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By Susan Balzer
The first event of "Refusing to Pay for War," the National War Tax Resistance Strategy Conference, October 7-9, was a press conference held Friday morning in Manhattan. Although the media snubbed us and followed a false terror alert in the subways, those in attendance listened to powerful testimonies from five presenters.
Daniel Woodham reported that he began resisting war taxes in 1990 because of the Gulf War and continues because the government "hasn't changed its warlike ways and imperialistic tendencies even slightly."
Lee Gough, a new mother concerned for "other mothers' children who are devastated by war" said that through war tax resistance she is "making my actions match my beliefs."
Joe Donato, one of three Restored Israel of Yahweh members facing prison for their war tax resistance, said that paying for war amounts to "killing by proxy." Donato described his WTR as "not civil disobedience, but obedience," and his pending prison sentence as religious persecution. His wife Inge is serving a six-month sentence now. [See page 5.]
Susan Quinlan talked about choosing between conscience and the law. Karl Meyer said, "If the United States had spent money assisting people in developing a sustainable way of life, we'd be the most loved people on earth."
By late afternoon Friday, war tax resisters were exploring the school and rectory guest rooms of St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Brooklyn, thanks to the hospitality of Father Coman Brady and staff member Mary Anne Muller.
That evening we were joined by performance artist Bill Talen, in the guise of Rev. Billy, and members of the Stop War Taxing Choir. They gave a rousing evangelistic call to "refuse to pay for someone to pick up a gun." Some conference participants also shared WTR stories. John and Pat Schwiebert of Portland, Oregon, told about a creative way they redirected income taxes. One year they converted their war tax debt into five-dollar bills, which they gave to individuals waiting in line at the city unemployment office. They included a letter with each donation telling why they were doing this, and they notified media beforehand. Their actions garnered them an interview on NPR, and they received letters and cards from around the world.
Alice Liu and Sherill Crosby told about how they put up 1,000 posters in San Francisco neighborhoods proclaiming, "You can stop it [war]." Months later, many of the posters are still up
Larry Dansinger said his WTR led to meeting his life partner (former NWTRCC coordinator Karen Marysdaughter). Two other former coordinators, Mary Loehr and Carolyn Stevens, also met their partners through WTR.
In the first activity Saturday, participants stepped into a timeline based on when they had started war tax resistance. The line stretched from the 1940s (with Juanita Nelson and Joffre Stewart) to the current decade. Over the years war tax resistance has been linked with resistance to the draft and nuclear proliferation, Ban the Bomb campaigns, living a Catholic Worker lifestyle, the Reagan presidency and policies, opposition to racism, sexism and homophobia, and opposition to each overt and covert war fought with American money during this time.
Next, five young adults (under 30) offered their observations on war tax resistance and how to improve our organizing and outreach to better reach their age group. They pointed out that many are already antiwar but are not interested in joining another group. Instead, WTRs should go to their groups to talk about WTR or dispense information and stories electronically. Some feel that marches are fun, but not effective, and that organizing people around you, like inviting friends to join you in WTR, might be more effective. Redirecting war tax dollars is especially appealing. Compared to an older generation they said, "We haven't seen a 'good war.' The government hasn't done anything for us. Representatives have never listened to us."
Young adults said they might not consider WTR because they'd like to have the option down the line to buy a house, and WTR feels like a lifelong commitment. The "all or nothing" pressure of WTR is intimidating, and they question, "What will make real change?"
Small groups met to discuss the presentations and come up with new organizing ideas, and each group presented their top suggestions to the whole group. My small group addressed David Waters' challenge, "Where are your children?" (David and Oliver Waters were the only father/son duo at the conference.) We acknowledged that our youth need mentors in addition to their parents. (Though that doesn't get parents off the hook!) Military recruiters try to mentor youth in order to recruit them. We should do better. Racism also enters into the picture-people who have white privilege feel safer in disobeying laws such as those requiring payment of war taxes. Those of us in the middle ages admitted that we need to leave our own comfort zones in order to communicate better with young adults.
Another session brought out different organizing models, and small groups met on each topic: organizing with youth through counter-recruitment and as conscientious objectors; using technology better; a multi-year campaign starting with a survey of peace activists and leading to a one-year war tax boycott; Peace Tax Campaign work and the legislative effort in Rhode Island; support targeted outreach to intentional communities.
