In this Issue: 1) Come to the Pentagon!
2) Religious Freedom Cases Dismissed - Quakers Packard And Browne To Appeal To Second Circuit Court
3) Counseling Notes (Telephone Co-op Blocks Long Distance Again; IRS Collections Survey; Simplified Reporting System?)
4) Legislative Updates (Help Circulate the Peace Tax Petition)
5) International (ropean Peace Congress)
6) WTR Ideas and Actions (Alternative Fund Launched; Work, Inc.)
7) NWTRCC Business (New Administrative Committee Members)
8 Remembering Frances Schwab
9) Local Group Reports (Greenwich, CT; Moorestown, NJ)
10) Perspective (Proposed Tax Alternatives - By Robert Randall, Brunswick, GA)
Come to the Pentagon!
War Resisters League, one of the founding members of NWTRCC, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with a conference just outside of Annapolis, MD the weekend of October 16-18, followed by an action at the Pentagon in Washington, DC on Monday, October 19. "At the exciting age of 75," WRL says, "we want this anniversary conference and action to celebrate our wonderful past and make us even more effective as we head into the future."
At NWTRCC's spring meeting we decided to organize a war tax resistance presence at the conference and action. We'll be providing a workshop on future directions for war tax resistance at the conference and tabling at the Pentagon action, maybe a speaker. Some folks are interested in organizing a WTR affinity group for those who want to do civil disobedience or act as support people. The Washington DC area WTR group will provide some logistical support on housing and transportation as needed.
For more information on the conference and action, contact: WRL, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY, 10012, (212)228-0450, email: email@example.com, web: www.nonviolence.org/wrl. For more information on the WTR presence, contact: Carol Coney, 4002 Hwy 78, #530-142, Snellville, GA, 30039, (770)979-5345, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Religious Freedom Cases Dismissed Quakers Packard And Browne To Appeal To Second Circuit Court
Judge Goettel of the Federal District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut decided on June 4, 1998 to grant the U.S. Government's motion to dismiss the complaint brought by Rosa Packard, a Quaker living in Greenwich, CT. Rosa's complaint asked the government not to penalize her actions of religious witness. The complaint is based on the free exercise of religion clause of the first amendment of the US Constitution and on the standard of least restrictive means of burdening religious exercise required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). In a related case, Judge Murtha dismissed the complaint brought by Quakers Edith and Gordon Browne to Federal District Court in Vermont on May 14, 1998. Both cases will be appealed separately by different attorneys to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (which includes New York, Connecticut and Vermont.)
The decisions to dismiss imply that the tax system is exempt from the free exercise clause of the first amendment and from the standard of analysis required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The decisions are preoccupied with issues of tax collection and do not engage the issue of penalties as an expression of religious discrimination.
The appeals involves larger issues of religious freedom that have arisen as the arguments in the cases have developed. Might this denial of free exercise of religion result in further denials of civil liberties and human rights? The issues are more important than the narrow request for refund of penalties would suggest. Attorneys Peter Goldberger and Lior Feldman who represent Rosa Packard have noted that the sometimes complex issues of religious freedom are not well understood by the American public, including experienced professionals. More dialogue on the subject in public forums would provide a deeper understanding of what is implied by these decisions.
In explaining her decision to appeal the Judge's ruling, Rosa Packard says, "Judge Geotell of the Federal District Court in Connecticut, who wrote the opinion dismissing my case, refers to me as a tax protester. My religious witness is against war, not taxes. Judge Goetell does not distinguish between conscientious objectors to war and those who object to the tax system. This is a necessary distinction. I am not objecting to paying my taxes. I am not refusing to pay my taxes. I am not hiding my assets from the government. I am asking for an accommodation of my pacifist religious beliefs so as to pay my full taxes for nonmilitary purposes."
"I pay my full taxes into an escrow account overseen by my Quaker community, Purchase Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. They hold the taxes in trust for the government until an accommodation, such as the Religious Freedom PeaceTax Fund Bill is granted. I believe such accommodation is required by the free exercise of religion clause of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution and by the standard of interpretation given by RFRA. Until an accommodation is reached, this legal case asks that the government not penalize the exercise of my religious witness."
