David Bassett, M.D.
A. Statement of Conscience with Particular Attention to Conscientious Objection to War and to Payment for War. David R. Bassett Oct. 15, 2007
I agree with the dictionary’s definition of conscience as “a faculty, power, or principle conceived to decide as to the moral quality of one’s own thoughts or acts, enjoining what is good.” I recognize and respect the power of words. I take especial note of “to decide”; “acts”; “enjoining” (“enjoin” is “to command…or direct with authority”); “what is good”. The dictionary also emphasizes the residence of conscience in individuals “(The) sense or consciousness of the moral goodness of one’s own conduct, intentions, or character, together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good.”
I recognize my conscience as an essential part of who I am. It has developed from all my experiences, including my religious training and beliefs, the influences of my parents and teachers (broadly defined), my reading and studies, my rational and feeling capacities.
My conscience derives from certain principles which I learned years ago, which I believe represent eternal truths: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; “thou shalt not kill”; “primum non nocere” (first, do no harm); “violence begets violence”. I believe in the principles and testimonies of equality, peace and nonviolence, simplicity, stewardship, and integrity; and that friendship, love, and the capacity for forgiveness are essential for human communities. I believe in the existence of good and of evil, of right and wrong. My conscience impels me to adhere to the foregoing principles and testimonies, as one seeks to have good and right prevail.
My conscience is and should be the prime determinant of how I act. It should be recognized as a key component of religious belief and expression. The primacy of conscience in determining human action should be and has (variably) been recognized by national and international bodies.
My conscience is strengthened by knowing of great souls, whose lives have exemplified the principles I seek to follow. Among these are Jesus, George Fox, John Woolman, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Over time, there have been efforts to state a comprehensive listing of principles aiming to create a peaceful, just, and beneficent worldwide community. I believe that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, is a profoundly important statement, worthy of our careful attention and adherence. (See www.un.org/Overview/rights.html).
I now turn to that specific area of conscience which pertains to war and peace, violence and nonviolence.
Violence begets violence, and should therefore be prevented. Warfare is the most extreme form of violence.
Within the last century, there has been increasing recognition of the ways in which wars, and the military oppression represented by colonialism, could be prevented. Nonviolent action has, on a number of occasions, either largely or partially brought about peaceful resolution of conflict. Recent reports of what has been accomplished by nonviolent action is recorded in works by Mohandas Gandhi1; Martin Luther King, Jr.2; Gene Sharp3; Ackerman and Duval4; Holmes and Gan5; Howard Zinn6; and others. It is reasonable and necessary for us to work for the prevention of warfare and terrorism by reliance on nonviolent methods, and by efforts to assure that the principles of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights are widely adopted, and adhered to.
In conscience, I cannot support any form of warfare (or terrorism, which is a form of warfare.) I have been (certainly since young adulthood) a conscientious objector to performing military service. (My status as a conscientious objector was recognized by the US government in 1955, following which I performed alternative civilian service, working as a physician in the American Friends Service Committee community development project in Barpali, Orissa, India, in 1955-57).
Payment for war (or for military systems, which are the means by which warfare is conducted) is a form of participation in war. Since the Vietnam War era, I and my wife have been conscientiously opposed to paying military taxes. While the US government recognizes sincere conscientious objection to military service, it continues to require its citizens to pay for war, through federal taxes. This I cannot, in conscience, do. Thus I must (as my wife and I have done since 1970) act against the law (i.e., engage in nonviolent civil disobedience), by not voluntarily paying that portion of my (our) federal taxes which pays for the nation’s current military expenses. Our government continues each year to extract those moneys, plus penalty and interest, from our financial accounts, in this way denying our freedom of religious expression. The principle of the freedom of religious expression is supposedly upheld by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; and is called for by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, [entered into force in 1976.] (see www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm).
