Dorothy Day Addresses War Tax Resistance in “The Catholic Worker”

I’ve many times mentioned Ammon Hennacy’s tax resistance hereabouts, but have only less-frequently commented on his more-well-known Catholic Worker comrade Dorothy Day’s stance.

The site now has a search engine with which I have been able to recover some of her writings on the subject, which I’ll excerpt here today.

from “If Conscription Comes For Women” The Catholic Worker

“Render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.” Yes, and we have heard too much of that.

Let E.I. Watkin, founder of the Pax movement in England, author of The Catholic Center, Men and Tendencies, and The Bow in the Clouds, answer as he did in his pamphlet, “The Crime of Conscription.”

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s. This is a favorite text with the hosts of Christian clerics, Protestant and Catholic, who both in the present and in the past, have abused and still abuse religion to enslave men’s consciences to the unjust bondages of a usurping state. They omit to notice the context. Our Lord has just asked for a coin, and having obtained the admission that it bear’s Caesar’s image and superscription, bids his questioners render to Caesar what is his. This is obviously the coin payable in taxation which bears Caesar’s stamp.

The body and soul of man, however, do not bear Caesar’s image. Whose image they do bear we are told in Holy Scripture. It is the image of God. Obviously, therefore, as we are to render to Caesar what bears his image, namely, money, we are to render to God, not to Caesar, what bears not Caesar’s stamp, but God’s; namely, human beings. Thus the same text which justifies, indeed, imposes the obligation of paying taxes, denies any right of the state to take a toll of man. All forced labor, for example, is implicitly declared unlawful. And still more does the principle here enunciated forbid military conscription. Whether a war be just or unjust, no government may without grave injustice compel me — bearing as I do the divine image which marks me as God’s bondman, but a freeman in respect to my fellows — to slay and be slain in its quarrel unless I freely consent. If a government unlawfully outsteps its prerogative and imposes conscription, any one who, from whatever motive, refuses to serve, is whether he intend it or not, fighting for human dignity and freedom, as also is anyone who abets and supports his resistance.

But now in these days it would be desirable to go even further, as did Thoreau, to refuse even the taxes which were to be used to pay for the means to kill our fellow man. In many cases, however, it is all but impossible to separate the tax from the cost of the commodity needed to maintain life.

from “More About Holy Poverty, Which Is Voluntary Poverty” The Catholic Worker

We believe that social security legislation, now balled as a great victory for the poor and for the worker, is a great defeat for Christianity. It is an acceptance of the Idea of force and compulsion.

[The people] pay taxes, and it is the city and the state and the federal government that is robbing them and pilfering them, too, They are taxed for every bite they eat, every shoddy rag they put on. They are taxed on their jobs, there are deductions for this and that, there are the war bonds, eighteen dollars for a twenty-five dollar war bond, paid on the Installment plan. And they are not only being taxed, but they are being seduced. Their virtue is being drained from them. They are made into war profiteers, they are forced into the position of usurers. The whole nation, every man woman and child, is forced to become a profiteer — hideous word — in this war

from “Poverty Without Tears” The Catholic Worker

If you cry aloud for land and home and tools and the good natural life for the poor without which a good supernatural life is impossible, then you are either an escapist and an inhabitant of an ivory tower, or you are a Communist in disguise trying to do away with property.

And you are a communist also if you cry out for peace and against increased armaments — against the making of the hydrogen and atom bombs and the paying of federal taxes for the making of those bombs. We know, who picketed before the tax offices up on 45th street, because we heard these jibes as we walked to and fro with our signs.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

We will have more to write about taxes later. We believe in paying our local taxes but not federal. Maybe this is quibbling, but the benefits of hospitals, fire department, street cleaning and health department, etc. make us firm in our decision to always pay our local taxes though we will not pay income tax.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

I can scarcely list all the people Ammon [Hennacy] introduced me to, all the friends he has made through his constant protest against war and taxes for war, and his distribution of the Catholic Worker. But I can give a little glimpse of Ammon’s living quarters, in his little three room bungalow on Lin Orme’s place some five miles out of town [Phoenix, Arizona].

Ammon likes to call our Lord the Celestial Bulldozer to indicate that ones way is smoothed for one, the rough ways made plain and the crooked straight. He arrived in Phoenix broke, he said, as he came further south out of the dairy region to the farming section of the country where he could work by the day and not by the month and so avoid the withholding tax. He slept all night on an anarchist’s floor (one of the readers of the CW) and got up at daylight to go to the slave market, as the corner is named in every town in every state, Calif., Texas, Florida, New Mexico and Arizona, where immigrant workers are employed. Some times there are as many as 200 trucks, sometimes only 25. They go as far as seventy miles away for the day’s work. Mexican trucks take only Mexicans. He got on the second truck, owned by the Arena brothers, a corporation which owns land in California, Colorado, and Arizona, and specializes in lettuce, melons, cabbage, celery. This was , the year the withholding tax began. At the end of his day’s work he asked if there was a shack on the place where he could sleep, and a fellow worker told him of one down the road and he took his sleeping bag and camped out there for the night. He stayed there for some months and as it was on land rented by Mr. Orme to the company, he became acquainted with that old gentleman who later invited him to occupy the vacant shack on his own land. There is one room and two porches, rather than three rooms, really, and before Ammon lived there, twelve Mexicans had camped out there. I sat on the porch one afternoon with Ammon and drank strong black coffee, brewed on a little kitchen stove, stuffed with mesquite which burned fragrantly while we talked.