"The judge quotes as precedent a decision that said that '...the Income Tax Acts do not aid a particular religion or punish anyone for their religious beliefs. On matters religious, it is neutral.' This assumption is inappropriate in the cases of conscientious objectors to war in any form. I know from personal experience that the tax law is not neutral. The tax law penalizes my religious witness, a witness that my Quaker Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly Meetings formally acknowledge and support. Those who do not share this religious belief do not face the same consequences. Others who cannot because of conscience pay for war may come from different faith communities and may live out their convictions somewhat differently but all experience the tax law as discriminatory. It asks us to do that which we know is evil and punishes us when we attempt to do that which we hope is good."
"The government has a constitutional duty to not burden free exercise of religion. The RFRA standard of least restrictive means is not about compelling compliance, it is about respecting the free exercise of religion of its citizens. I look forward to the opportunity of appealing the case, and hope that more careful attention will be paid to the compelling nature of obedience to God. The force which compels us toward God is love and truth, not penalties and violence, and is truly voluntary."
Telephone Co-op Blocks Long Distance Again
Raymond Pisano of Kotzebue, AK had his outgoing long distance calls blocked a number of months ago by the telephone cooperative that provides his service. After consulting with NWTRCC and writing a long letter to the co-op explaining that they don't have the right to enforce collection of the phone tax and are simply supposed to report his refusal to the IRS, Raymond's long distance service was restored.
Now, he reports, they've blocked it again. "The phone co-op refuses to talk to me unless I have 'something else to say'. I've contacted the Alaska Public Utilities Commission and they are currently looking into the issue. The person I have been dealing with says that no one she has spoken to has heard of war tax resistance and so she is trying to find out more about what rules and regulations might apply. She would like to see a copy of the letters I have written to the co-op and also wants to know about the tax code citation that I have referred to. I am in the process of sending all the information that I have to her. It was also suggested that, since it is a federal tax that I am dealing with, it might be the Federal Communications Commission that I have to appeal to. That may be the case ultimately; however, I'm still expecting the PUC to recognize their responsibility in backing my right to service. It appears it is going to take a while to sort it all out. In the meantime, not having long distance is a minor nuisance to contend with."
For more information, contact: Raymond Pisano, PO Box 1143, Kotzebue, AK, 99752, (907)442-2844 (he can receive calls), email: email@example.com.
IRS Collections Survey
A WTR from California sent us a copy of an "IRS Customer Satisfaction Survey" to ask her opinions about the IRS Collection "service." It said that her name was picked through a random sampling process, that responses would be confidential, and that participation was voluntary. "The IRS is committed," said the accompanying letter, "to improving its performance and service to the American public. A first step in this process is to gather reliable information from those who have had contact with IRS employees and services."
The WTR was distrustful of the survey and decided not to fill it out. Has anyone else received such a survey? Filled it out? If so, let us know.
Simplified Reporting System?
According to the Research Institute of America's Federal Taxes Weekly Alert, the IRS and the state of Montana's Department of Revenue are beginning a five-year demonstration project in which a test group of small business employers will file one form with Montana, which will extract and electronically transmit federal information to the IRS.
Help Circulate the Peace Tax Petition
Send a message to Congress about taxes for peace, and educate people around you at the same time!
The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF) has developed a Peace Tax Petition, which asks members of Congress to become co-sponsors of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill. It presents the dilemma that thousands of Americans face in being forced to choose between paying taxes for war, or refusing those taxes and risking fines, seizure of assets, and even jail.
You can help circulate the Peace Tax Petition, collect as many signatures as you can, and send it to your member of Congress. To get a free copy of the petition, contact the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, 2121 Decatur Place NW, Washington, DC 20008-1923, toll-free: (888)732-2382, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, auto-reply: email@example.com, web: http://www.nonviolence.org/peacetax.
The NCPTF has also developed some new display ads (see ad this page). Contact them for camera-ready copies for publications in your area.
