Tax Resistance in the American Catholic Press, 1973

Today, some excerpts from The Catholic News Archive concerning tax resistance in . First, from the Catholic Worker:

“Peacemaker” Refuses Taxes

By Ernest Bromley et al.

The federal government’s Internal Revenue Service on began proceedings against Gano Peacemakers, Inc. and against Ernest and Marion Bromley for taxes and penalties amounting to over $30,000, for . The address for both is 10206 Sylvan Ave., Cincinnati, Ohio. The locality is on the map as Gano.

As many people are aware, Gano Peacemakers, Inc. is a nonprofit corporation established by the Bromleys and others soon after they went to Gano as a community in . It has held property, but has never operated a program, had any income from work or contributions, or had a treasury. In , the mailing address of the Movement of Peacemakers, together with its organ, The Peacemaker, was brought to Gano, as Ernest Bromley had accepted responsibility for circulation and editing. The Peacemaker files were brought from Yellow Springs, the financial records were brought from the former business address in Cleveland, and the sharing fund from Oberlin. As is well known by all volunteers who have kept the records and everyone close to the Peacemaker Movement, The Peacemaker finances have continued entirely apart from the finances of the people at the house in Gano.

False Information

IRS arrived at this figure through the assertion that the Peacemaker Movement and its organ, The Peacemaker, housed at that address, are synonymous with Gano Peacemakers, Inc., which holds title to the house where the Bromleys live. The erroneous claim, expressed in notations and figures on numerous IRS forms, is that the finances of the Peacemaker Movement are one and the same as the corporation holding title to the property. Figures on these forms claim that all subscriptions to The Peacemaker and contributions to the Movement are income to Gano Peacemakers, Inc. These IRS tables and figures, received at the house in Gano, go so far as to assert that all recipients of checks from The Peacemaker bank account are employees of Gano Peacemakers, Inc., and assessments are listed for FUTA, FICA and payroll income tax which they claim Peacemakers should have withheld from all those receiving checks. People said to be employees are named in the documents; most are the families of imprisoned war objectors who received monthly checks for their period of need. Apparently, IRS took these from copies of canceled checks kept by the Farmers and Citizens Bank, Trotwood, Ohio.

Whether IRS has made this move with the calculated intention of disrupting and diminishing the Peacemaker Movement and The Peacemaker is, of course, not known. It should be stated that the Bromleys and others who refuse taxes for war have consistently refused to give IRS any information—partly because they wanted to make collection as difficult as possible, even though the amount might be very small—and partly because they wanted to offer total noncooperation with the machinery of a racist and murdering government apparatus. Having gathered information which is totally-false as the basis for a claim, IRS should not be permitted to proceed in ignorance of the total misrepresentation they have made with regard to activities at Gano.

If IRS does proceed on the basis it has claimed, no assets called Peacemaker will be immune to its seizure at any time, be it a checking account where subscriptions are deposited or funds contributed for aid to imprisoned war objectors’ families. Anything considered to be the Movement’s can be grabbed. If that should happen, Peacemaker would find other ways to continue to communicate with each other and meet their obligations to families of imprisoned war objectors.

Claim Against the Bromleys

Ernest and Marion Bromley’s nonpayment of taxes for war antedates the founding of Peacemakers. They have for many years made public their stand against paying taxes for war, and have refused to give IRS any information. It is rather ironic that after making the house at Gano available without charge for The Peacemaker editing and circulation work, they are now being accused of receiving income from the operation of the Peacemaker Movement.

What Response to Make?

It is not likely that either individual refusers or any persons acting for Peacemakers will begin to fill out tax forms, open its mailing lists to IRS, show names of contributors and do any of the things people do who are merely looking for a better deal from IRS. Even if such cooperation were acceptable to Peacemakers, it is no guarantee that IRS would accept the explanations. And one thing quite repugnant to Peacemakers is the thought of applying to IRS for a right to continue.

There is the possibility that IRS is proceeding without knowledge of how far-fetched their claims are. Those who know the principles on which Peacemaker finances are handled may wish to write to the IRS accountant who signed the papers. He is Samuel T. Lay, IRS, P.O. Box 476, Cincinnati, OH, 45201.

Such a communication would be for the purpose of informing the IRS that their claims against the Peacemaker Movement are erroneous. It would be particularly helpful if those knowing how the sharing fund operates would inform the IRS that those receiving checks are not employees either of Peacemakers or Gano Peacemakers, Inc.; that they have not performed any services for Peacemakers; and that they may have never had any other connection with Peacemakers than receiving financial aid during a resister’s prison sentence.

There is no true basis for a collection in the material IRS has assembled. It may be that they will acknowledge this fact if they receive information from those who know how incorrect their assumptions are. If letters go to IRS, it would be helpful if copies are sent to The Peacemaker.

Chuck Matthei reports that the Peacemakers’ winter continuation meeting in Indianapolis discussed mounting an educational campaign about tax refusal in the Cincinnati area. They also foresee a non-violent, direct action response to the war-tax machine if an eviction or auction takes place. Chuck stressed that the action would involve a no bail/no fine commitment from participants.