On Saturday evening Peter Goldberger, attorney for Inge Donato for her sentencing and an appeal, talked about the case of Restored Israel of Yahweh, particularly in relation to what it might signal for war tax resistance in general. It is the first time criminal charges of willful failure to file and pay taxes have been brought against people who refuse to pay for war for religious reasons. Different from most WTRs, this case revolves around withholding taxes not paid to community members for a construction business run by Kevin and Joe; Inge was a very part-time bookkeeper and was treated particularly harshly by the court. [Editor's note: See page 5; future issues will continue to cover the case.]
Our final session of the conference on Sunday involved a process to narrow down all the ideas generated into some workable priorities for NWTRCC. Everyone in the room looked over the lists and wrote down their top three priorities. Then each person presented their three ideas in small groups. The small group task was to come up with three final priorities. This interesting exercise led us to about 18 ideas grouped into 6 different categories that were sent to the business meeting for deciding the next steps. Local activists can choose to implement them right away.
The main ideas to be pursued in NWTRCC are as follows:
Despite a busy conference weekend, about 30 people stayed for the Counselors' Training on Monday, facilitated by Ruth Benn, Robert Randall, Peter Goldberger, and Ed Hedemann. Instead of distilling my nine pages of notes, I give you this advice: Whenever you have an opportunity to take a WTR counselor training, do it! We can learn so much from our aggregate experience and research.
On a more personal note, I had arrived in New York City a day before the conference, my first time there since my high school senior trip quite a few years ago. I visited "Ground Zero" and the nearby St. Paul's Chapel where rescue workers could rest, eat, pray, and receive counseling and massages as they coped with the horrific tragedy. Hearing the stories helped me grasp not only how terror affected so many New Yorkers, but also how dedicated people worked selflessly to bring healing to their neighbors. Being there showed me the similarity in the responses of big city people to those of my small town neighbors after the Hesston tornado. And, I thought, if only our President would have chosen to help instead of creating more unnatural disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our country's energy and money could help build and heal rather than kill and destroy.
Our NYC hosts deserve much gratitude for their hospitality and hard work. We from sunshiny states, such as Kansas, forgive them for the humid, rainy weather on the days we were together!
Susan Balzer is active with the Heartland Peace Tax Fund in Kansas and is a member of NWTRCC's Administrative Committee.
Here's the text of an interesting document sent to NWTRCC by someone who worked for Cingular, and wrote, "This is the official policy given to customer service representatives from Cingular's upper management." Helpful to resisters having problems with Cingular, this letter can be referenced in conversations with other companies also:
Cingular Wireless Process for Federal Excise Tax Write-Off for War Protester
There are organized groups that advocate non-payment of the 3% Federal Excise Tax (FET) on telecommunications charges, based on opposition to war. Many of the organized groups (e.g. including groups like the War Resister's League) have prepared forms for telecommunications customers to submit as an official request not to be charged the FET. The war protest organization literature may include a reference stating that the IRS requires telecommunications companies to permit customers to be excluded from the FET. This is somewhat misleading. The actual rules are as follows.
No Exemption: IRS does not recognize such forms nor does it grant any type of exemption to war protesters. Cingular therefore has no responsibility to exempt or to otherwise not charge FET to a customer making such a request.
Refusal to Pay FET: Cingular cannot exempt the war protest customer from FET, but it is possible that the customer may refuse to pay the FET portion of their bill. If this should occur, Cingular is not required to pursue collection on behalf of the government. Cingular's only responsibility at that point is to report to the IRS any customers who refuse to pay based on war protester status. Cingular has therefore developed the following procedure to address war protester requests.
FET War Protest Scenario Procedures: Customer submits a completed form from one of the war protest organizations, or otherwise submits a request in writing, to be exempted from the FET based on their position as a war protester. Form or correspondence is then forwarded to the appropriate Tax Exemption Group for handling.
For those of you who are listed as war tax resistance counselors on the NWTRCC network list, we will try to find a way to share with you some of the topics and information from the Counselors' Training in October. It was a very useful session, which was both audio- and videotaped. Given that it was 4-5 hours long, we will try to produce transcripts or an edited version of the tapes soon.
Experienced resisters who would like to participate in a training, please be in touch with the NWTRCC office. If we can pull together a critical mass of potential counselors, we would like to offer another session "somewhere in the country" in the not-so-distant future.
