SPRING 96 NEWSLETTER
Churches Speak Out on Spending Priorities
Conscientious Objection Today: Opportunities and Challenges
Campaign Embarks on Critical Year
Your Tax Dollar at Work
Conscience: Use It or Lose It
On the Trail: News from the Campaign
If you have something to say about the Peace Tax Fund Bill this tax season, one place to say it may be the "Letters to the Editor" section of your newspaper. The "Letters" section of the newspaper provides a forum for you to deliver a message to what may be your largest audience ever. Surveys show that nearly one third of a newspaper's audience read the editorial pages. Countless letters have been published about the Peace Tax Fund Bill over the years. These are some pointers.
A letter to the editor should be brief and clear. If you are writing on behalf of a local group or as a member of an organization, identify yourself. Type your letter, or hand write it clearly. Limit the text to one topic and to one page; short letters are more likely to be printed. Make sure your facts are correct. Be polite.
Be sure you include your name, address, as well as phone numbers at work and at home. If your letter is not printed, don't be discouraged; keep trying!
Printed letters can have an increased impact when they are copied and mailed to members of Congress. For more information, contact the national office.
In Congress the debate over our national spending priorities continues. Proposals have focused on overhauling the welfare system, cutting taxes, ending entitlements, and balancing the budget. Although the debate is not over, it seems clear that the final decisions will include a sharp reduction in spending for social programs. Absent from the debate, and declared off limits for cuts by both the Republican leadership of Congress and the Administration, is military spending.
Leaders from the religious community have weighed in on this debate. Recently, three distinct bodies of religious leaders have issued statements challenging the morality of the proposed spending priorities.
In November the National Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Washington, DC. They released a statement saying, "The Catholic Bishops Conference cannot support policies which undermine indiscriminately the poorest members of our society, blaming them not only for their personal plight and poverty, but also for many of the other economic and social ills affecting our country." This statement came on the heels of a letter from Bishop John Ricard, the chair of the Conference's Domestic Policy Committee to Rep. Bill Archer (R-TX) which asked, "For example, at a time of necessary fiscal restraint, why is Congress choosing to fund weapons at levels beyond the requests of the Pentagon? We support greater fiscal restraint; we do not support priorities in this legislation which will leave poor children and families worse off."
Soon after, the National Council of Churches (NCC), a body representing 32 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican church bodies (such as the United Methodist Church, Church of the Brethren, Friends United Meeting, American Baptist Church) adopted a statement on spending priorities. Declaring that they could not be quiet in the face of this debate, NCC said, "When government priorities serve military interests at the expense of family life; establish programs of assistance for the native-born from which the foreign-born are excluded; take food and health care from the destitute, especially children and the elderly, to provide tax advantage for those already well off... the democratic contract is rebuffed. Appallingly, in the name of balancing the budget, the moral vision is discarded."
In December, a group of evangelicals personally delivered their message to Congress. They prayed in the Capital Rotunda seeking to insure that the nation's spending priorities treat the poor justly. "A budget is also a moral document," said Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, and spokesman for the group. "The immorality of further benefiting the rich while balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, the young, and the old is unacceptable to us as Christians."
Fifty five of the evangelical leaders were arrested while praying. To those in power in Washington, they offered a divine message by way of Isaiah: "What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?"
(The author coordinates the National Youth and Militarism Program of the American Friends Service Committee. The following is an edited version of Mr. Jordans remarks during a panel discussion at the National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors (NISBCO) Consultative Council meeting in December 1995.)
A discussion of conscientious objection is both difficult and important at the present moment. The challenges we face today are twofold: to develop our issues in a way that speaks to the public concern about violence in our society and culture, and to find a more adequate and imaginative way of articulating our concerns about connections between militarism and violence.
This is how we can meet these challenges. Dialogue with the nebulous, but growing, anti-violence movement is a necessity. This conversation will not be easy in some cases, but there are pleasant surprises.
How difficult it may be is seen in an article published in the Childrens' Defense Fund newsletter. The piece praised National Guard boot camps for high school dropouts as a "promising approach to the problem of violence." It is odd that an organization which has long promoted progressive and humane federal policies for youth would fail to see the contradiction of promoting the military as a solution to the problem of violence. I know that not all CDF staffers see the military as an alternative to violence. But the fact that such a program could be promoted by an organization with CDF's agenda illustrates just how effective military propaganda has been. CDF will never be successful at pushing its own federal agenda for children and youth if the government continues to fund military programs at bloated levels.