from “Poverty Is to Care and Not to Care” The Catholic Worker

How does property fit in, people ask. It was Eric Gill who said that property is proper to man. And St. Thomas Aquinas said that a certain amount of goods is necessary to lead a good life. The recent popes wrote at length about justice rather than charity, that should be sought for the worker. Unions are still fighting for wages and hours, and it is a futile fight with the price of living going up steadily. They are fighting for partial gains and every strike means sacrifice to make them, and still the situation in the long run is not bettered. There may be talk of better standards of living, every worker with his car, and owning his own home, but still this comfort depends on a wage, a boss, on War. Our whole modern economy is based on preparation for war and that is one of the great modern arguments for poverty. If the comfort one has gained has resulted in the death of thousands in Korea and other parts of the world, then that comfort will be have to be atoned for. the argument now is that there is no civilian population, that all are involved in the war (misnamed defense) effort. If you work in a textile mill making cloth, or in a factory making dungarees or blankets, it is still tied up with war. If one raises food or irrigates to raise food, one may be feeding troops or liberating others to serve as troops. If you ride a bus you are paying taxes. Whatever you buy is taxed so you are supporting the state in the war which is “the health of the state.”

The argument may go this way, but we still can choose what seems to us the most honorable occupations, which have to do with human needs. We can choose the kind of work most necessary to do, and if possible where there is no withholding tax for war. Ammon Hennacy in working by the day, at hard farm labor, has not paid income tax for years. One can so cut down one’s standard of living that no income tax is required; families with many children pay no income tax. One can protest in many ways this contribution to the atom and hydrogen bomb. If one owns property the government then can take a lien on it. If one has money in the bank, the government can confiscate it. So truly such protest as this calls for the most profound poverty and a voluntary doing without property.

from “The Pope and Peace” The Catholic Worker

How obey the laws of a state when they run counter to man’s conscience? “Thou shalt not kill,” Divine law states. “A new precept I give unto you that you love your brother as I have loved you.” St. Peter disobeyed the law of men and stated that he had to obey God rather than man. Wars today involve total destruction, obliteration bombing, killing of the innocent, the stockpiling of atom and hydrogen bombs. When one is drafted for such war, when one registers for the draft for such a war, when one pays income tax, eighty per cent of which goes to support such war, or works where armaments are made, one is participating in this war. We are all involved in war these days. War means hatred and fear. Love casts out fear.

from “Are the Leaders Insane?” The Catholic Worker

St. Augustine in his City of God says that God never intended man to dominate his fellows. He was to dominate the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, what crawled upon the earth, but men were not to dominate each other. He preferred shepherds to kings. It was man himself who insisted on having a worldly king though he was warned what would happen to him. God allowed the prophets to anoint the kings and once men had accepted their kings they were supposed to show them respect, to obey the authority they had set up. To obey, that is, in all that did not go against their conscience. St. Peter was ordered by lawful authority not to preach in the name of Jesus, and he said he had to obey God rather than man, and he left prison to go out again to the market place and preach the Gospel. Over and over again, men had to disobey lawful authority to follow the voice of their conscience.

This obedience to God and disobedience to the State has over and over again happened through history.

It is time again to cry out against our “leaders,” to question whether or not, since it is not for us to say that they are evil men, they are sane men.

It is all very well to say we must go to the source of all strength, to drink at the living fountain of Christ, but can we go from that fount of Love to a factory where nerve gas and incendiary bombs are manufactured?

When we have talked of a general strike it is of such work and of such evil that we are thinking; when we talk of non-payment of taxes it is of the money which is going to Indo-China in the form of these incendiary bombs and the planes to drop them that we are thinking. It is not thus that we can love God and our brother; it is not in this way that we can love our enemy.

When it is said that we disturb people too much by the words pacifism and anarchism, I can only think that people need to be disturbed, that their consciences need to be aroused, that they do indeed need to look into their work, and study new techniques of love and poverty and suffering for each other. Of course the remedies are drastic, but then too the evil is a terrible one and we are all involved, we are all guilty, and most certainly we are all going to suffer. The fact that we have “the faith,” that we go to the sacraments, is not enough. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” with napalm, nerve gas, our hydrogen bomb…

Each one of us must make our decisions as to what he should do, each one must examine his conscience and beg God for strength. Should one register for the draft? Should one accept conscientious objector status in the army or out of it, taking advantage of the exceptions allowed, but accepting the fact of the draft? Should one pay tax which supports this gigantic program?

