Click here for articles from the April 2009
Comments on the articles and the issue below were shared as part of the decision-making process at the May 2009 CC Meeting.
I favor NWTRCC continuing its endorsement of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund and the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill. I have been a war tax resister since 1995. In 2008, I worked part-time for the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund as a legislative advocate for the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill. I believe that NWTRCC and NCPTF desire the same long-range goals but choose different means, and that they should continue to support each other.
Veronica Fellerath-Lowell 4/29/09
Recommend NWTRCC continues its endorsement of the Peace Tax Fund bill. Would be interested in their changing the name and making text changes, but even as is, we should support.
Peg Morton, Eugene, Oregon
My thoughts will be with you and NWTRCC at the May gathering in Virginia. I would like to be there myself, especially because of the topic, but cannot swing it.
I would encourage the development of language that is preferable to how the RFPTF Bill reads now. If different sub-groups of people resonate with different sets of wordings, then it would be very interesting and valuable for me to see what suggestions emerge. I have been trying to at least get “Religious” out of the bill title for some time now, to no avail.
And people can even generate something entirely new. I would be interested.
Dan Jenkins, Tupper Lake, New York
I just read More than a Paycheck article about the peace tax legislation ongoing discussion. Carolyn Stevens’s comments resonated most strongly with me.
I have been a war tax resister-redirector, in one fashion or another, since 1985. Each year in my letter of conscience I include a paragraph like this one (from the letter I just sent with 2008 1040):
My commitment to Jesus Christ, who taught love of enemies and refused to use violence in his work of liberating all of us, requires that I redirect this symbolic portion of income tax. Each year my government essentially requires that I violate my conscience. The Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill, which has been proposed annually in Congress since 1972, would allow citizens like myself (conscientious objectors to war) legal alternative service for the military portion of our income taxes. For more information on this bill see http://www.peacetaxfund.org/thebill/why-a-ptf.htm . Until that bill passes I continue to struggle with this annual violation of my conscience.
May the May Coordinating Committee meeting be richly blessed with wisdom.
Mary Ann Holtz, Florida
Dear NWTRCC Friends,
Regarding the questions concerning peace tax fund legislation, I have two comments:
Thanks for considering these points,
Clark Hanjian, Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
Sonoma County Taxes for Peace discussed the Peace Tax Fund at our last meeting. We are strongly in support of NWTRCC endorsing it. Our support for the bill itself is not so strong. We are basically in accord with the statements from Karl Meyer, Pam Allee, Carolyn Stevens & Larry Dansinger.
Sorry, we will not have a rep there.
Larry Harper for Sonoma County Taxes for Peace
Even for war tax resisters like me who oppose the PTF and (were it to become law) would probably not take advantage of it, the best thing about Peace Tax Fund is that it glaringly reminds the rest of the world about the unwillingness U.S. government to recognize the fundamental right of people not to contribute to the killing of others. It’s an excellent antidote for those who mindlessly crow about all the freedoms we have in this “democracy.”
To be clear, my main objections to the U.S. Peace Tax Fund are:
Recognizing that NWTRCC is not a homogeneous organization, that NCPTF is, after all, a sister organization with some of the same goals, and that several in the organization are already war tax resisters, what if NWTRCC — as part of its endorsement of the NCPTF — calls for the existing bill to be scrapped and replaced with a strengthened one that gets rid of the religious trappings, allows a CO check-off on the 1040 (thus eliminating the need for a government board), diverts all CO taxpayer dollars into a separate fund (rather than into the U.S. Treasury) devoted to developing a nonviolent defense, and requires that the military budget (and a proportional number of soldiers) be reduced by the amount of money CO taxpayer dollars diverted? Since the existing version will never be passed, why not promote an ideal version?
In the debate about the PTF — in which I’ve been a part since the 1970s — I find it confusing to label those who oppose the bill as purists. One could argue that purists are those who seek a PTF solely to keep their money away from the military without affecting military spending or troubling the government. Their hands — and money — are clean and they didn’t need to resort to the inconvenience of messy illegal or resistance-type actions.
Ed Hedemann, Brooklyn, New York
April 30, 2009
Memo to: NWTRCC
From: David Bassett
Re: 1.Greetings, on the occasion of your May 1-3 meeting
2. Some comments on the agenda item “Endorsement of the Peace Tax Fund Campaign”
I send my greetings to all of you gathered in Harrisonburg this May 1–3 for your important meetings. I wish very much that I could join your meetings (as I have on some occasions in the past). Your meetings are held in the context of the usual setting of — holding a meeting in our nation, with the largest military budget of any nation, with at least $700 billion spent for current military spending in 2007; — where anyone who is a war tax resister (as I have been since 1970, being unable and unwilling in conscience to pay that portion of my taxes which is spent for current military expenditures) faces the choices of paying those taxes, thus violating one’s conscience; or of breaking the law, and not paying those taxes which pay for war and military systems. I trust we all agree that confronting us with that choice is a wrong imposed by our government, and that that wrong should be corrected. The need to correct that wrong is the raison d’être for the existence of NWTRCC, and of NCPTF/PTF.
