D. Pierre Gingerich
16 August 1999
Charles O. Rossotti, Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
Washington, D.C. 20224
Internal Revenue Service Center
Andover, MA 05501-0002
Dear Mr. Rossotti:
I refuse to pay military taxes. I am writing to you to explain why I have withheld payment of $136.06, or 44.6% of the $305 calculated for my 1998 federal taxes ($347 “total tax” minus $42 EIC) . This 44.6% corresponds to the proportion of the federal budget that goes to pay for present wars and war preparations, and for interest on the national debt accrued in order to pay for past wars. This figure does not include veterans benefits, which I willingly pay.
Before us lie the age-old choices of life and death, blessing and curse (Deuteronomy 30:19).Our country and our culture face many choices. Will we seek to meet the basic needs and realize the human potential of all of us, or will we honor the wealthy while locking an expanding underclass into permanent poverty and indeed into jails? Will we use the earth’s resources in ways that will preserve them for future generations, or will the market gods drive America to consume all we can now, the world be damned, the future be damned? Will we choose life or death?
The military is death. It represents one of the clearest choices in our culture. It is deadly both when it applies lethal technology—in Iraq, Panama, Yugoslavia, and Sudan… —and when violence is merely threatened. In both cases, the military rests on the premise of “might makes right”, and maintains a world order in which relatively few are wealthy and many are impoverished. Indeed the very construction of military hardware represents a theft of resources from real human needs.
I choose life. I am a Christian, a follower of the Prince of Peace. Jesus was executed to maintain pax Romana, the Roman “peace”. The cross in our churches could be an electric chair. I’m continually struck by the quandary: How can I follow Jesus, Rome’s dead man walking, while benefiting in so many ways from America’s New World Order? Refusing war tax payment is a small effort to keep my spirit alive to that quandary. A “yes” to life becomes impossible unless we practice saying “no” to death.
My money supports life. Governments can have a legitimate role to the extent that they serve people (Romans 13). Thus I pay the $168.97 that constitutes 55.4% of my tax bill (of which $149.81 has already been withheld or was paid in April) in the hope that our government will use that money to insure that all inhabitants of our nation and of our planet have decent food, housing, education, and a clean environment.
I am sending the $136.03 that I have withheld from military use to the Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries (MBCM) and to Loaves & Fishes of Tompkins County (New York). MBCM will use the money not to kill or to prepare for killing, but to assist young men of conscience who have been denied federal financial aid to attend college because of their refusal to put their bodies on call to the military by registering for the military draft. Loaves & Fishes is an ecumenical ministry of hospitality in Ithaca, New York, providing food for the homeless and needy, patching a few of the wounds created by an economy and a budget oriented toward corporate profits and military might.
I am a Christian. Maybe you are too. Whatever your faith journey, I invite you to consider the question: Does war, preparation for war, or payment for such preparation contribute to the coming of God’s kingdom, the doing of God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven”? Please accept this question in an ecumenical spirit as you examine the kind of world which we together are helping to create by our daily actions.
D. Pierre Gingerich
cc: President Bill Clinton
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, NY
Senator Chuck Schumer, NY
Congressman Maurice Hinchey, 28th District, NY
Living Hope Fellowship, Ithaca, NY
Ithaca Catholic Worker Community
Lee Snyder, Moderator, Mennonite Church-USA
George B. Stoltzfus, General Secretary, Mennonite Church General Assembly
Everett Thomas, Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries
Chris Pothier, Loaves & Fishes of Tompkins County