I realize how difficult this is to decide. If one is unmarried and strong physically, it is easier to make a decision to do only day labor or work without pay. But there are many whose mental and physical strength is not equal to this decision and there is a withholding tax taken from even the smallest salary. Sometimes one can only make a gesture of protest. It is not for any one to judge his fellow man on how far he can go in resisting participation in preparation for war. In the very works of mercy which we are performing, we at the Catholic Worker are being aided by those who earn what they do only because they pay income tax for war. Oh yes, the editors of The Catholic Worker know only too well how far we too are involved in the city of this world. Perhaps Bob Ludlow, who left us much against our will, felt that he was being more honest in permitting a withholding tax to be taken from his meager wage as hospital attendant that working for nothing for the Catholic Worker. Who knows the heart of another? The temptation is always there to go out on one’s own, to walk the lone path of a St. Francis rather than the community way of a St. Benedict.

from “Mid-Summer Retreat at Maryfarm” The Catholic Worker

[Ammon Hennacy] has had to abandon his life at hard labor and to replace that discipline of work he is fasting Fridays; during our recent retreat he fasted, and again in August for nine days he will picket and fast in reparation for Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the cruel weapons of destruction which we have made. All men are responsible, but Ammon by not paying income tax, and by penance, is doing reparation.

from “What is Happening?” The Catholic Worker

And the other trouble? It was Federal income taxes and investigations for Ammon Hennacy, Charlie McCormick, Carol Perry and me. Charlie has had no income for all the years he is with The Catholic Worker, but the rest of us could acknowledge having earned money on which we did not pay taxes, and which we refuse to pay because eighty per cent of the money so gathered goes for wars past and present. The others were treated with great courtesy, but one of the revenue agents made a coldly insulting remark to me based on my past, which was entirely uncalled for. But perhaps he was only stupid so I acted as though I did not hear it.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

I would like to urge upon the bishops the idea of the non-payment of taxes by Catholic parents for school taxes, when they are sending their children to Catholic schools and so are paying double for their education.

from “The Pope is Dead. Long Live the Pope / Viva John ⅩⅩⅢ The Catholic Worker

Yes, we must set ourselves with all the force we possess, against war, and the making of instruments of war, and our means are prayer and fasting, and the non-payment of federal income tax which goes for war.

from “Month of the Dead” The Catholic Worker

The message of The Catholic Worker is that simple one for all the rank and file, for the masses, that we have free will, we can make our choice, that our personal responsibility which we exercise is what matters. Ammon [Hennacy], in his non-payment of taxes for war, and his civil disobedience, is bringing that message to countless thousands of people.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

When we got home from our little tour of the neighborhood and I had explored the view from the eleventh floor, Ammon came for supper and brought us up to date on his journeyings as well as on the news of our own workers in Chicago. He had no sooner arrived in town on Saturday when he was called on to picket in front of the courthouse for Roseanna Robinson. They are keeping up a vigil night and day, people joining for a stint of three hours at a time. I certainly hope to join them sometime these next few days. Roseanna is a young colored woman who had refused to pay any income tax 85 per cent of which goes for war, or to file any returns. She had been given an indeterminate sentence and she is now for two weeks on hunger strike. I suppose they will forcibly feed her. The newspapers are paying little head to this, so it is necessary to have the picket line, and Karl Meyer has gotten out a leaflet which is signed by The Catholic Worker, 164 West Oak street and the War Resisters League which takes in all those who are not Catholic who wish to participate but might hesitate if it were only under Catholic leadership.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

There is much to be done in these small Indian schools throughout the country [the United States South-West], and a peace army could be at work there right now, without waiting to be drafted. There would be no pay besides a living, and so no bother about income tax, and so no contributing to war in this way.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

I could not help but think of Don Milani’s statement in his defense against the charges made against him of advocating resistance to conscription for war. He said that even those who cooked for troops contributed to war. How involved we all are, what with the hidden taxes we pay for war, the high standard of living all of us enjoy, even when we refuse to pay income tax, so much of which goes for war, and when we build prisons for draft refusers.

“Tribute to the Nelsons” The Catholic Worker

Every summer for a Peacemakers training program has been held at our Tivoli farm for the last two or three weeks of August. The old mansion and the Peter Maurin house are filled with guests, and campers come and set up their tents on the lawn facing the river. The organizer of the Peacemakers’ school is Wally Nelson, who has been in the workhouse in Cincinnati for the past two weeks, fasting. He and several others were arrested during a vigil for DeCourcy Squire, an 18 yr. old Antioch student who had been hospitalized after fasting since her arrest and subsequent sentence of 9 mo. for participating in a peace demonstration. (DeCourcy has since been released.)

