Greetings from Jeju Island, South Korea

The Korean Navy is destroying Gangjeong Village  (current population around 2,000) and the surrounding area by building a base here. In terms of population, 7-8,000 soldiers and their families are expected in the community. Additionally, bartenders, tattoo artists, prostitutes, and others will be drawn to the area

Jeju naval base plan
The base from the government and planners point of view.

The base itself will accommodate U.S. warships such as Aegis destroyers, nuclear subs, and even aircraft carriers. Pinocchio is a popular character among the resisters here, who believe their government is lying to them (about lots of things, of course, but specifically to this post) about this base’s intended joint civilian- military use. The breathtaking propaganda poster shows a glowing facility with green grass and pristine-looking blue waters harboring 2 warships along with a cruise ship.

Ghosts_CoverAs U.S. documentary filmmaker Regis Tremblay (The Ghosts of Jeju)  said, “If that happens, it will be the first time in the world that a U.S. base shares space with tourists.” Regis was here for a week filming interviews and footage of the village for his next film, 11:57: Three Minutes to Midnight. This film will examine “the dual threats of nuclear Armageddon and climate change” and their connections to U.S. militarism and global capitalism.

Regis is in the final stretch of an Asia-Pacific filming trip that will have taken him to Okinawa, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Jeju Island, the Marshall Islands, Guam, and Hawaii by the time he returns to Maine in September.

The Ghosts of Jeju and the connections between the history it documents and the current struggle against the Naval Base here will interest War tax resisters and anyone interested in the mis-investment of U.S. tax dollars in imperialism/war, the systematic destruction of life on earth. As Colonel Rothwell H. Brown said of his role on Jeju Island, “I’m not interested in the cause of the uprising. My mission is to crack down only.” And crack down he did. The estimate is that somewhere between 25,000-30,000 Jeju people (about 10% of the island’s population at the time) were killed by U.S.-controlled forces (police, soldiers, right-wing youth organizations) in what is known as the April 3 Incident or the April 3 Massacre, which occurred between March 1, 1947, and September 21, 1954.

It was illegal to talk about April 3 until the mid-1990s.

And now the base is nearing completion. And the crackdown continues.

But Jeju is not alone.

Post by Jason Rawn
Read more from Jeju Island by Jason

Jason - striped shirt - on a tour of Jeju. Bruce Gagnon,  Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, is back left.
Jason – striped shirt – on a tour of Jeju. Bruce Gagnon, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, is back left.
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Inspired / Inspiring: Julian Bond

corbin_dove_handsOn hearing of Julian Bond’s death, I remembered we ran something in the NWTRCC newsletter ages ago where he mentioned a memory of tax resistance. So I looked it up:

Rick Gaumer of WRL New England receives the alumni magazine from the University of Virginia. The Spring 2007 issue surprised him with this story from an interview with civil rights activist Julian Bond:

…he recalls attending a Quaker school in Atlanta*, where he was first impressed with the idea of aggressive but nonviolent resistance. “It was impressive to me because you’d meet these people who were tax resistors, who wouldn’t pay their income tax because the monies were used for war. I thought, My Lord! How can you not pay your income tax? Everybody pays their income tax. They’d said, ‘No. I’m not doing it,’ and they’d go to jail. I thought, You’d go to jail voluntarily? How could you do that? Of course, I later did it myself. But at the time it was like, Whoa.”  (August 2007, More Than A Paycheck)

This is a moment to first emphasize that it is very rare to go to jail for war tax resistance. You can see the people who’ve been taken to court and some who were jailed related to war tax resistance on this page (33 who spent time in jail since 1942 if I counted correctly).

There's a slideshow of beautiful photos on the New York Times website.
There’s a slideshow of beautiful photos on the New York Times website.

As far as I know, Julian Bond never became a war tax resister, but he was a lifelong resister of injustice and an activist, writer, poet, speaker, teacher, politician, leader for peace and real change. He did find it was easy to be jailed — for everything from lunch counter sit-ins when he was a college student to protesting the Vietnam War to tying himself to the White House fence to protest the Keystone XL pipeline in 2013.

Democracy Now! had a fine tribute to Bond on their August 17 show.

On the show Amy Goodman played this quote from 1967:

My position is that things that the United States does overseas are related to its behavior towards people inside the country and that there’s a relationship between what I consider our aggressive behavior in Vietnam and the treatment of minority groups inside the United States, that, taken separately, both are wrong, and taken together, they’re even wronger. I imagine that—or rather, I am of the opinion that our involvement in Vietnam is wrong, it’s illegal, it’s immoral, it’s un-Christian, it’s un-Buddhist, it’s un-Jewish, it’s un-Catholic; we ought not be there; we ought to disengage ourselves; and that there will never be decent treatment for minority peoples in this country until we begin to concentrate on freedom and justice and equality for those at home, and stop worrying about puppet dictatorships and despotic governments in Southeast Asia.