It's been a good year for NWTRCC, thanks to you and groups that have given since our last newsletter:
Center on Conscience and War
and, 2005 donor-directed grants through
Vermont Community Foundation
Santa Fe Community Foundation
A special thanks to everyone who came to and contributed to the Strategy Conference, and to the planning committee: Rick Bickhart, Suzanne Day, Eszter Freeman, Ed Hedemann, Susan Quinlan, and especially to Daniel Woodham, who coordinated our planning meetings.
The "Counselors and Contacts" list on the NWTRCC website, www.nwtrcc.org/contactN2.htm, has been updated, as has the printed version, which is available from the NWTRCC office. Anyone on the network list who would like a copy of the nationwide list, which includes contacts who choose not to be listed on the internet, please contact the office.
The national affiliate list plus the appropriate regional list are sent to people who request information from NWTRCC. It is, of course, essential for referring inquiries to the contact or counselor nearest to them.
Advertising rates for this newsletter can be found at nwtrcc.org/ads.php or contact the editor at 1-800-269-7464.
By Susan Balzer
NWTRCC honored Marian Franz for her leadership of the Peace Tax Fund Campaign during the Strategy Conference in October. Ruth Benn, NWTRCC Coordinator, along with two former Coordinators, Mary Loehr and Carolyn Stevens, presented Franz with a bouquet of flowers and a book of congratulatory notes from conference attendees.
In their role as Coordinators, Benn, Loehr, and Stevens have worked with and alongside Franz during her 22-year tenure as Executive Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF). Franz is retiring as director in the coming months, but plans to continue lobbying on a part-time basis.
Marian Franz has been a national and international leader in pursuing legislation giving conscientious objectors the right to refrain from paying for war. She heads the NCPTF office in Washington, DC, and is a founding Board member of Conscience and Peace Tax International, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. Franz has attended most of the international conferences of peace tax campaigns and war tax resisters. She worked with Marysdaughter, Loehr, PFT founder David Bassett, and Susan Balzer to plan and lead the 8th International Conference, which was held in Washington, DC, in 2000.
In her response to the applause in her honor, Franz said, "No witness for conscience is ever lost. Conscientious objection to military taxation does not mean that we won't pay for war, but we can't." Franz concluded by noting how much she enjoys lobbying: "You all can go to whatever mission fields you want; give me the United States Congress!"
Thank you, Marian, for all of your work in bringing refusal to pay war taxes so much attention for so many years. Readers who would like to send their own congratulatory notes can write to Marian at NCPTF, 2121 Decatur Pl., NW, Washington, DC, 20008.
Susan Balzer is active with the Heartland Peace Tax Fund in Kansas and is a member of NWTRCC's Administrative Committee.
In October 20, 2005, the Council of the City of Providence, Rhode Island, voted unanimously for a resolution supporting the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act, making it the first city in the United States to pass such a measure. All 15 members of the Council voted for the resolution, which cites the necessity of religious freedom and the high cost of war as reasons to support this legislation.
The Providence vote is part of a new Rhode Island-wide campaign for the Peace Tax Fund. The full text of the Resolution and other information is available from: The Rhode Island Campaign for Conscience, 33 Chestnut Street, Providence, RI 02903, (401) 521-2187, http://ri.peacetaxfund.org.
The group is holding a public hearing on the Peace Tax Fund on Monday, December 12, 2005, 9 am - 11 am, in the State Room at the Rhode Island State House in Providence. Call the Campaign for directions and details.
If you are interested in starting a resolution campaign in your town or city, please contact Tim Godshall at the NCPTF office in Washington, 1-888-PEACETAX, or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Daniel Woodham (with thanks to Robert Randall)
End the war in Iraq! was the call for the mass demonstration in Washington, DC, on September 24. The action included a rally, march, concert, along with a Peace Fair on the 24th and 25th on the Washington Monument grounds. United for Peace and Justice sponsored Fair, and NWTRCC had a table in the Direct Action Tent (one of many tents arranged along two sides of the gathering space). Melissa Jameson (NY) and Rick Bickhart (VA) helped staff the table. We got to talk with a lot of people since we were situated beneath a sign that read "Direct Action." We were especially happy to meet many of you.