European Peace Congress
Marian Franz, Executive Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, attended the European Peace Congress May 29 - 31 in Osnabrück, Germany as a member of the board of Conscience and Peace Tax International. CPTI was founded in Hondarribia, Spain, in 1994 to work through international movements, and international institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union, with the goal of gaining recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military taxes.
Marian reports, "The purposes of the Congress were 1) Exchange of experience between war resisting groups in Europe directed toward a realization of long-lasting peace concepts and the support of war refugees and deserters; 2) Discussion of the legal and factual possibilities for conscientious objectors (CO's) in European countries, and public relations work with regard to the discrimination and persecution of CO's, war refugees and deserters; and 3) Boosting of public concern for non-military means and strategies of settling domestic conflicts and conflicts between countries."
"Individuals were invited from organizations all over Europe that are engaged in finding peaceful solutions to conflict. The central focus was an effort to create a military-free peace policy. Also discussed was the privatization of violence. Recent years have seen a resurgence in the use of mercenaries; where before government battled government, today we have business battling business."
"There was a feeling of immediacy at the Congress. The war in the former Yugoslavia feels so far away here in the United States, but much more urgent when only a few hundred miles away. Participants with first-hand experience from Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belarus, Northern Ireland, Israel, Palestine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Greece poured out their stories. A deserter from Kosovo who cannot go home again made a plea for action, predicting Kosovo would become another Bosnia. A young man from Turkey passed out postcards to write to a friend who was imprisoned for the fifth time for his conscientious objection."
The board of CPTI met on May 31, 1998 during the Congress. They discussed the relationship of CPTI with various international bodies and movements such as the UN, the Quaker Center on European Affairs, Amnesty International, War Resisters International, etc. Bart Horeman of the Netherlands agreed to explore the possibility of a booklet on historic and legal precedents worldwide for CO to war taxes. The board considered upcoming conferences in Europe where they could have a presence. A representative of Fünf für Frieden - Five for Peace - shared information about a German campaign to deduct 5% each year from the military budget to deposit in a peace fund for disarmament, development, and perhaps civil conflict resolution. As a result of CPTI's presence, a resolution emerged from a workshop on war tax resistance and peace tax campaigns and was accepted with warm applause in the general assembly.
War Tax Resistance Ideas & Actions
Alternative Fund Launched
Members of the Pioneer Valley War Tax Resistance group, finding themselves consistently under the taxable level with little or no tax money to redirect, are creating an "alternative" alternative fund. This will be a volunteer labor "fund" drawing on the skills of war tax resisters in the area.
The new fund is named the Bromley Alternative Fund, after Ernest and Marion Bromley who helped to found the modern day war tax resistance movement. Marion died in 1996 and Ernest just this past December. The Fund's mission statement says, "The Bromley Alternative Fund has been established as a creative response to the often-conflicting demands of responsible citizenship and individual conscience. The fund's specific purpose is to redirect resources, including tax dollars, that are used to fund weapons of mass destruction and other war preparations.
Our expenditure of billions of dollars for these purposes has dire consequences: death and misery inflicted upon people in other countries; the suffering of people here at home, whose basic needs are often neglected; and the destruction of our natural environment, which nurtures and sustains us all.
The Bromley Alternative Fund provides an opportunity for people who cannot, in good conscience, support these things. It allows individuals to instead directly contribute labor and money to meet the needs of our communities in the Connecticut River Bioregion.
Contributions to the fund may be in the form of resisted taxes or donated skills and services. It is hoped that this fund will serve as an example of people's ability to create viable community-based alternatives that protect and affirm life."
The Fund members have set up a number of committees to research projects and to coordinate publicity and recruitment. They are putting together a brochure which will include information on the Bromleys and polling local resisters to see what skills are available. For more information, contact Ellen Kaye and Bob Bady, 185 Elliot St., Brattleboro, VT, 05301, (802)254-9098.
John Hammar, WTR counselor from Mt. Airy, NC, announces the formation of Work, Inc., a new venture in community development "with a different twist." He says, "First, community is defined as the world, and the for-profit corporation is designed to develop micro-enterprises anywhere, tied together with other ventures through the "multi-national" corporate umbrella. We desire to imitate the giant corporations but with a few variations."
