From the April 2012 issue of PeaceSigns
the late 1960s, taxes were raised mainly to fight wars."
Taxes, 1983, U.S. Dept. of Treasury, IRS Publication 21.
a minimum, Jesus raised a question about paying taxes when he said,
"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and give to God what is God's." In the
minds of his hearers, clearly everything belonged to God. The point is
that the question of paying taxes for war is a deeply spiritual one, and
one that has been with us for centuries. Some brief highlights follow.
One of the earliest and most persistent cases of resistance to the
payment of war taxes by an Anabaptist group occurred among the
Hutterites in Moravia. Between 1596 and 1622, the Hutterian Brethren in
Moravia refused to pay taxes for war. Each year, the authorities
confiscated livestock, wine grain, and other belongings from their
communities. In the Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren, they explained,
"We could only lay it all before the Lord our God and choose to suffer
robbery than willingly give anything and defile our consciences … We say
this in the fear of God, for we pay no taxes for vengeance, nor do we
give anything as substitute for such taxes." ("No Taxes for Vengeance,"
Seeking Peace, Titus Peachey, Linda Gehman Peachey, Good Books,
Intercourse, PA, pp. 45-47.)
1600s: One of the earliest
known instances of war tax refusal in what is now the United States took
place in 1637 when the Algonquin Indians opposed taxation by the Dutch
to help improve a local Dutch fort.
an "Epistle of tender love and caution to Friends in Pennsylvania," John
Woolman and John Churchman wrote: "… as we cannot be concerned in wars
and fightings, so neither ought we to contribute thereto, by paying the
tax directed by said act, though suffering be the consequence of our
refusal." (Donald D. Kaufman, What Belongs to Ceasar?, Herald Press,
Scottdale, PA, 1969 p. 75.)
1775: Mennonites and Dunkards
wrote to the General Assembly of Pennsylvania: “… we have dedicated
ourselves to serve all Men in every Thing that can be helpful to the
Preservation of Men's lives, but we find no Freedom in giving, or doing,
or assisting in any Thing by which Men's Lives are destroyed or hurt.
(Kaufman, p. 77.)
At the time of the revolution, some Mennonites
paid taxes while others did not. Some felt that citizens are responsible
to pay the taxes, and the government then assumes the responsibility
for what it does with the taxes.
1860s: During the Civil War, many Mennonites paid the fee required of those who refused induction into the army.
R. W. Benner and L. J. Heatwole, two Mennonite leaders, were tried and
convicted under the Espionage Law for advising Mennonites in West
Virginia, via letter, not to purchase war bonds or stamps. An Old Order
Amish bishop, Manases E. Bontrager, from Dodge City, Kansas, and Samuel
H. Miller, editor of The Weekly Budget, were also fined when a letter by
Bishop Bontrager expressing sorrow that some Mennonites purchased war
bonds, was printed in the Budget. (Pressure on the Home Front, Peachey
and Peachey, pp. 129-131.)
April 22, 1918: George
Cooprider in McPherson, Kansas, Groveland Township, was tarred and
feathered for refusing to buy war bonds. A Mennonite minister, D. A.
Diener was also tarred and feathered that same night. He was later
beaten and his house ransacked. He finally yielded and purchased bonds.
(Mob Violence and Kansas Mennonites in 1918, by James C. Juhnke.)
In order to pay for the war effort, the number of U.S. taxpayers
required to pay income tax increased from 4 million in 1939 to 43
million in 1945. In 1942, MCC Peace Section urged the government to
issue U.S. Civilian Government Bonds, isolated from the national war
effort. By December of 1944, Peace Section acknowledged that all efforts
to secure the issue of civilian bonds had ended in failure. (Silence
and Courage: Income Taxes, War and Mennonites, 1940-1993, p. 8.)
1989: “A Resolution on Military Tax Withholding,” by the Mennonite Church stated the following:
the Normal 89 General Assembly delegates (a) support the Mennonite
General Board in establishing a policy that federal income taxes not be
withheld from the wages of any of its employees who make this request
because of conscientious objection to the use of their taxes for
military purposes, and (b) support other church boards and agencies that
may adopt similar policies.
1997: In a statement on
violence, both Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church
urge members to: Be steadfast in our refusal to participate in, train
for, pay for, or directly profit from the use of military violence.
(“And No One Shall Make Them Afraid,” approved by the General Boards of
Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church, in Denver,
Colorado, November 22, 1997.)
2010: In Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania, a largely Mennonite group formed to urge U.S. citizens to
withhold $10.40 from their income tax returns. The Heartland Peace Tax Fund in Kansas, formed earlier, also supports the exercise of conscience against war via withholding war taxes.