But there are folks out there doing anti-violence work who see through this propaganda. A few years ago I was on a panel in Los Angeles with a woman who assists former gang members in trying to develop productive lives. She was convinced that there were similarities between the military mentality and the gang mentality. It was ironic that her program was trying to get gang members to unlearn the same behaviors and attitudes that are being promoted by the military.
Secondly, we can meet today's challenges by working with groups involved in youth leadership training.There is a real need to incorporate into these trainings the discussion of issues of conscience, specifically the role of conscience in decision-making about personal and public issues. Youth leadership training is an emerging area, yet at this time few incorporate this aspect.
Thirdly, we need to develop more creative local angles on issues of conscience and concerns about militarization. For example, in a number of communities people are questioning whether having military programs in the schools is in violation of school anti-weapons/anti-violence policies. This is more than just an abstract moralistic concern. The use of weapons in high school JROTC programs or the formal partnerships between high school military units and the National Rifle Association present us with expanded opportunities to raise concerns about issues of violence, militarism, and ultimately, about matters of conscience.
The current period is ripe with opportunities to educate and organize about issues of conscience. As we act on these opportunities, we also need to be aware of the real challenges we face.
The presence of US troops in Bosnia will raise the conscientious objection issue for many people who are confronted with the possibility of war, many of them for the first time. This is difficult because this military action is popular with many people and organizations who might be considered our allies in other contexts. Will service members who face issues of conscience receive the support they need and deserve in the context of a military action widely supported by liberals?
Additionally, the dramatic expansion of military programs in the schools has been facilitated by a tendency on the part of many to view the military as a part of the solution to the problem of violence in our society.
There is also the organizational context. Many organizations that have carried concerns around issues of conscience are operating on shaky ground. Some have folded, while others have been put on deep standby. Overall, less staff time is being put into work on these issues. Fewer people are doing the work in a concentrated, ongoing manner.
Yet our work remains of critical importance. We've always known that the concept of conscientious objection - broadly defined to include selective objection and objection to other forms of violence - is pertinent to a much broader segment of the population. More people are conscientious objectors than would explicitly identify themselves or be recognized as such. Unfortunately, our movement has had the tendency to treat CO as something over which people of a certain affiliation (religious pacifists, etc.) have ownership. This tendency has limited the appeal of our work and has caused us to set our sights rather narrowly.
In the present societal context of proliferating violence, conscientious objection may be more relevant than ever.
This will be a year like no other for our Campaign. There is the potential for our work to take a significant step forward with a Senate hearing. There is an opportunity for us to continue to redefine ourselves as we connect the Peace Tax Fund Bill with the struggle for religious freedom. There is also some uncertainty as we face the retirement of our lead Senate and House cosponsors.
In December, lead Senate sponsor Mark Hatfield (R-OR) announced that he will not seek reelection. In the House, lead sponsor Andrew Jacobs (D-IN) has also said he will retire. This means when the 105th Congress convenes in 1997, our lead sponsors will not be among those sworn in. This is the first time the Campaign will need to find new lead sponsors in both houses of Congress.
Before they leave, both Hatfield and Jacobs say they want to make a special effort to move the Bill forward. An aide for Rep. Jacobs says the Peace Tax Fund Bill is at the very top of their office's legislative priorities. Other issues top Sen. Hatfield's priorities; however the Bill is among the projects he will be working on. Both Rep. Jacobs and Sen. Hatfield have many chips they can cash in over the year in pursuit of their priorities. This bodes well for us.
The Campaign will certainly miss their leadership. Sen. Hatfield first introduced the Peace Tax Fund Bill in 1975. He did so at the request of a Mennonite pastor from Iowa. He has led the effort in the Senate ever since. His sponsorship and his position as the chair of the Appropriations Committee helped allay fears that the Peace Tax Fund Bill interferes with Congress' power of the purse. Rep. Jacobs became the lead sponsor in the House in 1991. His position as a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee was key to obtaining hearings in 1992 and 1995.
Sen. Hatfield and Rep. Jacobs are among more than fifty members of Congress who have announced they will retire at the end of the year. Retirement gives the Campaign a special opportunity. A number of Congressmembers who support the Bill have been reluctant to become cosponsors because it might become a campaign issue. Issues of conscience are difficult to defend with a sound bite. For those who are not running for reelection, this is no longer an issue. We hope to use this to our advantage.
