April 6, 2003
To the people working for the IRS:
Regarding my 1040 for 2002,
This is my annual letter of conscience. This year I am writing during the season of Lent and this terrible season of war. My hope is to follow Jesus of Nazareth, who so clearly taught the love of enemies, who refused to use violence in his work of liberating the captives. As his follower, I aim to live my life, by grace, as an expression of my belief in the victory of God’s way of love and this means that how I use my gifts, skills, material possessions, time, etc. needs to be determined by my primary allegiance to that reign of God.
However, every year at this time the U.S. government collects income tax, nearly half of which goes to military expenditures, and I face a dilemma of conscience. I earn my living by offering paths to God’s healing and yet half of my taxes are annually drafted, through your agency, to inflict violence, to prepare for and carry through on the killing and maiming of anyone which our government deems an ememy or an acceptable “accidental” civilian casualty.
Roughly $459 Billion will be spent by the U.S. govenment this year on budgeted military expenditures; this does NOT include the $75 Billion (minimum) to fund the war on Iraq or other billions the President may ask for to pay for the “war on terrorism”. This in a world in which around 30,000 children die daily of starvation and related diseases; in which one month of the current U.S. military spending ($38 billion) could save 11 million lives worldwide fighting infectious diseases; in which in my home state 20% of children live in poverty and 43% of renters lack affordable housing.
With each escalation of violence and the predictable counter-violence it becomes increasingly evident that no amount of military preparedness can truly make our country or other regions of the world secure. In fact, the only real way to security is through the long difficult process of peacemaking, helping to lead the nations of the world into real relationships of mutual aid, with special care for the hungry, the sick, the war-traumatized members of our human family.
There is still no Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund (although the bill has been proposed annually in Congress since 1972) which would allow citizens like myself legal alternative service for the military portion of our income taxes. Until this bill passes I continue to struggle with this annual violation of my conscience. For this year I am resolving this dilemma in the following way: Out of the balance shown due on my 2002 1040 I am paying $75 to an agency which is working to help alleviate the terrible suffering of the Iraqi people, and I am regretfully enclosing the remaining balance here with my 1040. I have chosen $75 to represent the $75 Billion for the war on Iraq.
Mary Ann C. Holtz