A psychiatric examination was ordered for Wally when he refused to co-operate with his arrest and trial. Found by court psychiatrists to be “sane,” he was sentenced for “loitering” to ten days in the workhouse, $25 and costs. Again refusing to co-operate with legalized injustice, he was dragged from the police van by his legs, an action that caused his wife Juanita to follow him, cradling his head in her hands. When they arrived at Wally’s cell, Nita bent over to kiss him, was arrested for “disorderly conduct” and fined $25 and costs. This she refused to pay, and was ordered to the workhouse.

Detailed stories of these arrests are given in the February 10th issue of the Peacemaker, (10208 Sylvan Avenue, (Gano) Cincinnati, Ohio 45241). I hope that many of our readers will subscribe to the Peacemaker, since news of the conscientious objectors who are in prison and much other war-resistance news can be obtained there. Peacemakers have led in direct action for many years.

Wally and Juanita have both refused to pay income tax for many years, and it is of them particularly I wish to write, with the most heartfelt sympathy for their suffering and the greatest admiration for their dedication. It is their vocation to realize and to lead others to realize the horror of the times through which we are passing. Wally has explained that his fasting during the jail sentences he has undergone was the result not of willful refusal but of a total inability to swallow food while imprisoned. Simone Weil, the French woman whose brilliant writings on man and the state, work and war, were widely published after her death, suffered during the second world war in the same way. She was literally unable to swallow enough food to keep her alive, in the face of world starvation.

In the stories of the saints, one reads of such sensitivity, such penances undergone, such fastings endured and they are little understood by the secular world. I am convinced that this vocation, this calling, to give oneself to one’s brother, in loving communion, in loving understanding of the heinous crimes that are being committed today was at the root of Roger La Porte’s immolation in front of the United Nations . It is as though such men said, “We will suffer with you, since we have no way of stopping the bombing, the burning, the napalm, the defoliation, the destruction of homes and an entire countryside. There is no act of ours extreme enough, no protest strong enough, to deal with this horror.”

Wally Nelson was in prison for thirty-three months during World War Two and fasted for a hundred and eight days (with forced feeding by tube) as a protest against racial segregation of prisoners. He had had time to think out his position while in Civilian Public Service camp, as forced labor camps which were set up for conscientious objectors were called. These very camps were a concession to pacifists, who had been imprisoned and brutally treated during World War One. But Wally decided to walk out and did so and was arrested and jailed. His example and that of other absolutists led to further concessions. In this present undeclared war in Vietnam, to which ten thousand more men were shipped off yesterday, the conscientious objector position is recognized, and paid employment is offered in home hospitals as “alternative service.” To accept this is still to submit to the draft, hence the continued protests against war, and the drafting of youth to wage this hideous struggle.

from “Ammon Hennacy: ‘Non-Church’ Christian” The Catholic Worker

[To Hennacy,] Obedience, of course, was a bad word. Authority was a bad word. In vain I pointed out to him that when the retired army major for whom he worked in Arizona told him to do a particular job, he did it, and he did it as he was told to. He admired the army officer because he knew farming. And he cooperated with Ammon in paying him by the day and thus evading the federal income tax which the tax man was trying to collect from Ammon.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

I visited Art Harvey of South Ackworth, New Hampshire who has a mail order book shop handling a great number of books by and about Gandhi. Art and Ammon Hennacy served six month terms in Sandstone Prison in Minnesota for trespassing on a missile base some years ago. He carries on a practical application of Karl Meyer’s tax refusal (see article in this issue) by having teams of workers in orchards where they prune trees, harvest apples and later blueberries and work seven months of the year. They work and live in a style which frees them from the payment of taxes for war. Perhaps about a hundred are engaged in this way of life, which results usually in some settling in communities of the moshavim variety, each having some small acreage and a house built by themselves. Considering the New England climate, no small achievement! It certainly means an emphasis on the ascetic, on sacrifice.

from “On Pilgrimage: Russia Ⅱ” The Catholic Worker

The other young man who visited Russia was Karl Meyer, who at present is serving his sentence of a two-year term (and thousand dollar fine) at Sandstone Federal Prison, for obstructing the income tax system by refusal to pay taxes for war. He had made the San Francisco-to-Moscow walk some years before, joining the march at Chicago. The walk ended at Moscow University, where the students, though not agreeing with the American visitors, demanded that the time of their talks be extended. He also distributed leaflets in Red Square!

from “We Go On Record: CW Refuses Tax Exemption” The Catholic Worker

The Catholic Worker has received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service stating that we owe them $296,359 in fines, penalties, and unpaid income tax for . As the matter stands right now, there might be a legal battle with delays and postponements which may remind us of Dickens’ Bleak House. Or, since we will not set up a defense committee to campaign for funds, it may terminate swiftly in the confiscation of our property and our bank account (never very large). Our farm at Tivoli and the First Street house could be put up for sale by government agents and our C.W. family evicted.