How many countries can we substitute for “Vietnam.”

I think I’ll go hunt up some Julian Bond writings and videos on the web and at the library. He inspires — and we can be proud that war tax resistance inspired him.

— Post by Ruth Benn

* I see a reference in his New York Times obituary that he attended the Quaker-run George School near Philadelphia, so this reference might not have been edited correctly.

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Does the Hobby Lobby decision matter to war tax resisters?

Peter Goldberger (left) with, left-to-right, Brad Lyttle (Chicago WTR), Jack Payden-Travers (director of National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund), and Maria Santelli (director of Center on Conscience & War).

As we’ve mentioned before, we got a recording of Peter Goldberger’s talk on the Hobby Lobby decision from our November 2014 meeting. Now we also have a transcript, which I found absolutely necessary for following the course of Peter’s argument. It’s not an overly complex argument, but seeing it in writing helped me a lot.

Here’s a one-paragraph refresher on the case, in case you need it: Both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products (whose cases were joined for the appeal to the Supreme Court) argued successfully that, like non-profits, religious employers, and some other exempted employers, they should be able to get an exemption from providing birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, they argued that the lack of exemption is not the least restrictive alternative for dealing with the owners’ religious objections, and so it is a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which holds that

an individual objection to compliance with any law has to be accommodated if it is possible to do so. The way the RFRA rule is framed is in these terms:  the religious objection has to be honored unless (a) the law serves a compelling governmental interest, and (b) the infringement on conscience is the least restrictive alternative for dealing with the problem of objection—the least restrictive of individual liberty that is feasible. That’s a very strict test.

Peter’s main point was that the Hobby Lobby decision creates some potential openings for conscientious objectors to war and to military taxation, even though the Supreme Court referenced the Lee case (edited to add: see link at note 2 for summary of the case) and said that there aren’t such openings. For example, he argues that there is an opening for a religious war tax resister who is taken to court by the IRS, to contest the supposed obligation to pay war taxes under RFRA, and argue for the government to create a peace tax fund. Such a fund, similar to that proposed in the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Bill, would be a less restrictive means of accomplishing the government’s goal of obtaining taxes from individuals than refusing to accommodate them at all. It would not lead to the kind of chaos the justices have generally supposed it would.

However, as some people discussed after Peter’s talk in November 2014, arguing for a peace tax fund on the basis of RFRA could be worse for non-religious conscientious objectors to military taxation than the actual Religious Freedom Peace Tax Bill. The bill states that conscientious objectors may be motivated by “moral, ethical, or religious beliefs or training.” If a religious war tax resister succeeds in creating an exemption for the religious, most of the already limited steam behind the peace tax fund bill will disappear, without obtaining the same right to conscientious objection for non-religious war tax resisters.

And then there’s those of us who are driven by the specific desire to keep money away from the government as an act of resistance. Having the money be filtered through the government’s books differently doesn’t accomplish our goals. I believe the existence of a peace tax fund would not alter in any way the need for people to continue to resist a government that would still spend ~45% of tax dollars, in the aggregate, on war.

While I hope that religious war tax resisters are able to get some cases started as a result of the Hobby Lobby decision, I also hope that such cases are not going to make things legally more difficult for non-religious war tax resisters.

Post by Erica

Notes

  1. Summaries of many of the cases referenced by Peter Goldberger can be found in the book Essential Supreme Court Decisions: Summaries of Leading Cases in U.S. Constitutional Law. The Free Exercise Clause case summaries start on page 232 (link to Google Books excerpts).
  2. It’s also worth noting that Lee’s stand against paying Social Security taxes “paid off” when Congress passed a law exempting those with such a position from having to pay Social Security taxes for employees sharing that position (For more, see this article written prior to the Hobby Lobby decision, which has some useful background and also states many of the same points Peter outlined.)
  3. Peter also suggested that the definition of “exercise of religion” under RFRA offers a potential challenge to current conscientious objection laws, which restrict conscientious objectors to those with a religious objection that is central to their religion, and prevent those whose religions may permit “just wars” from claiming that status. David Gross summarized this argument here.
  4. I also found this question from Peter very interesting: “Hobby Lobby’s interpretation of RFRA also raises a question of whether civil or criminal penalties can be imposed on religious war tax resisters who refuse to pay voluntarily but leave themselves open to involuntary collection. If your religion says, as some religious tax resisters do, “I don’t necessarily object to the government forcing my bank to turn over money from my account; I just cannot be the one who writes the check,” then it seems to me that RFRA as interpreted by Hobby Lobby says you can’t charge the religious resister extra for that, that is, the late payment penalty, the negligence penalty, the levy fee, and so forth.” Not wanting to eventually pay extra for war through interest and penalties is an issue that comes up frequently when folks are exploring war tax resistance.
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