Quaker War Tax Resister Robert Anthony’s Day in Court

From the Delaware County Daily Times from Primos, Pennsylvania, on :

Hearing set for Quaker activist Anthony

by Marion Logue
Daily Times Correspondent

Quaker activist Robert Anthony is nearing the next step in his long battle with the U.S. government over his refusal to pay taxes for armaments and war. A hearing on his case is set for before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in the U.S. Courthouse, 6th and Market, Philadelphia.

The case dates back to the Vietnam War when Anthony filed tax returns reducing his tax obligation to zero by claiming a “war crimes” deduction. When this deduction was denied by IRS in he appealed to the U.S. Tax Court, and that court’s decision against him resulted in the current case before the U.S. Court of Appeals.

As a conscientious objector, Anthony had refused to pay taxes for the war in Vietnam for several years previously by deducting part of his taxes in filing his returns. But when this money was seized by the government anyway through garnishment of wages, Anthony attempted to maintain his position by denying the IRS all information about his income . As the war drew to a close he filed returns for those years in , but deducted all tax obligations.

The key case used by the IRS concerns pacifist leader A.J. Muste, whose appeal of resulted in a court ruling that income tax payments do not interfere with religious practice by Quakers. This precedent has been used to strike down efforts by Quakers and other war tax objectors to avoid taxes related to arms and wars since that time. But Muste’s case was not carried to the Court of Appeals, where Anthony’s attorneys are arguing for a test of the Constitutional issues and an overthrow of the Muste decision.

The issues include protection of religious freedom; the authority of Congress to declare war (which it did not do in Vietnam); and enforcement of international agreements and the United Nations Charter, to which the U.S. is a party by treaties which have the force of law.

The appeal brief, submitted in for Anthony by the firm of Duane, Morris and Heckscher of Philadelphia, cites 40 court decisions supporting the claim for exemption from military taxes, and cites historic freedom of religious decisions by the Supreme Court. There are 50 pages of legal argument and history of Quaker pacifism, 54 pages of photographs and records of peace action against nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War, 20 pages of Anthony’s tax court brief, and 30 pages of supporting documents.

To authenticate current Quaker requirements for a conscientious objector’s alternative to the payment of war taxes, Anthony circulated a statement containing a pledge to pay the military portion of his income tax to an “alternative peace fund.” Such a peace fund is the goal of legislation presently included in congressional bills which specify a World Peace Tax Fund. The legislation is being promoted by a number of Quaker Yearly Meetings, several other national religious denominations and various peace organizations.

Anthony’s appeal is being backed by the Rights of Conscience Fund of the American Friends Service Committee, the Bequests Committee of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and the Media Monthly Meeting of Friends.

A letter to the Court of Appeals, from the Media Monthly Meeting, stated: “We believe that any citizen, who on the basis of religion or conscience, is opposed to paying for armaments or war should not be compelled by the tax laws to pay taxes for these purposes. Refusal to participate in any way in killing and warfare is a basic principle of the Quaker Faith… We assert that the free exercise of the Quaker religion entails the avoidance of any participation in war or financial contribution to that part of the national budget used by the military… We urge the Congress to speedily enact legislation to provide an alternative for conscientious objectors to war under the tax laws parallel to the alternatives… provided in the draft law.”

How did that work out for Mr. Anthony? Not favorably:

In a twenty-two sentence decision the Appeals Court ruled that proof of the violation of [Anthony’s] First Amendment right was legally irrelevant to the issue of the payment of the tax and penalties because “the Tax Court correctly determined that the violation alleged by taxpayer would not, if true, constitute defenses to his obligation to pay income tax.”

That quote comes from his subsequent Supreme Court appeal, which that court declined to address.

I’m impressed by the strong language in the Media Monthly Meeting’s letter (“We assert that the free exercise of the Quaker religion entails the avoidance of any participation in war or financial contribution to that part of the national budget used by the military…”). That’s about the strongest statement on war tax resistance I can think of from a Meeting in recent decades. It ranks among the strongest from any period, and stands out in particular contrast to the often vague and lukewarm statements on war tax refusal from Meetings over the last century.