The headquarters of the IRS was near the end of the march route, and Robert Randall from Georgia and I stood out in front of the building to be on view for those that made it to the last leg of the march. We held a very bold "We Refuse To Pay For War" banner provided by the DC WTR group, along with 4,000 flyer strips announcing our table and the NWTRCC website. We were joined by Mary Regan from Massachusetts and New Yorker Nadette Stasa, and a few others from time to time who helped with the leafleting. We pointed out to the marchers that they were passing the IRS, telling them to "Watch their pockets," and encouraging them to learn how to stop paying for war.
It took more than three hours for the entire march to pass by us, and we had no problem giving out the flyers. (Crowd estimates varied widely, as usual, but 150,000 seemed about right.) The tabling continued on into the evening and resumed the next day while hundreds of activists visited the Peace Fair and participated in trainings for the civil disobedience at the White House and Pentagon on Monday.
The WTR movement has been busy these last few months. One might say the movement's cogs are well greased and running smoothly with the good responses we've been getting!
In November 7, 2005, The Los Angeles Times, reported that one of the largest churches in Southern California, the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, had been warned by the IRS that its tax-exempt status is in danger. In October 2004, the IRS learned about a sermon preached by the church's former rector. The timing was shortly before the presidential election.
Rev. George Regas had offered a guest sermon that "imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry." The sermon did not tell people how to vote, but it had a strong antiwar message.
In June the church received a letter from the IRS questioning its tax exempt status, and after some back and forth the IRS has since launched an investigation. The IRS was willing to drop the case if All Saints would make a public admission of wrongdoing, which they declined.
Support for the church has formed and action steps can be found at www.progressivechristiansuniting.org. The church's website has updated information and an audio link to Regas's sermon: www.allsaints-pas.org.
Letters of support can be send to All Saints Church, 132 North Euclid Avenue, Pasadena, California 91101, or fax: (626) 796-4749.
The NCPTF Board of Directors seeks applicants to fill its Executive Director position. The ideal candidate is an organizational leader who will nurture and support the work of being an articulate voice and witness on the issue of conscientious objection to military taxation. The Executive Director works with a small, dedicated staff and should be seasoned and skilled in communication, supervision, coordination, organizational development, and networking. If you have a strong commitment to the Peace Tax Fund and seek a challenge in your professional work, we would like to hear from you.
A full job description is available on the web at www.peacetaxfund.org or through the NCPTF office. Interested candidates should send a letter of inquiry and resume to: Search Committee, Peace Tax Fund, 2121 Decatur Place, NW, Washington, DC 20008 or, by email, to: email@example.com
Congratulations to the recipients, and, of course, many thanks to the Escrow Account holders and NACC donors who make the granting program possible.
The 2005 application and general information are online at http://seanacc.org/grants.htm, for those interested in getting a feel for what next year's will look like. Anybody who would like to be added to our Grant Info Notifications email list, simply get in touch with the NACC office, and we'll see to it!
NACC, 4554 12th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98105, (206) 547-0952, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new version of the Peace Tax Return for the coming tax season is now available from the NWTRCC office. The Peace Tax Return is designed to capture the anger about the war in Iraq and the billions of dollars being wasted there. Users send one section to the IRS, either for protest or resistance, and a section to NWTRCC so that we can track how many participate. We already have an order for 50 copies from someone who plans to send it out with each of his holiday cards.
The Peace Tax Form can be ordered from NWTRCC (bulk copies 8¢ each, or send a stamped, self addressed envelope for single copies) or downloaded from the NWTRCC website, www.nwtrcc.org/peacetaxreturn.htm.
The Rosenberg Fund for Children provides for the educational and emotional needs of children of targeted progressive activists, and youth (to age 24) who are targeted activists themselves. Since 1990, the RFC has awarded over $2 million to its beneficiaries, and they are seeking out others who qualify for similar help.
If you have knowledge of or direct contact with any activists who have been targeted, please inform them of the RFC or send their contact information to the RFC. One of the objectives of the Fund is to let activists know there is a growing community of support out there for them. RFC is continually trying to expand that support.
For more information, visit the website at www.rfc.org. For downloadable application forms go to http://www.rfc.org/application.htm. The Fund can also be contacted at Rosenberg Fund for Children, 116 Pleasant Street, Suite 3312, Easthampton, MA 01027, (413) 529-0063.