One of the most costly protests against war, in terms of long-enduring personal sacrifice, is to refuse to pay federal income taxes which go for war. The late Ammon Hennacy, one of our editors, was a prime example of this. He earned his living at agricultural labor, always living on a poverty level so as not to be subject to taxes, though he filed returns. Another of our editors, Karl Meyer, recently spent ten months in jail for what the I.R.S. called fraudulent claims of exemption for dependents. He ran the C.W. House of Hospitality in Chicago for many years, working to earn the money to support the house and his wife and children. Erosanna Robinson, a social worker in Chicago, refused to file returns and was sentenced to a year in prison. While in prison she fasted and was forcibly fed. It will be seen that tax refusal is a serious protest. Wars will cease when we refuse to pay for them (to adapt a slogan of the War Resisters International).

The C.W. has never paid salaries. Everyone gets board, room, and clothes (tuition, recreation included, as the C.W. is in a way a school of living). So we do not need to pay federal income taxes. Of course, there are hidden taxes we all pay. Nothing is ever clear-cut or well defined. We protest in any way we can, according to our responsibilities and temperaments.

(I remember Ammon, a most consistent, brave, and responsible person, saying to one young man, “For the love of the Lord, get a job and quit worrying about taxes. You need to learn how to earn your own living. That is most important for you.”)

We have to accept with humility the fact that we cannot share the destitution of those around us, and that our protests are incomplete. Perhaps the most complete protest is to be in jail, to accept jail, never to give bail or defend ourselves.

In the fifties, Ammon, Charles McCormack (our business manager at the C.W.), and I were summoned to the offices of the I.R.S. in New York to answer questions (under oath) as to our finances. I remember I was asked what happened to the royalties from my books, money from speaking engagements, etc. I could only report that such monies received were deposited in the C.W. account. As for clothes, we wore what came in; my sister was generous to me — shoes, for instance.

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.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

In the issue of The Catholic Worker I wrote of the crisis The Catholic Worker found itself in when we received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service stating that we owe them $296,359 in fines and penalties and unpaid income tax for . This was a very impressive bill, and we wondered what it would be if they started figuring out what they thought we owed them !

The New York Times, in a story signed by Max Seigel, with a four column head and a picture of a few of us at lunch in our headquarters at 36 East First Street, brought our situation to the attention of a vaster group of readers, and followed up the story with an editorial [“Imagination, Please”  — excerpt: “Surely the IRS must have genuine frauds to investigate. Surely there must be some worthwhile work this agency could be doing instead of obstructing acts of corporal mercy for the poor.”]. The New York evening Post also editorialized on our situation. The National Catholic Reporter and the Commonweal editors also registered their protest and other papers followed suit. Letters come in daily from our friends, reassuring, comforting, indignant at the government, a few of them indignant at us, that we cause them so much worry. We certainly are grateful and must apologize that we cannot keep up with the mail and get them all answered.

There is not any real news for them at the moment, nor will be until our edition of The Catholic Worker. I will have to appear before a Federal Judge on to explain why the CW refuses to pay taxes, or to “structure itself” so as to be exempt from taxes. We are afraid of that word “structure.” We refuse to become a “corporation.”

We repeat — we do not intend to “incorporate” the Catholic Worker movement. We intend to continue our emphasis on personal responsibility, an emphasis which we were taught from the beginning by Peter Maurin who used to quote Emmanuel Mounier’s Personalist Manifesto, and his Personal and Communitarian Revolution, Peter was our teacher, and being a Frenchman, a peasant, he emphasized decentralization, manual labor, voluntary poverty.

Voluntary poverty meant that everyone at the CW worked without salary, and contributions came from them, and from our readers, which kept the work going.

Rumblings first came from the Internal Revenue service after many on the CW staff, together with other peace groups, demonstrated against war in the Fifties and Sixties and were jailed for Civil Disobedience. Writing about jails and courtrooms resulted in much publicity. But it was Ammon Hennacy and Karl Meyer who wrote most consistently on Tax Refusal, and its importance. “Wars will cease when men refuse to pay for them.”

…And while you are at it, write to TAX Talk, published by War Tax Resistance, 339 Lafayette St., N.Y., N.Y. 10012 which contains letters from all over the country from individual tax resisters, telling what is happening to them. Stimulating and invigorating. Good make up and good format. First Rate.

While I write, Arthur J. Lacey comes in to hand me my mail and it contains a notice from one of our two lawyers. “Please be advised that I have been contacted by the Conference Section of the Internal Revenue Service and we have arranged for the hearing on .”