Although the Peacemakers wish to make refusal to support war, not concern to protect property, the issue in their tax case, they are collecting pledges of assistance for the Bromleys, should the need arise.

For more information, or to participate, contact:

The Peacemaker
10208 Sylvan Av.
Cincinnati, Ohio 45241

The National Catholic Reporter reported in its issue:

American Telephone and Telegraph reports that 22,000 people refused to pay the telephone excise tax in protest against the Vietnam war in , up from 17,000 and 12,000 in . The Internal Revenue Service wants AT&T to disconnect all those phones, but AT&T says tax problems are IRS’ business. Apparently, IRS wants as little to do with 22,000 prosecutions as AT&T wants to do with the $200,000 a month It would cost to disconnect protesters’ phones.

The issue of that paper, toward the end of a larger article about peace movement retooling toward the tail end of the Vietnam War, noted:

Bob Calvert of War Tax Resistance said his organization will continue to urge tax resistance in protest against the large amount of the federal budget — more than half — which goes into the military.

He said local tax resistance centers are preparing reports describing the amount of federal taxes taken out of each state, the amount returned through revenue sharing, the real needs of the state and the amount of money from the state which goes into the military.

Mike DeGregory penned an argument for war tax resistance for the issue of Catholic Worker:

Render to God: The Imperative to Resist

By Mike DeGregory

“There are two things I’ve got to do in this world — die and pay taxes.” This sentiment presents a serious theological problem for the modern world: equating the demands of the nation state with those of God. Given the violence and militarism of our times, the problem becomes a question of idolatry. As such, the payment of taxes must be examined with all its implications.

God and State

Since biblical times there has existed a tension between allegiance to God and allegiance to the state. Periodically, acts of resistance were made as a witness affirming God as the source of life in opposition to the state. Recently this tension has been manifested in this country when hundreds of thousands of Americans, motivated by belief in a higher authority, refused allegiance to the state. Draft resistance to the Vietnam war was widespread, and the war tax resistance movement reached a high point.

Now, however, that the ceasefire accords have been signed and American troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam, many consider war tax refusal an inappropriate anachronism. Such a view is a misunderstanding of the nature of war and tax resistance. Mr. Nixon has repeatedly said, “Peace, peace with honor,” but there is no peace.

The Vietnam war continues with intense fighting. It is the Vietnamese people who suffer. Over 200,000 refugees have been created since the ceasefire began, while American planes daily bomb Cambodia, and frequently bomb Laos.

Outside Indochina, a similar “peace” prevails. America continues to arm other smaller nations for fratricidal wars, most recently in a $2 billion agreement with Iran. And America’s nuclear overkill continues to increase, as does the military budget. This is peace only in an Orwellian sense.

William James has described the true nature of this “peace” in his The Moral Equivalent of War:

“Peace” in military mouths is a synonym for “war expected”… Every up-to-date dictionary should say that “peace” and “war” mean the same thing, now in posse, now in actu. It may even be reasonably said that the intensely sharp competitive preparation for war by the nations is the real war, permanent, unceasing; and that the battles are only a sort of public verification of the mastery gained during the “peace” interval.

No Mere Protest

The existence of perpetual war makes war tax resistance relevant and necessary. Tax resistance is not just another form of protest. It is a refusal to participate in something, namely war. It involves a change of worldviews, a conversion. It demands a commitment to a new way of living. It can be a truly religious response, stemming from moral obligation rather than expediency. In this moral sense, it is for everyone, not just the courageous few. For in modern society, how we use our money and how we relate to money determines what kind of lives we lead and the kind of persons we are.

For many Christians, this decision of how to relate to the issue of taxes is easily answered: pay them, for Christ said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

The spirit of the Gospel is peace and nonviolence. A biblical response to the “Render to Caesar” passage does not mean blind obedience to the state. Rather, it suggests the responsibility to judge the “things” of Caesar in light of the “things” of God. The essential part of the passage is the latter clause: “Render to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus intended no equality between God and Caesar. Therefore, before rendering to Caesar one must judge if the things of Caesar are compatible with the things of God. More specifically, today we must ask: is the payment of an income tax of which more than 50% finances the works of war, compatible with the things of God who desires from us the works of mercy? We are faced with the moral imperative of examining war and our role in it as taxpayers. In conscience we must decide whether to pay or not.

The New C.O.

In the modern process of violence, our technological society increasingly replaces men with machines. The “big business” of modem war relies more and more on citizens’ money than on their bodies. In light of this, it becomes essential that tax resisters be seen as the new conscientious objectors to war, withholding their financial as well as their bodily resources.

In the past, draft resistance has been seen as the refusal to place the pinch of incense on the altar of a false god. Tax resistance deals more fundamentally with this same idolatry. For tax money is the very gold of which the false idols of war are made. War tax resistance is an alternative to this idolatry.

Some will object that war tax resistance, even with its corresponding alternate life funds, is ineffective. This is perhaps correct, but as I see it, irrelevant. Too often actions are undertaken simply for effect. The words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer sum up the effectiveness of war tax resistance: “One asks, what is to come? Another, what is right? And that is the difference between the slave and the free man.”