What: NWTRCC's Administrative Committee (AdCom) seeks 3 new members.
Deadline: March 15, 2006
Schedule: New members from nominations will be selected at the May 2006 meeting; terms start after the meeting.
Terms: 1 full member serves 2 years; 2 alternates serve 1 year as alternate plus 2 years as full member
Costs: Travel is paid for full members or alternates filling in for full member
Benefits: Great people to work with; pleasure of contributing to the smooth-running of the NWTRCC network; travel to fun places and meet interesting people
Time commitment: AdCom meetings are the full day Friday before the two weekend gathering, occasional emails and phone calls during the year, and some willingness to volunteer for an extra project according to interest and availability.
Qualifications: Interest in being part of NWTRCC's decision-making structure; willingness to attend two meetings during the year; desire to help promote NWTRCC; geographic and gender are considerations as determined by current members
Current members: Eszter Freeman* (CA), Lincoln Rice* (WI), Susan Balzer (KS), Daniel Woodham (NC), Alice Liu (CA), one position open
Please contact the office for a job description, or send in nominations and we will follow up with further details. Affiliate groups should make a special effort to offer nominations.
*These members complete their terms in May 2006.
NWTRCC's business meeting was held on Sunday afternoon, October 9, after the Strategy Conference ended. Much of the time was spent on discussing how to follow up on the conference and act on at least some of the many great ideas that were discussed. The conference article in this issue lists the primary ideas that are being pursued on the national level, but local activists and groups will also pick up on whatever they choose. At the May meeting we will continue with the follow-up work.
Other important items on the fall business agenda are setting objectives and a budget for the new year. NWTRCC's fiscal year runs from December 1 through November 30, and a balanced budget of $34,500 was approved. The approved objectives include some of the new items and ongoing activities such as publishing this newsletter, holding the two meetings a year, promoting war tax resistance through radio public service announcements, tabling at conferences of allies and potential allies, adding contacts to our network list, and adding a discussion board to the Hang Up On War website.
NWTRCC will send a representative to the international conference in Germany October 26-29, 2006, with travel and expenses covered up to $1,000. The delegate will be chosen at our May meeting, and anyone interested may throw their hat into the ring (self-nomination is fine). Send a short write up describing your interest in going and anything else you think relevant to the Administrative Committee c/o the NWTRCC office. The deadline to apply is April 7, 2006.
The full meeting minutes are on the web at www.nwtrcc.org/oct05conf.htm along with the budget, objectives, and more complete lists of ideas that came up at the Strategy Conference.
The next NWTRCC gathering and meeting will be held May 5-7, 2006, in Seattle, hosted by the Nonviolent Action Community of Cascadia. Mark your calendars and watch for more information in the next issue.
If you or your group would like to host a NWTRCC gathering, we'd love to come your way, and we will help with the organizing too. Please contact the office for more information.
The issues of the day were about hostages in Iran, Ronald Reagan and the Cold War, nuclear power protests, Cruise and Pershing missiles headed to Europe.
The editors didn't dream of email, fax machines, computer desktop publishing, or digital printing.
Their first feature was about the arrest of Catholic activists in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, who took the name The Plowshares Eight.
NWTRCC congratulates our friends Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa for their 25 years and counting as editors and publishers of the Nuclear Resister. They have offered a unique and important service to the antinuclear and peace movements by keeping us posted on the thousands of actions and thousands of individuals who have spent days, weeks, months, and years in jails and prisons because they refuse to accept that we must live on this earth with nuclear weapons and war.
In 1980 The Nuclear Resister began by covering arrests for antinuclear actions, and in 1990 they expanded the reporting to include antiwar arrests in North America and similar arrests in civil resistance actions overseas.
The emphasis has always been on support for prisoners of conscience, and the lists of names and addresses in each issue ensured that imprisoned activists would know that their actions were appreciated well beyond the immediate witnesses.
While putting out 138 issues over these years, Jack and Felice have raised a daughter and son, Emma and Cassidy, and eked out a living suitable to a war tax resisting lifestyle. They've been NWTRCC contacts in Arizona for at least 20 years and war tax resisters living below the taxable income all of that time. In addition they have thrown their full support into particular cases, like that of Mordecai Vanunu in Israel, and issues like banning the use of depleted uranium.