To the Internal Revenue Service
Copies to : Rep. Dwight Evans, Senator Bob Casey, Senator Patrick J. Toomey,
President Donald Trump
To my government representatives,
My 2018 tax return says that I owe $215 in taxes. I am once again writing to explain why I will not pay the amount I owe to the federal government. Currently the majority of every tax dollar goes to pay for past,
present, and future wars. I can not pay for war. As much as I value our country’s laws, I believe that God’s laws must come first, and God tells us, “Thou shalt not kill.”
In addition to paying for foreign wars, the 1033 Program transfers excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. The program legally requires the Department of Defense to make various items of
equipment available to local law enforcement, thereby militarizing our police forces and treating civilians in our communities the same as armed combatants in a war zone. The Office of the Inspector General, the USA
Department of Defense, the USA Government Accountability Office, the NAACP, and the ACLU are among the many critics of this program. Barack Obama signed an Executive Order prohibiting certain types of equipment and requiring police agencies to justify their need for other military equipment, but Donald Trump rolled back that order so that police departments now have access to military surplus equipment typically used in warfare, including grenade launchers, large-caliber weapons and ammunition, armored vehicles and bayonets. The 1033 program was originally created to assist local law enforcement in drug investigations, yet equipment is now used to counter nonviolent demonstrations and policing in non-white communities. Instead of police protecting their communities, they are now being trained as occupying forces in our cities and towns. In 2014 a sleeping baby was maimed and nearly killed by a grenade used during a police raid of a drug suspect. At least 81 civilians and 13 police officers died in “dynamic entry” house raids from 2010 to 2016.
The number of civilians killed by police keeps increasing. In 2018 police killed 1,166 people, up from 1,147 in 2017. Black people were 25% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population. Black people are three times more likely to be killed than white people, and a higher percentage of unarmed black people are killed compared to unarmed white victims. There were only 23 days in 2018 when police did not kill someone in the USA. Only one-fourth of our way through 2019 there have already been 265 people shot and killed by police this year (as of 03/20/2019). The toll on African-American communities is especially serious. Several studies have found that black males are shot by police at disproportionately high rates. Black men aged 15-34 are between 9 and 16 times more likely to be killed by police than other people. In 2017, police killed 19 unarmed black males. Police usually use fatal force against people armed with knives or guns, but unarmed victims of police shootings are also more likely to be minorities, according to FBI statistics. 13 of the largest USA city police departments kill black men at higher rates than the USA illegal murder rate.
My government is asking me to not only support war in other countries, but to also pay to kill people in my own country, particularly people whose skin is darker than mine. In the USA it is illegal to pay for someone else to murder, yet our government is asking me to do just that. Whether in other lands or in the USA, our government saying that war and killing is right does not make it so.
It pains me not to pay all of the federal taxes I owe each year. I want to fulfill my financial responsibilities to the country I live in without denying my conscience and faith. Unfortunately we seem bent on destroying some communities rather than meeting human needs. Given a choice of paying to kill or dealing with financial penalties and the threat of prison, I have to choose your penalties. I won’t pay for war.
This year I will donate at least $215.00 to non-profit groups working to heal the wounds of war and prevent future wars in various parts of the world. I am not benefiting financially from my refusal to pay for war. Every cent I owe is being paid to save lives, not to destroy lives.
I urge you to make it possible for U.S.A. citizens to follow our faith and conscience without breaking the law. I also urge you to think deeply about how we can change our country’s direction in order to live out God’s command to love our neighbors.
In peace, Susan Lee Barton