Approaching the agenda item, one approach to its resolution is based on an “either/or” approach. The other is based on a “both/and” approach. I’d like to support a “both/and” approach. I strongly believe that both those who are war tax resisters, and those who support Peace Tax Fund legislation, have a very similar (and, I believe, an identical) goal, i.e., to act in a way so as to persuade the nation to end its reliance on military force — and to do so in ways which persuade other nations to do likewise. Speaking realistically, it will take a very long time to persuade first our nation, and then other nations, to reduce their reliance on military systems sufficiently that the nations of the world will abolish their military systems (and stop taxing their citizens to pay a fraction of their taxes for these systems.) In the meantime, one approach would be to focus as much attention as possible on WTR, and enlarge the community of war tax resisters as much as possible. Those who are war tax resisters will, by definition, be acting against the laws of the land; and the nation will, ultimately, seize some part of the property of those who (the government says) owe the unpaid portion of their war taxes, plus penalty and interest. We will continue to engage in WTR, because, facing the “first question”, we cannot in conscience pay that portion of our taxes which pays for military systems. We will continue to face the economic cost of WTR (and there are obviously other costs), and will count that as the cost of our witness. Another approach would be to support both war tax resistance, and work to pass Peace Tax Fund legislation. In my view, both those engaging in WTR, and those working to pass Peace Tax Fund legislation, are working for the day when a significant fraction of the public probes their consciences, and realizes that (a) they cannot pay the fraction of their taxes which pays for military systems; (b) that they should take advantage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund mechanisms, which provides for alternative service for their tax dollars; and includes them in that tally of other citizens believing similarly, with that tally to be published in the Congressional Record, thus making it knowable to the public what fraction of the public is believing and acting similarly.
Here is a current event report, which I believe is relevant. I hope that a number of you are becoming familiar with what I like to term “Marian’s book” (or “APV”), namely, “A Persistent Voice; Marian Franz and Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation”, published by Cascadia Publishing House, and released in the past month. (Description of the book, and ordering information is available at www.cascadiapublishinghouse.com/apv/apv.htm). The impetus for publishing this was to present some 47 of the essays published by Marian, (originally written for the newsletter of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund [NCPTF] during the 23 years when she was Executive Director of NCPTF; and, once it was created, of the Peace Tax Foundation, the 501c3 “educational arm” of the organization.) In addition, we arranged to have 8 chapters added to the book, which deal with various facets of the COMT issue. I draw special attention to the essays by Marian Franz “Does the Term Religious Freedom Exclude Some Conscientious Objectors?” (pg. 132); and “Eighth International Conference; Many Ripples Make a Wave” pg. 138; ” the chapter by Ruth Benn “War Tax Resistance and the Peace Tax Fund”; the chapter by Ed Snyder “A Legislative Perspective on the Peace Tax Fund Bill”; and Appendix B “Chronology of Activities Relating to Peace Tax Fund Legislation” (which records a number of events where NCPTF and NWTRCC have worked together, and when Marian attended NWTRCC conferences.) As you know, NCPTF exists to work for passage of the Peace Tax Fund bill — initially of the World Peace Tax Fund bill; and, since 1998, for passage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund [RFPTF] bill. Since its first introduction in 1972, the basic principle of the Peace Tax Fund bill has been to recognize, through legislative action, the right of conscientious objection to military taxation (COMT) — in the simplest sense, to extend the right of conscientious objection to military service (COMS) to the right of COMT, and, analogously to the concept of alternative service in place of COMS, to the concept of alternative service for our tax dollars. The purpose of changing the name of the Peace Tax Fund bill in 1998 to the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill was to give increased focus to the important human right, purportedly guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, to the right of freedom of religious expression. Seeking to gain Congressional recognition of this constitutional right is the primary focus of the Peace Tax Fund legislation; not the purpose of reducing military spending. That may come about, as a secondary effect, once citizens realize that recording their conscientious objection to paying for war can influence their representatives in Congress (and their votes) and their fellow citizens (and their votes), in the same way that men who expressed their conscientious objection to military service influenced their legislators (and their fellow citizens) in the Vietnam War. Furthermore, once there are enough votes in Congress and the Senate to pass Peace Tax Fund legislation, the mindset in Congress vis a vis paying for military systems will have changed, with the likelihood that military spending will be reduced, and spending for constructive programs (domestic and international) will increase. Responding to some of the criticisms which have been directed to the Peace Tax Fund concept, it is well to keep in mind the analogy of COMS. The decision by the U.S., at the start of World War Ⅱ, to recognize the right of COMS, did not mean that the Congress would necessarily reduce the number of soldiers drafted to fight in World War Ⅱ. But it did markedly reduce the dilemma faced by those who in conscience could not kill another human, obey all military orders, or serve in the armed forces. And the alternative service regulations made it possible for CO’s to serve the nation in peaceful ways. In short, we saw a governmental accommodation to the concept of COMS. Moving to the present era, we can expect that Congress will appropriate what it believes it should appropriate, for the nation’s military programs, and systems. In my view, in this setting, there is a place for all those efforts which seek to establish the right of COMT — the two which I have mentioned, (1) WTR; (2) legislative efforts to pass Peace Tax Fund legislation; or, (3) for those who choose to do so (or are forced in one way or another to do so) to have their income below taxable level; or (4) to take their case of COMT into the courts. (I am not an advocate of (5) leaving the country and relinquishing U.S. citizenship.)
