Closing the Chapter, But Not the Book

by Elizabeth Boardman

Kudos to Quaker attorney Bob Kovsky of San Francisco, who worked for seven years on a legal suit I brought against the IRS claiming that as a Quaker, I was subject to misdirection, threat and harassment by the IRS when I honestly and openly followed the precepts of my Christian church in refusing voluntarily to pay for war. The case moved back and forth between district and appellate courts for years. Always rejected out of hand, no court hearing was ever scheduled. Bob and I have finally laid down this effort.

There have been positive effects, however. During this period, the IRS had threatened several other Quakers (including Steve Leeds and Vickie Aldrich) with a “frivolous filing fee” or actually fined them as much as $5,000. Eventually, in early 2014, the IRS clarified for its own staff and for the tax-paying public that forthright and timely filers with deep-rooted religious or conscientious objection to paying for war and the killing of other humans should not be threatened or penalized as “frivolous.” NWTRCC shared this news widely among resisters.

For me, giving up the struggle in the courts involves “closing the chapter but not the book,” as my colleague in war tax resistance, Ruth Paine, put it. Along with others in NWTRCC, I see recent wins for religious freedom in the Supreme Court as possible precedents for war tax resisters to build on. The success of plaintiffs in the Hobby Lobby case, in Holt vs. Hobbs, and in similar cases may indicate that this conservative court respects some kinds of law-challenging decisions when they are based in solid religious faith and practice.

But the road is not yet clear for religious tax resisters. Conscientious resisters to mandatory military enlistment have been offered “alternative service” options since World War II or earlier. Those conscientiously opposed to war taxes need a similar “alternative tax” option. The Peace Tax Fund campaign has tried for years to get Congress to offer such an alternative. Perhaps this is the historical moment for some new ideas and energy in that campaign. I am hoping others will join me in seeking out the opportunities.

Contact Elizabeth at eboardman AT sbcglobal DOT net.