by Charlie Hurst and Maria Smith
Charlie Hurst and Maria Smith, two Catholic Workers and war tax resisters living in Cleveland, Ohio, have had their wages garnished in the past. When they received a notice from the IRS this summer saying that they had a right to ask for a hearing, they decided to do so. They had an appointment with an IRS agent on September 13, and brought a lot of documentation with them, including a letter of support from Bishop Thomas Gumbleton. The IRS agent was supportive but said that ultimately they were still in violation of not paying their taxes. They are not appealing and are waiting to see what will happen next. Here is the statement that Charlie read in front of the Cathedral on September 13.
My wife, Maria Smith, and I have been war tax resisters for a number of years now. We do not do this out of any quarrel with the tax system or the concept of paying taxes. We are war tax resisters because that is how our faith in Jesus Christ calls us to live and act in the world. We do not pay the military portion (fifty percent) of our federal income taxes; and instead give that money to groups and organizations working for peace, justice, hunger relief, and economic and social development in this country and the world.
My tax resistance is rooted in who I believe Jesus to be: God in human flesh, crucified and risen from the dead, and Lord of my life and of the world. It is also rooted in the suffering Maria and I have seen in others because of United States military policies.
Jesus tells us in the Gospels to love our enemies. This strikes us, even those of us professing to believe in and love Jesus, as absurdly foolish. Even immediately after Jesus’ resurrection, those who took Jesus’ words seriously were looked at as fools…. If struggling to take Jesus’ words seriously makes me a fool, so be it.
Too often our faith does not really move us; our relationship to the world relies on strength, on weapons, on violence. We make Jesus either absurdly naive or a liar. We do not really believe him.
My wife and I spent eight months in Nicaragua in 1986-1987, during the United States supported Contra war, which too was terrorism. The Contra were armed, trained and financed by the United States government. The victims were Nicaraguan civilians, men, women, and children — forty thousand over the several years of the Contra war. Yet we hear nothing of this terrorism.
We saw the result of the terrorism though. Ana Victoria Suarez, nine years old, shot in the leg by the Contra and left to bleed to death. Daisy Chavarria, eighteen years old and eight months pregnant, kidnapped by the Contra. What happened to her? What happened to her baby?
President Bush would have us attack Iraq. This war would cost thousands of lives, primarily Iraqi civilians, but also U.S. military personnel. It would create chaos and suffering throughout the Middle East. President Bush is planning that the US will attack first. Why? We are the only superpower; we will do whatever we want. This war would, I believe, be a profound evil. How can we quietly go along?
Violence will not ultimately bring us security. It cannot nurture our souls and our spirits. Jesus calls us to the way of peace, a way that brings peace now, not in some day far off. This act of not paying war taxes is how I begin this journey of peace.
From the December 2002 issue of More Than a Paycheck