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

Good news first! On we received absolution from the U.S. Government in relation to all our tax troubles. In the Catholic Worker this year we told of the notice we had received — that we owed the government nearly $300,000 in back income taxes which included penalties for “late filing and negligence.” The examining officer of the Manhattan District had arrived at these figures through the reports we had obediently made to Albany on our appeals for funds, which we send out once or twice a year. We accept this compromise with our local state because we are decentralists, personalists, anarchists (in addition to being pacifists). When we first thought about Federal income taxes, most of which go for war or “defense,” we simplistically considered ourselves exempt because we had no income; no salaries are paid at the Catholic Worker, nor ever have been . I myself have been questioned because of my writings, and lecture fees which were not really fees but offerings made to the work which covered all expenses of travelling and supported the work besides. A crowd of people living together as we do, in houses of hospitality, has to give something of an account to each other as to how well we are living up to our profession of voluntary poverty. We are always bound to have healthy guilt feelings about that, and keep trying to do better. Certainly a number of us do work on the side to provide what we need for books or rent on cheap apartments in the neighborhood, since our house at 36 East First Street is always so crowded.

But with the growing tax resistance throughout the United States, the government has become concerned. Telephone calls and official visits made us realize that trouble was impending. And we have been having it and have reported on it in both the and issues of our paper.

Now we are happy to report the outcome. In a conference in with William T. Hunter, litigation attorney from the Department of Justice, one of the Assistant Attorney Generals of the United States, we reached a verbal settlement couched in more human and satisfactory terms than the notice we later received.

“They” were willing to recognize our undoubtedly religious convictions in our conflict with the state, and were going to drop any proceedings against us. They had examined and looked into back issues of the Catholic Worker, and they had noted the support we had from the press (the New York Times news story and the editorials of the Times and the New York Post), and had come to this conclusion that ours was a religious conviction. They had come to the conclusion also that it was not necessary that the Federal Government seek for any other kind of a “conviction” against us.

The conference took place in a law office in Manhattan, 9:30 of a Monday morning. John Coster, our lawyer, Mr. Hunter and Ed Forand, Walter Kerell, Patrick Jordan, Ruth Collins and I attended. There were no hostilities expressed. As peacemakers we must have love and respect for each individual we come in contact with. Our struggle is with principalities and powers, not with Church or State. We cannot ever be too complacent about our own uncompromising positions because we know that in our own way we too make compromises. (For instance, in having a second-class mailing privilege from the government we accept a subsidy, just as Mr. Eastland does in Mississippi! [This refers to Senator James Eastland, who was a beneficiary of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in federal cotton subsidies, overseen by a Senate committee he sat on.])

It was Jesus who said that the worst enemies were those of our own household, and we are all part of this country, citizens of the United States and share in its guilt.

Yes, we would survive, I thought to myself, even if the paper were eventually suppressed and we had to turn to leafleting, as we are doing now each Monday against the I.B.M. Wall-Street offices, trying to reach the consciences of all those participating by their daily work in the hideous and cowardly war we are waging in Vietnam.

I must not forget the beautiful young ghinkgo tree which we purchased from the city last year, and which we planted in honor of Carmen Mathews, herself a great lover of the countryside (and of drama). She rescued us from a foreclosure when a first mortgage fell due and so has become part of this house on First Street, and of the bits of greenery back and front of it. The fact that prisoners on Riker’s Island so I have been told, grow these trees which brighten our streets makes that tree especially dear to me. When I pass it, I make the sign of the cross on its bark, to encourage it to grow fast and strong. Maybe we can plant another this year in gratitude to God for saving us from the hands of the tax gatherers. Fr. McNabb, the French Dominican, said that when Jesus left his apostles, “Peter could go back to his nets, but Matthew could not go back to his tax gatherings.”

Letter from the Internal Revenue Service:

From: District Director, Internal Revenue Service, Department of the Treasury, PO Box 3100, Church St. Station, New York, N.Y., 10008

To: The Catholic Worker Movement, 36 East 1st Street, New York, N.Y. 10003


After examining your financial records and reviewing your activities for the above years, we find that you are not required to file annual returns for the years shown, and no further action is necessary regarding the proposals in our letter of .

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely yours,
District Director
Form L-259

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

…of our own conflict with the IRS. We live in what we can only regard as a temporary truce. We have not applied for or received tax exemption. The letter we received (and published) from the N.Y. State Offices of the IRS stated:

After examining your financial records and reviewing your activities for the above years (), we find that you are not required to file annual returns for the years shown, and no further action is necessary regarding the proposals in our letter of .

Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely yours,
District Director
Internal Revenue Service

The Washington official representative who met with us conveyed to us the respect they held for our religious principles and assured us that the presented bill for almost $300,000 could be ignored. The matter would be dropped, it was indicated (but, “for the present” was the qualifying clause in my own mind).

Mr. Nixon’s first statement that he would attack the problem of “permissiveness” was a warning note. The jailing of newspaper reporters, the Ellsberg trial — in fact, any criticisms of government policies or actions was going to meet with repressive measures.