“When it becomes the ‘sacred duty’ of a man to commit sin, one no longer knows how he should live,” said Reinhold Schneider. “There remains nothing else for him to do but bear individual witness alone. And where such witness is, there is the Kingdom of God.” In this is the effectiveness of war tax resistance.

One of the best (and shortest) rationales for war tax resistance is Peter Maurin’s statement, “The future will be different if we make the present different.” If we continue to pay for war and the instruments of war, will we ever have peace?

(Ed. Note: For more information about tax resistance, write War Tax Resistance, 912 E. 31st St., Kansas City, Mo. 64109.)

The National Catholic News Service included this among its dispatches on :

Five Anti-War Priests Refuse to Pay Part of Income Tax

Five priests of the Pittsburgh diocese have filed income tax returns but deducted 20 percent from their taxes which they contend would go to support a “totally immoral war” in Southeast Asia.

“The bombing in Cambodia going on right now is without any foundation in law — let alone morality,” said Father Jack O’Malley, spokesman for the group.

“The Thieu government in South Vietnam holds five of our brother priests as political prisoners because they have dared to speak out against the immoral actions of their government. It is our taxes which is keeping Thieu in power,” Father O’Malley said.

The five priests waited until the deadline day of to file their tax returns at the Internal Revenue Service office here at .

Father O’Malley said the priests recognize that wrong is also being done by the North Vietnamese government. “But that country is not our ally,” he said.

“It is a privilege and duty to pay taxes,” the priest said. “It is likewise a duty to resist evil in conscience. When that evil is done by one’s own government, the duty is no less.”

During Holy Week the five priests prayed for an end to the bombing in Cambodia and an end to fighting and violence by all parties in Southeast Asia.

The other priests taking part in the tax resistance were: Fathers Mark Glasgow, Patrick Fenton, Warren Metzler and Donald McIlvane.

A letter-to-the-editor in the Catholic Worker, signed by “Ammon Hennacy House” (Grand Rapids, Michigan), included this paragraph:

At this writing we have just ended a week-end tax resistance conference with about twenty-five people from around the state. We have been promoting tax and draft resistance as part of our nonviolence workshop group Life Force. With the beginnings of a tax resisters’ fund we are seeking an alternative to the violence and exploitation of banking. Also, we are exploring possibilities of an insurance fund. With four active children, we feel the need to be providing them with assurance of medical care in emergencies.

The National Catholic News Service included this among its dispatches on :

War Resister Gets Tax Refund

Mark Brockley of St. Lucy’s Parish here received a refund check from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for $250.50 for , which was the total amount IRS had withheld from Mark’s wages for .

The unusual aspect of Brockley’s case is that he received the refund after claiming his infant niece as a dependent on his 1040 form, knowing that she would not qualify as his dependent under the IRS definition.

Brockley explained in a letter to IRS officials that his niece, who was born the day of the Vietnam cease-fire, “represents all children, whether they be Mexican-American babies born in a migrant farm worker’s tent or Cambodian youths huddled in a village under American attack, who depend on each of us to create a livable world for them to grow up in and inherit.”

An IRS official said that if an audit showed that Brockley had claimed a dependent to which he was not entitled, any tax owed would be subject to normal IRS collection procedures.

Brockley is among a small but growing number of people who resist payment of federal taxes because of conscientious objection to government policies, especially to the large portion of the budget which supports the military.

He is 22 and single and describes himself as having been “gung ho for the war” (in Indo-China) until about his junior year in high school when his feelings began to change. His feelings continued to grow until he was arrested in for protesting the mining of North Vietnamese harbors.

After a demonstration in support for the Berrigans during their trial for conspiracy, Brockley learned about the war tax resistance. He then took steps to prevent the withholding of taxes from his wages, which is illegal.

“But since the government already had taken over $200 of my money for the year,” he said, “I thought in conscience I should get it back.”

To emphasize that his action was not meant to evade or defraud IRS, Brockley sent the letter explaining his irregular 1040 form. He stated in part, “I intend that the government you represent shall not receive one penny more of my tax money while it continues policies to which I cannot in conscience lend my support.”

Brockley reconciled his duties as a citizen and his tax actions by noting that “people forget that Jesus did not simply answer, yes, when they asked him if you should pay Caesar’s tax. It is well established that when you see a clash between Caesar’s law and the Gospel, the Christian’s allegiance is owed to the Gospel.”

The refunded money, Brockley said, is being donated to the Life Giving Fund. This fund is used to support “groups we consider alternatives to the government’s priorities,” he added. “None of us is interested in tax evasion for personal gain. We’ve given out over $1000 so far.

“Someday maybe I could get some land and be as self-sufficient as possible — so I could keep my income below the taxable level,” he said. “That way I could follow my conscience without having to break the law.”

Mike Cullen, who had come to the United States from Ireland twelve years before, and had founded the Casa Maria Catholic Worker hospitality house in Milwaukee, was deported in . Press reports (e.g. National Catholic Reporter, ) noted that the judge in the deportation case had “listed the cause of deportation as burning of draft files, interfering with administration of the selective service law, counseling others on conscientious objection, tax resistance, and burning his own draft card.”