The essence of war tax resistance is the realization that paying for war is essentially no different than doing the deed itself. We are just as culpable if we give a gun to an individual to commit what we feel to be a crime, as if we did the deed ourselves. When we realize that nearly half of the federal budget, supported through our income taxes, is war related in some way or another, we experience this culpability directly. The government has no interest to draft my body, but they do wish to conscript my money for purposes often immoral according to my religious convictions. I hold that my beliefs against paying for war should be given the same first amendment recognition that applies to conscientious objectors to war in the case of a draft. Considering that I would apply (and be eligible) for alternative service if our government still had an interest in drafting my body, I am working toward the passage of a law that would likewise recognize my constititutional right to have my money perform alternative life-affirming service. I have no desire to be civil disobedient. But until a peace tax provision becomes law, my conscience does not allow me to be otherwise. I must live my life in harmony with the belief that there is no such thing as a good war. Thus I work to avoid complicity with war, acting openly and publicly.
I am a signatory and co-complainant in a formal complaint to the United Nations (see excerpt below). We are waiting to receive a full response.
Submission to the Complaints Procedure of the United Nations Human Rights Council:
The signatories of this submission are citizens and residents of the United States of America. We lodge this complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Council as individuals who are forbidden by conscience to participate in war or any military activity. The government of the United States violates freedom of conscience rights by forcing us to pay for war….We are therefore victims of a violation of our freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as defined in Article 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights….
For three days in early September 2008, pacifists from around the world assembled at the University of Manchester for the 12th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns. In the words of the conference invitation “Our purpose is to achieve worldwide recognition and accommodation of the right for conscientious objectors not to pay for war or the preparations for war. We meet for mutual support, exchange of ideas and experiences, and to to coordinate our campaigns on the international platform.”
I attended with the support of Lansdowne Monthly Meeting, Chester Quarterly Meeting, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and carried letters from these groups endorsing my attendance at the Conference. In turn, many of those present added their own comments to my letters, which I shall convey to my endorsers. This traditional Quaker practice serves to connect us with the wider world.
You can read my more personal comments at http://blog.peacefulways.com/
I was interviewed today by Margot Adler for National Public Radio. My segment of an hour-long program on taxes is the concluding interview, and represents a challenge to listeners to consider their moral responsibilities when they pay taxes that support war. The interview is part of NPR’s Justice Talking show, and broadcast in the Philadelphia area at 10 pm April 9, 2007, on WHYY (90.9 FM). The program is also available online at http://www.justicetalking.org/. Search past programs for this program.
If you wish more information about war tax resistance, click on the links at the right.
Margot mentions at the end of the program that the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill has been regularly introduced in Congress. Those who cannot in good conscience pay for war, but are fully willing to pay their full share of taxes, would welcome such relief. It would enable such individuals to be good citizens and follow their conscience, and the IRS recognizes that such a bill would actually be revenue positive for the government. Instead of directing their tax money to charity, war tax resisters could then pay the full amount of taxes due. There are a considerable number of supporters of this bill in Congress, but it still has a way to go. Critics sometimes claim that such a bill would open the floodgates to other special interests. But two points must be kept in mind. First, a sincere religious objection to killing people is NOT the same as a special interest, but poses a unique concern. Second, there is already a clear and successful precedent. Specifically, there has been legal recognition of the right to conscientious objection to required participation in war throughout the history of this country back to the days of colonial America. No one would seriously consider denying this sacred right.
For many years I have refused to pay a portion of my federal income tax because of conscientious objection to paying for killing in war. I instead pay the refused amount to an organization that supports peaceful activites such as UNICEF. My employer withholds most of the taxes that I owe, but I make certain that I always owe something at the end of the year. Fran and I have filed a joint tax return since our marriage in 2005, and she likewise refuses to pay a portion of our federal tax. We send a letter to the IRS with our tax return explaining the reason that the full amount was not paid. Click here to read the letter.
I also refuse and redirect the federal tax on our home phone bill. This tax (3%) has recently been removed from the long distance portion of the phone bill, but it is still charged for the local service component. The phone company is not legally empowered to disconnect your phone service if the tax is unpaid. That is because the legal issue is between you and the government, not you and the phone company. Much of the value of this “holy obedience to conscience” comes from explaining my reasons for refusing payment to phone company employees, when you need to straighten out the billing. They are usually interested and understanding of this witness. Of course, it is still civil disobedience and the government does not look kindly on it. But it is better to live according to conscience than according to government, whenever such a conflict exists. I can be sure that the refused tax money is going to life-affirming purposes and none of it toward war and preparations for war.
“If a thousand men were not to pay their tax bills this year, that would not be a violent and bloody measure, as it would be to pay them, and enable the State to commit violence and shed innocent blood.”
—Henry David Thoreau
On Civil Disobedience (1849)
There is no WAY to peace. Peace IS the way.