The tax refusal movement all over the country grows. The conflict between State and people is coming out into the open here in the United States. The Totalitarian State is not just Germany (Hitler), Italy (Mussolini) and the USSR (Stalin), but is here and now with the “all encroaching State” as our Catholic bishops once called it, involving China and ourselves, as well as Russia.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

We assure our readers that we try to get rid of our gifts as fast as they are given to us. But the threat still hangs over us of prosecution for not paying income tax. We are not tax-exempt. On principle we refuse to pay income tax, because so great a portion goes for wars, preparation for wars (defense, it is termed), and providing other countries with billion of dollars to buy our instruments of war and material and plants to make their own. There is a sizable movement truly the foundation of the peace movement which is based on tax refusal. (Contact Robert Calvert, War Tax Resistance, 912 E. 31st St., Kansas City, Mo. 64109.)

Our refusal goes deep. Our motivation is fundamentally religious. We are told by Jesus Christ to practice the works of mercy, not the works of war. And we do not see why it is necessary to ask the government for permission to practice the works of mercy which are the opposite of the works of war. To ask that permission to obey Christ by applying for exemption, a costly and lengthy process, is against our religious principles. It is an interference of the state which we must call attention to again and again. A father who educates a young man or woman other than a blood relative is taxed for his generosity. A poor family who takes in another poor family (as many of them do in time of unemployment or crisis), cannot count that as tax deductible. Of course the poor suffer from the withholding tax which is taken from their weekly pay. To understand their rights, they must plough through booklets and forms put out by the government (which I am sure I could not manage to do) before they are able to collect money at the end of the year which is owing to them due to some change of circumstance. To get the advice of the Internal Revenue Department means standing in lines, paying excessive fares by bus or subway, with generally little redress of their grievances.

(A cheering note for us, with our very large family, which seems to increase day after day, is that when confronted by the government forces not long ago, Washington representatives from the Department of Justice were willing to concede that we were not making profits out of the poor, that we were motivated by religious principles, and that they would so notify the New York offices of the Internal Revenue Dept. which had handed us a awful bill for taxes due, along with penalties and fines, over a space of four or five years. The New York office then sent us a brief notice concluding that our income did not obligate us to file returns.)

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

To talk economics to the rich and Jesus to the anarchists gathered in convention [a conference at New York’s Hunter College] these two days (and have to write this column) is a job. Besides, I did not “talk Jesus” to the anarchists. There was no time to answer the one great disagreement which was in their minds — how can you reconcile your Faith in the monolithic, authoritarian Church which seems so far from Jesus who “had no place to lay his head,” and who said “sell what you have and give to the poor,” — with your anarchism? Because I have been behind bars in police stations, houses of detention, jails and prison farms, whatsoever they are called, eleven times, and have refused to pay Federal income taxes and have never voted, they accept me as an anarchist. And I in turn, can see Christ in them even though they deny Him, because they are giving themselves to working for a better social order for the wretched of the earth.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

Proceeded to the Kansas City, Mo. House of Hospitality and War Tax Resistors’ Center in adjoining buildings and run by Bob and Angela Calvert who are gardening every inch of the land in their front and back yards. It is much to the edification of the city block families and we hope their imitation.

Spent a Sunday afternoon with Karl Meyer and Jean and their three beautiful children, and all happy in the life of voluntary poverty where he receives an income low enough to be untaxable and so will not anticipate any more jail terms. His work is with the retarded in sheltered workshops.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

Some of the best all around accounts of this ferment which is going on, among the young especially, is in The Peacemaker, 1255 Paddock Hills Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45229. This small packed newspaper deals extensively and specifically in works for peace, listing all those imprisoned for conscience — refusing conscription; one valiant woman is confined on Terminal Island for refusal to pay taxes (Martha Tranquilli, Terminal Island, San Pedro, Ca. 90731). All those activities which we Catholics call “works of mercy,” are also performed by many Protestant, Quaker, and other groups in the country.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

I remember a young woman who came to help us years ago, who, after her first, early enthusiasm had worn away, used to sigh wearily and say — “What’s it all about?” I am sure many of our friends and readers also pose, more seriously, the same question. For instance, what are Ernest and Marion Bromley all about? Why is this frail, elderly man in jail right now for “disorderly conduct,” that is, for distributing leaflets about the nefarious workings of the Internal Revenue Service and their ways of penalizing people for advocating tax refusal. Remember, it is the Federal taxes paid by each of us that supply arms that are keeping wars going, I cannot go into the important discussion of Tax Refusal now. (Subscribe for The Peacemaker, 1225 Paddock Hills Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio 45229 or write to War Tax Resistance, 339 Lafayette St., New York, N.Y. 10012.)

What I want to bring out is how a pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. And each one of our thoughts, words and deeds are like that. Going to jail, as Ernest Bromley has done, short though his stay may be, causes a ripple of conscience among us all. And of remembrance too.