I wish I had more time to respond to many of the points which have been expressed, especially in the April, 2009 issue of “More Than a Paycheck”. But I must let this be my presentation for now; and wish you wisdom and a cogent sense of history, as you determine NWTRCC’s position regarding endorsing the Peace Tax Fund legislative campaign.
David R. Bassett
Board member, NCPTF
Unmasking the Systems that Oppress
Marian Franz, a former director for the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, believed that energy for the PTF campaign came largely from the 46 War Tax Resistance groups in North America. The PTF has been supportive of NWTRCC. In her writings Marian noted the importance of unifying our peacemaking efforts as much as possible. She worked to limit the occasional rifts between those who focus on peace tax legislation and those who focus on non-violent tax resistance.
In spite of her diligent, resolute efforts to create a more just society she realistically understood that the campaign for an acceptable “peace tax” could require up to eighty years of hard work! like the struggle for Women’s Suffrage. She was undaunted by the enormous challenge of this alternative for conscience’ sake.
Those who are involved in community organizing tell me that it is desirable in such work to make use of all available options that could be useful in reaching desired goals. On this basis it would appear that citizens could gain by encouraging people to work for a justice goal with both handles, that is, tax reform legislation and war tax boycotts. Persons then have the freedom to devote their energies for a witness that is appropriate for each one of them. At the same time they support and learn from others in what Karl Meyer has called “a wide coalition covering the whole range of conscientious objectors to military taxation,…” (More than a paycheck, April, 2009, page 7).
It might be instructive for us to consider “the role of violence in revolutionary change” as John M. Swomley Jr. does in his book. He notes that there are at least five hazards which contribute to “the maintenance of a system of oppression” (Liberation Ethics, page 167). Fortunately a commitment to nonviolence, while requiring the capacity to endure suffering, retains moral purpose. It is “to enhance respect for human life by not violating it.” (page 170). So far our tax protests in the U.S. have not resulted in the ending of oppression. Nations, or the ruling elite, continue to develop military machines to restrict, intimidate and manipulate people. Consequently, the problem of institutionalized violence continues.
In a complex society, Swomley contends that systems rather than individuals are the root of oppression. These overt and covert forces persuade most of us to defend and support values which ordinary citizens consider essential for a healthy society. Paradoxically, we are oppressed and at the same time support the systems which oppress us. Until the systems are insufferable and people become alienated, the status quo prevails.
According to the author, “The prerequisite for any revolutionary struggle is a community of the oppressed.… The mere existence of a community of the oppressed does not in itself mean that there is a revolutionary consciousness. Most and perhaps all oppressed groups have a limited understanding of the system that holds them down. They probably accept the system while simply wanting some change within it. The first task is therefore one of de-legitimatizing the system, of publicly exposing its connection with oppression. Such public exposure also builds allies outside of the immediate community among those who dislike injustice or exploitation.…” (pp. 183–184).
“The process of exposure or unmasking of one or more systems is intended not only to open the eyes of large numbers of people but also to radicalize those who engage in such action.… The first step prior to a withdrawal of support or consent is for people to become aware that the system is in fact harmful rather than beneficial to them or other human beings.” (p. 186).
In the final chapter of his book, Swomley concludes with a word of encouragement. He writes: “Gandhi demonstrated that any powerful group of men such as those who administer a system in their own interest are powerful only as the masses of people obey them or cooperate with them. The power of the few can be withdrawn by the non-cooperation of the many.…” (p. 226).
Here is a summons worth living for! Jim Wallis understood this back in the 1980s. “Whether it be sacrificing career goals, suffering financial loss, refusing to pay our war taxes, committing civil disobedience, or spending time in jail, the protests of us all must increase.…” (Revive Us Again: A Sojourner’s Story, page 141).
Donald D. Kaufman (April 21, 2009) firstname.lastname@example.org