I am willing to pay the full amount of my federal taxes, if the government would provide that my tax payments will be used only for non-military purposes. My strong preference is to adhere to the nation’s laws, so long as these do not cause me to act against my conscience. Since this is not at present possible, I and my wife began (in 1970), along with others in our community, (and now with others in this nation, and internationally), efforts to change the federal tax laws, to recognize the principle of conscientious objection to military taxation (COMT), thus extending the already-recognized principle of conscientious objection to military service (COMS). In the US, these efforts to change the tax laws are embodied in the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund (RFPTF) Bill (H.R. 1191, introduced in the 111th Congress on April 23, 2009; initially introduced in 1972.) The organization whose function it is to advocate for this legislation is the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF) (www.peacetaxfund.org). (The international organization working in this arena is Conscience and Peace Tax International (www.cpti.ws).
To establish the right of COMT, it will be necessary to persuade a majority (and, if there were a Presidential veto, a two-thirds majority) of those present in the House and Senate that the right of COMT is an inalienable right, just as is the right of COMS. We will need to persuade our fellow citizens, and our legislators, that those of us opposed to paying for war are at present required (ultimately, forced) to pay for war, in violation of our consciences, or to break the law and engage in war tax resistance.
The steps taken by the federal government to enforce the present laws pertaining to our payment of federal taxes represent a form of oppression.
Passage of the RFPTF Bill would correct this present wrong. This Bill, when passed, will inform citizens that the right of COMT is now recognized by this legislation. It will challenge all citizens to consider whether in conscience they can or cannot pay for war; it will provide a mechanism for informing Congress and the public of the public’s viewpoint on this important question; and it will create a mechanism for providing “alternative service” for the tax dollars of those who are conscientious objectors to all war.
- Mohandas K. Gandhi. Gandhi’s Autobiography; The Story of My Experiments With Truth. Public Affairs Press, 1948. Washington, D.C.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? Harper & Row; 1967
- Gene Sharp. Civilian-Based Defense; A Post-military Weapons System. Princeton University Press, 1990.
- Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall. A Force More Powerful; A Century of Nonviolent Conflict. St. Martin’s Press. New York. 2000. From this book, an important PBS documentary was made (with the same title).While one could originally learn about the documentary from PBS.org, the new website is aforcemorepowerful.org/films/afmp/index.php
- Robert L. Holmes & Barry L. Gan. Nonviolence in Theory and Practice. 2nd edition. Waveland Press, Inc., Long Grove, Illinois. 2005
- Howard Zinn. The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace. Beacon Press, 2002.
B. Brief Statement of Conscience in Regard to Paying for War. David R. Bassett, July 23, 2007
Paying for war is a form of participation in war. Let us have the courage to face this as a fact; and the courage to find nonviolent ways to respond to this fact.
Harold A. (“H.A.”) Penner
Statement of Conscience—March 30, 2011
I object on religious grounds to the payment of that portion of my federal income taxes that supports war making and militarism, some 48% of the U.S. budget according to the War Resisters League (new window). U.S. military spending currently equals the military spending of the next 15 countries combined! I do not want my federal tax dollars to be used to underwrite an out-of-control military machine that is destroying God’s creation at the same time that legitimate human needs are not met.
I am not opposed to paying taxes. I willingly pay that portion of my tax liability that goes toward peace-oriented systems and support life. But I am a religious conscientious objector to the death and destruction that the military apparatus represents and am compelled as a disciple of Jesus to take this action.
Militarized America wants to make war our method and weapons our instruments. While we live in a troubled and dangerous world, neither handguns nor nuclear arsenals are the way to solve human problems. Our children are mimicking the behavior of adults who kill to solve their problems, resulting in the violence found in our homes, on our streets, and in our schools.
I urge the U.S. Congress to pass the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill, which would restore the constitutional right for individuals to practice religious beliefs according to their consciences. And I invite all to join the movement of conscience that is turning the world toward nonviolence as its method of dealing with conflict.
—Harold A. (“H.A.”) Penner
Richard N. Woodard
Statement of Conscience—March 30, 2008
Beginning in 1970 with the Vietnam War, I became disenchanted with the use of war as an option to promote peace. At the same time I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. As I studied scripture, I began to realize that Jesus is love, not war. Hence, I am now a conscientious objector and for the last four years (2004-2007) have paid no federal income tax so that none of my funds can be used to promote our wars. I have also raised three boys in the environment that volunteering for military service is not an option in our family, and that their dad’s view of his biggest failure would be if any of his sons joined the military.