Did they search him and list every item contained in every pocket? Did they strip him and search every nook and cranny of his body, as they did the young women arrested during the protests against air raids drills (psychological warfare) in the 50’s? As they are doing now to Martin Sostre in Dannemora prison even after every visit from friends or lawyers. What sadistic impulse is it that causes guards to continue these searches?

Ernest Bromley is sharing, in his (we hope) brief jail encounter, the sufferings of the world. And we hope, like the apostles, he rejoices in having been accounted “worthy to suffer.”

The Peacemaker, every issue, has a list of those imprisoned for conscientious objection to war. I was happy to see that Martha Tranquilli was due for release .

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

The Peacemakers discussed, among other subjects like voluntary poverty, life styles, etc., the kind of demonstrations to show our determination not to pay income tax which goes for building up monstrous implements of war. Wally Nelson and his wife Juanita were there, both of whom are familiar with arrests and jailings. I got acquainted with them years ago when Koinonia, in Central Georgia, was literally under fire from the small-towners all around them.

Next issue, I will try to write more about federal income tax which is providing the weapons for war — why we pay local taxes and not the federal income tax. We recognize the seriousness of this and the risks involved for families. The Bromley case is an example. Their house was sold from under them in Cincinnati but they have not yet been evicted. The price paid was excessively above its value. It looks like the government is trying to make an example of them. (It was not bought by friends and given back to them — an erroneous rumor; the Bromleys would not have put up with a connived sale which would mean still more money going to the government for war.)

This is a good and historic case, involving as it does, simple, plain and powerless (?) people.

from “On Pilgrimage” The Catholic Worker

I’d like to call special attention to a story in this issue of the paper — it is Peggy Scherer’s story, on the front page, of the Peacemaker victory [the IRS surrendered in their attempt to seize and sell Ernest and Marion Bromley’s home]. (It is the completed story of the news box which appeared on page three of the last issue.) It is a story of gentle persistence, the power of Truth — faith in Truth (remembering that Christ is our Truth). He is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Chuck Matthei had told me the story of his interviews with the head of the Internal Revenue Service, the almost daily dialogue that went on between them, and the frank and “manly” admission, made finally by the IRS chief, that a mistake had been made, that the Peacemakers had Truth on their side. I felt a great sense of joy and thanksgiving, a sense of hope too, that our officials in Washington D.C. could be approached in this way — with dignity and perseverance, with courtesy, with the recognition that we are all, each one of us, whether government official or radical (one who gets to the roots of things), children of God. We do believe that we are all brothers and sisters. We believe, too, that we can only show our love for God by our love for our brothers and sisters. So we share our joy with you, our readers, and hope we all have a sense of renewed strength and energy to continue our opposition to all violence, to all wars.

We point out that one way not to have to pay income tax, so much of which goes to the military, into stockpiling, into sales of weapons to other countries, is to seek more ways of living a life of voluntary poverty, to follow our Lord Jesus and his loveable servant St. Francis.

[Speaking of Pentecostal Christian groups on the Mexican border:] I could tell of other works these groups have done, but there is no space here. I only wish that the cause of peace, the rejection of war and service in the armed forces, and refusal to pay income tax could be part of their way of life. Jesus told us to love our enemies and St. Francis’ followers made a rejection of feudal service to the war lords of the time part of their religious commitment.

In the Catholic Worker organization itself was targeted by the IRS for failure to pay income tax. Eventually the IRS backed down in the face of public ridicule and Catholic Worker resistance. Some of the Catholic Worker articles about this were written by Dorothy Day and I’ve already excerpted them in an earlier Picket Line post focusing on her writings.

The issue published a couple of reader reactions to the kerfluffle:

Dear Dorothy,

Ho, you are on the right track. I just read your tax exemption article in the issue. You are absolutely correct.

I don’t know how you will do it. But you owe to all those you help, not the money represented, but the faith and steadfast purpose for which you stand — the guiding light. I pray for you. I hope some way you can make it — somehow.

Dick Mayer
409 West 11th St.
Newton, Kansas 67114

Dear Friends at CW,

I just read the 39th Anniversary issue and am tremendously excited by the article: “If the Present Is Different…”

We are in a bit of a “predicament,” between seizure of our car and auction by the IRS. The IRS has adjourned the open auction and declared an auction for sealed bids; peace people around here are ready to rise to that challenge also.

We are starting a peace action center in this area. We’d be interested in literature lists of books and pamphlets written by CW people.

We read that the CW has to appear in court to justify its tax refusal and its refusal to ask for exemption — as if mercy had to ask permission! We are in a three-family intentional communlty of Mennonite background. War tax resistance is one of our pillars and we’ve not yet found our way out of tbe maze of incorporation into some status that gives us the kind of freedom we seek. But our existence together, our resistance and service, are dally victories. So we keep on.

Peace and Joy be with you,
David Jansen of the Bridge