These include having workers who are also shareholders, enterprises that are run by the workers as well as the "managers," adequate salaries and benefits for all, and safe, environmentally sound working conditions. Ventures that make a profit will support new ones and/or return the surplus to the community.
One use of the corporation will be to provide employment, housing or other needs to tax resisters who are trying to avoid seizure of assets or who are living in voluntary poverty.
For more information: Work, Inc., c/o John Hammar, 212 Old McKinney Rd., Mt. Airy, NC, 27030-8628, (336)789-9599.
New Administrative Committee Members
At our spring meeting in Newton, KS the Coordinating Committee selected four new people to serve on the Administrative Committee, the group that works with the Coordinator overseeing day-to-day operations. Continuing members of the Committee are Geov Parrish of Seattle, WA, Nancy Rice of Albuquerque, NM, and Pete Meyers of S. Bend, IN.
The other full committee member selected was Carol Coney of Snellville, GA. Carol is probably best known among war tax resisters as the independent producer of the videos "Paying for Peace; WTR in the U.S.," and "Compelled by Conscience," about the Peace Tax Fund. She has been a telephone tax and income tax resister since the early 1980's and has put in time as a WTR activist in both the Northern California and Washington DC WTR groups. She now serves as a NWTRCC area contact in the Atlanta area. Carol has 20 years' experience with broadcast and print media, with video/film production and with photography. She has a variety of computer skills, including internet experience. Her list of peace and justice activities is too long to include here; suffice it to say she's been incredibly busy for years. Most recently she took a shipment of medical supplies to Chiapas, Mexico, purchased in part with refused tax money. Carol works as an independent video producer and media consultant and lives with her husband Kriston, two dogs, and two cats in suburban Atlanta.
One of the new alternate positions on the Committee is being shared by Judith Felker and Dan Lundquist of Minneapolis, MN. Judith and Dan are both active members of their local Friends meeting and approach the war tax concern from a faith-based perspective. They have been instrumental in revitalizing the Minnesota Military Tax Resistance group in the last few years. Both Dan and Judith are especially interested in conflict resolution; they hold monthly practice sessions for people interested in learning nonviolent communication skills. They have been involved in various forms of war tax resistance for many years, as well as other forms of activism. Judith has done organizing with Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) and has committed civil disobedience at Honeywell Headquarters. Dan is an active volunteer for Friends for a Non-Violent World, a peace & justice group in the Twin Cities. Judith currently does fundraising for political organizations; Dan works as an independent computer consultant for individuals and small businesses.
Ginny S. of Shelburne, MA was selected for the other alternate position. Ginny is an active member of the Pioneer Valley WTR group in western Massachusetts. She is especially interested in the ways people can begin WTR and what causes them to let go of it. Her activism began at an early age with the influence of her parents who were involved in civil rights and anti-Vietnam War work. She has been refusing war taxes since the mid-1980's when she was active in South Africa and Central America work. She currently volunteers at the local AFSC office, doing administrative work as well as program work on disarmament and the landmines ban. Ginny is also involved with the Western MA Progressive Coalition, a bioregional group, sustainability efforts, simple living, and land trusts. For the last 12 years she has worked in public transportation. She lives on a dairy farm owned by friends, who share their children and pets with her.
Remembering Frances Schwab
Frances Schwab passed away May 16, 1998 at Sherrill House nursing home in Jamaica Plain, Boston. She was 85, and had suffered from a form of leukemia for several years.
Frances was one of the founding members of New England War Tax Resistance in 1968, and one of the most ardent promoters of the NEWTR model of alternative funding until illness forced her to retire from active participation just a year or two ago. In the '80s, between the "Vietnam War" and "Central American" eras of antiwar activism, a time when many others dropped away from WTR, Frances single-handedly kept NEWTR alive.
Ed Agro of the NEWTR group recalls, "For many years I knew Frances mainly as an activist, and it was not until our conversations during her later years that I discovered that the source of her activism, not only in behalf of war tax refusal but also in other areas ranging from civil rights to gay liberation, was rooted in a profound religious pacifism - for Frances, everything flowed from her religious belief."
