War Tax Resistance Gathering at Joyfield Farm

Our group during the Farm Tour on Saturday morning. Photo by Bryon Clemens.

Gorgeous weather accompanied the first in-person NWTRCC conference in over three years (5-7 May 2023). Many of us camped on green patches of grass on Joyfield Farm, about one hour west of Fort Wayne, Indiana. In addition to a few local folks, eleven people traveled to Joyfield Farm to attend the conference. About nine people joined us for each session on Zoom when that was an option on Saturday and Sunday.

On Friday evening, we gathered at Manchester University for a reception and viewing of the documentary, The Pacifist. This event was hosted by the Peace Institute at the university. The university is associated with the Church of the Brethren and became the first college in the world to offer a Peace Studies program in 1948. A few folks from the area joined us for the reception and film, which documents the war tax resistance of Larry Bassett after he inherited $1 million and refused to pay the associated tax debt. The discussion after the film focused on the basics of war tax resistance and the inability of resisters with a tax debt of $54,000 (or more) to renew their passports.

Poster for the Film on Friday

Simultaneously, former NWTRCC consultant Erica Leigh hosted an online social hour on Zoom for people who were not able to attend the conference in person. She reports: “I was glad to host an online Friday night social hour. I believe we had seven people joining us—less than we’ve had for the social hours during our all-online conferences. However, due to the group size, we didn’t need to split into small groups, and we could all easily talk about our lives, various political issues, and of course war tax resistance. It was great to see all your faces!”

The remainder of the conference took place at Joyfield Farm. After breakfast and some brief introductions on Saturday morning, Joyfield Farm cofounder Cliff Kindy provided a tour of the farm. This tour was also streamed over Facebook Live so that people could participate no matter where they were. It has since been uploaded to our YouTube page and it can also be watched here:

Joyfield farm, in addition to being a beautiful location, is also an example of resistance in action. The founding couples (Arlene and Cliff Kindy & Rachel and Bob Gross) of Joyfield Farm are also longtime war tax resisters who have lived simply on the land for the past forty years. In a session entitled, “Simple Lives of Resistance on the Land,” they shared their journeys to war tax resistance and how that eventually led them to the land. The couples originally met owing to both Cliff and Bob being conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War. They met during the orientation program for the Brethren Volunteer Service. People off-site were able to participate on Zoom and the recorded session can be found on our YouTube page and here:

After lunch, there were concurrent WTR 101 and 201 sessions. After a short break, we reconvened along with people on Zoom for a discussion on “Promoting Peace in Ukraine.” To set the tone, we first heard from Cliff Kindy, who is a founding member of Community Peacemaker Teams (formerly Christian Peacemaker Teams) and discussed their involvement with a proposal for a thirty kilometer de-militarized zone around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant. Then, we heard from Cathy Deppe, who shared her interactions with conscientious objectors in Ukraine and Russia and the troubles they have faced. Afterward, others shared their own concerns about the U.S.-supported war in Ukraine.

After supper on Saturday, those of us in Indiana enjoyed the sunset and hunkered down for a stormy night. Most who had been camping moved to the barn for the night. On Sunday morning, we had our obligatory Sunday business meeting, which also included participants on Zoom. There was a proposal to become a member organization of Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI), but it was decided to table this decision for six months. Many attendees wanted more information to understand the obligations that come with membership and whether we actually qualify for membership. Some attendees also questioned whether becoming a member was worthwhile, as we already participate in their meetings, which normally occur every two years.

Sunset at the farm. Photo by Lincoln Rice.

With the conclusion of that meeting, Lida Shao and Joshua Wrolstad finished their three-year terms on NWTRCC’s Administrative Committee and we welcomed Greg Reagle and Paula Rogge to that committee. The minutes for the meeting can be found here.

Even though this was a smaller gathering as regards in-person attendance, everyone who made the journey to north-central Indiana agreed that it was worthwhile.

Post by Lincoln Rice