious objection’s legality should work for its logical extension into the economic sphere.
Not all wars or military spending appear so clearly immoral to so many people as does the war in Vietnam. There are other issues on which progressives or conservatives may be divided among their own groups, e.g., future support of military operations in the Near East or Latin America, nuclear defense programs powerful enough to destroy the planet many times over, or foreign aid programs thought to be gravely exploitative and imperialistic. The authors of the World Peace Tax Fund Act give assurances that exemption from war taxes would not open the floodgates for citizens who wish to earmark their tax dollars in other programs. On the contrary, this concern may be offset with the judgment that, given a plurality of fundamental human rights, there may be many other crucial moral issues on which citizens should vote with their dollars.
The lasting merit of the growing war tax resistance movement may not be that it helped end the war in Indochina, but that it raised the question of citizens’ coresponsibility to the moral priority it deserves, not only in matters of war and peace, but in every matter of life and death. The issue of citizens’ coresponsible decision-making entails more than the purity and liberty of individual consciences. If free and informed decisions by greater numbers have anything to do with the effectiveness of democracy, the future of democracy itself may be involved.
Roderick Hindery teaches religious ethics at Temple university in Philadelphia.