Frances was (and is) a mentor to many, an activist when others might have rested. She was one of the many who were instrumental in the founding and work of NWTRCC. She did what needed to be done and then a little bit more. She worked so hard at the local level and recognized the benefits of being connected nationally.
Larry Bassett, former NWTRCC staffperson, remembers: "Frances lived in a small apartment in Boston but she always had room to put up a couple of visitors. She had the smallest kitchen I have ever seen but always made sure no one left from an overnight stay without a proper breakfast. I stayed with her on occasion when I was in town for NWTRCC business in the 1980s. She was a gracious host who knew how to make a visitor comfortable. But as she vigiled and demonstrated and worked as an anti-military and anti-nuclear activist, she also knew how to make people uncomfortable. She asked people hard questions and did not settle for easy answers. At the same time, she seemed to truly see the potential for good in all people."
One of NEWTR's former staff people, Deirdre Doran comments, "When I became the staff person for New England War Tax Resistance, I would call on Frances a lot, especially for the "history", since she was the expert. I never had a quick conversation with her. She was always thoughtful, and spoke carefully about everything. Maybe that's what made her so charitable and fair-minded. And maybe that lack of haste was fundamental to the nonviolence in philosophy and action that she was so committed to. Frances lived simply and paid attention to the details. I visited her at her Tetlow St. apartment, where she lived for almost thirty years, and I saw the simple joy she had in caring for her birds and plants."
"Frances was an activist forever. She was active in CORE (the Congress of Racial Equality), and formed some very close bonds with people she worked with there. She was a social worker in South Boston for several years. She was one of the original members of the Roxbury Tax Scholarship Fund, which later became New England War Tax Resistance. She belonged to Ailanthus, which met Sunday nights at Haley House, a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Boston's South End, and she also washed dishes one morning a week in the soup kitchen there. She was a member of Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Witness for Peace, and other organizations. She was very committed to her church, the Church of the Advent, and her faith was very important to her."
"I always had the feeling from Frances that she was quietly, but strongly, committed to what she knew was the right thing, and she was always moving towards that. She asked for very little when she asked for anything, never wanting to "burden" anyone. More often than not, she would call me because she was concerned about someone else's well-being, and would ask for assistance for them. She was willing to take a stand, even when she felt it would be unpopular. She was a lot more careful than some about anything we did in the peace movement which could be seen as confrontational. In the civil disobedience actions we did as part of Ailanthus, she would raise questions about the spirit of the message we might convey. And during the vigil outside the Kehler/Corner house in Colrain, she wrote about her concerns about confronting the people who lived there."
New England War Tax Resistance has decided to start a special fund in Frances' memory. Anyone can donate to the fund, whether they are tax resisters or not. The fund will be designated for special projects, and will be administered separately from the usual Grants and Loans. To make a contribution to this fund, please contact NEWTR, PO Box 397174, Cambridge, MA 02139, or call (617)859-0662.
LOCAL GROUP REPORTS
Rosa Packard, a WTR counselor who is currently appealing a court decision involving the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (see article elsewhere in this issue), reported on a recent meeting with Quaker young people on conscientious objection.
"What an inspiring opportunity," Rosa says. "I just returned from Spring Gathering, a regional biannual meeting of 14 Quaker Meetings in northwestern New York. The high school group had invited me to speak with them about conscientious objection. Since it had been a while since I had worked with high school aged Friends I wasn't sure what their specific concerns were. Therefore, after a brief introduction, I asked them to tell me their names and meetings and what questions were on their minds.
Here are the questions they asked: How can I pay taxes for the good things and not pay taxes for war? How can I be a conscientious objector before I am eighteen? What are the alternative sources of funding for college for those who do not register? What is your motivation for your conscientious objection (tax witness and court case)? How much of the money that I will earn in my summer job goes for war? How can I help other people to care about this issue?
I read them the minute of support for non-registrants the high school youth wrote in 1980, before any of them were born - the year my own children were teens and facing registration. I told them that issue had led me into tax witness as a way that I as a woman and over draft age could be a conscientious objector and discover experientially the peace testimony.
I gave them copies of the passages in our Book of Faith and Practice and of some historical quotes that show firm support for non-registration and tax witness as an expression of our peace testimony. I suggested that they write their own statements of conscience, answering three questions: What are my beliefs about participation in war? How have these beliefs developed? How have I acted upon these beliefs?
I also suggested that they study the nonviolent tradition in American History and use every opportunity in school to bring these issues into their optional essays and reports. One student who has left public school because of uneasiness with its values and is being homeschooled now may follow this up by interviewing two World War II conscientious objectors in his Friends meeting- one whose alternative service was in mental health programs and one whose alternative service was as a chemist in pest control programs for the forestry service and had as fellow CO's some of the leading ecologists of our time, We need oral histories of these experiences so that the details and passion are not lost and can inspire the future.
The interest of young Friends in conscientious objection had a positive effect on older Friends present who had wearied some and needed a boost. This included me."
Priscilla Adams, who is appealing a recent tax court decision on her Religious Freedom Restoration Act claim, organized a fundraiser this past June at the Moorestown Friends Meeting for the legal costs of her court case. Performers included Priscilla's husband Bruce who is a professional singer, and Skip Mendler, a mime and storyteller. Peter Goldberger & Lior Feldman, the attorneys working on the case, attended with their families. Peter spoke about the case and answered questions to clarify the issues and legal process. The people who attended enjoyed the performers, the legal update, and also the wonderful sense of community. The event raised $3,200 and more contributions continue to arrive in the mail!
Proposed Tax Alternatives By Robert Randall, Brunswick, GA
Awhile back I got a tome from the General Accounting Office on the "Potential Impact of Alternative Taxes on Taxpayers and Administrators". I wanted to look through it because I personally feel it is important for we war tax resisters to know how we might be affected by decisions being made in the broader arena of taxation. We might even want to get involved in that debate.
The volume is 200 pages long, but much of it is repetitive. It limits itself to what its authors consider the alternative tax options currently under serious consideration. The options looked at are the national retail sales tax, two types of value-added tax (VAT), the so-called flat tax, a personal consumption tax, and reforms of the current income tax.
At first blush, the national sales tax and VAT options seem like heaven indeed to the WTR, because they would (or could) completely replace the income tax. But then one quickly realizes that eliminating the income tax does not mean eliminating paying for war. These alternatives would, in fact, make it much more difficult to not pay for war, since the purchase of anything would include a tax for the war machine. While this is already true anyway, a national sales tax or VAT would make it that much more so, and the only way to not pay would apparently be to not buy. War tax nonpayment would be pushed even further into alternative lifestyles and an underground economy.
The so-called flat tax claims to be progressive by including standard deductions or a threshold for taxation, thus eliminating taxes for people on the bottom of the income ladder. Depending on where that threshold is set, this option might be good for many WTRs, because it may be easier to live below a taxable income level than it is now. The real unfairness of the flat tax is that it completes the elimination of the old progressive tax system and further enriches those at the top of the income ladder. Bill Gates would pay taxes at the same rate as Mr. & Mrs. Average American!
Most disconcerting to me is the consumption tax proposal, which seems especially venomous in its handling of poor people. All the money which the well-off can save and invest is untaxed, while money spent or even borrowed by the rest of us is taxed! Don't be fooled into thinking this is a proposal to reduce U.S. overconsumption; the fat-cats pushing this are not concerned that we use more than our share of the world's resources, nor are they likely to reduce their own consumption. They quite simply want their excess left alone, so that it can that much more quickly accumulate even more excess, unhampered by a government (meaning we the people) requirement that some of that excess be shared with those who need it more.
As a war tax converter I found nothing in this report to offer any hope for a better tax system post-change, so long as these are the only options under consideration. Of course, my own preferences for a fair tax system would not be good for war tax refusal either, since it would not include a no-tax option. So the first order of business is still to redirect my taxes now. The second order of business is to witness to my own redirection in the hope that others will be moved to do the same. The third order of business is to seek legal recognition for the right we already have as human beings to not pay for killing each other. And the fourth order of business is to make sure that recognition is so incorporated into whatever tax system we have that it is real and not just lip service.
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