It is an important year. The Campaign wants to rise to the challenge. The national office has set as its top legislative priority a hearing in the Senate. Campaign lobbyists say a Senate hearing is an achievable goal. Congressional supporters say a hearing would be a considerable accomplishment and would give momentum for the Bill in the next Congress.
That the Campaign would consider making a Senate hearing in 1996 a goal is by itself significant. It is conceivable because of important recent developments.
Lobbyists from denominational offices have put forth an extraordinary effort in recent months to intensify the Campaign's legislative efforts. The group includes representatives of the Church of the Brethren, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Mennonite Central Committee, Presbyterian Church USA, and Unitarian Universalist Association. Their active participation in the Campaign's legislative visits gives the Bill attention and respect from Congressional staffs that it otherwise would not receive. If we get a hearing this year, it will be in part because of the work of these offices.
Passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the continued existence of the RFRA coalition has also brought the Campaign to this point. The powerful and diverse coalition of organizations that successfully pushed for passage of RFRA has continued to meet and work together on religious freedom issues. This coalition has developed a keen and ongoing interest in the Peace Tax Fund Bill. A number of key members of the coalition have even joined important lobby visits. As a result, the Bill has begun to be associated with the religious freedom agenda, which has increased its profile and helped score points on the Hill.
The interest that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has expressed in the Peace Tax Fund Bill also gives us reason to hope. In meetings with Campaign lobbyists Sen. Hatch acknowledged his strong support of the Peace Tax Fund Bill as an important religious freedom effort. Sen. Hatch is a member of the Senate Finance Committee. He chairs the Subcommittee on Taxation, a very appropriate place for a hearing. Sen. Hatch has indicated in the past that he might call for a hearing on the Bill. As recently as January, an aide for Sen. Hatch seemed receptive to the idea and promised to pursue it with the Senator.
TOWARD A HEARING
In addition to Senator Hatch's position on the Senate Finance Committee, another thing is working in favor of a hearing in the Senate.
The Campaign has built support for a hearing on the Bill in a number of prominent Senate offices. Sen. Jim Jeffords (R -VT) is said to be one hundred percent in favor of hearings. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS) has promised to write a letter to the chair of Senate Finance asking for hearings. The staff for Sen. Bradley (D-NJ), who is a member of Senate Finance, has shown great interest in getting a hearing on the Bill.
What would it take to get a hearing? According to an aide on the Senate Finance Committee this is what we need: The chair of Senate Finance, William Roth (R-DE), needs to receive letters from a certain number of Senators on the Finance Committee asking him to hold hearings. Preferably, these letters would come from over half of the members of the Committee, both Democrats and Republicans.
While this may seem like a large hurdle, there are some positive signs. A number of Senators have already said they will ask Roth to hold a hearing. Campaign lobbyists have met with aides of all the Senators on the Finance Committee. Few raised questions or indicated they would stand in the way of a hearing. The big question is whether the Campaign can build up enough support on the committee for hearings. This political test could possibly come as early as May.
Even though the Campaign does not have ten Senate cosponsors lined up, Senator Hatfield will introduce the Peace Tax Fund Bill soon. It is difficult to get a hearing without legislation. After Senator Hatfield introduces we will continue to work toward ten cosponsors.
The Campaign needs to draw on every resource if we are to reach our goals for 1996. Your letters continue to be effective in raising and defining the issue to members of Congress. We need a special push from you as we try to move forward. Do not let this tax season pass without taking a stand for conscience. Together we can realize the promise of this year.
Forty-five cents of each 1995 federal income tax dollar was spent on military programs, according to a report by the Friends Committee on National Legislation. The report examined government budget documents from last year and found that twenty-five cents went for current military programs, while nineteen cents was spending related to past military programs.
As taxpayers race to meet the April 15 deadline, they will be calculating taxes collected and used during calendar year 1995. Those with deeply held religious or moral beliefs against participation in the military face a special dilemma at this time. They are forced to choose between obeying the law or following the dictates of their conscience. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee estimates that between ten and twenty thousand taxpayers will violate tax law rather than pay for military programs. Others choose to live under the taxable income rather than be liable for taxes for the military. Thousands more will comply with tax law, but will do so under protest.
Total spending related to military programs in 1995 was $507.9 billion, up $10.4 billion from 1994. Current military spending for the Department of Defense, atomic weapons programs with the Department of Energy, and military-related agencies like the CIA consumed $285.4 billion. Spending for veterans' programs and interest for the national debt due to past military spending cost another $222.4 billion. For perspective, consider that one thousand seconds is about seventeen minutes, one million seconds is nearly eleven and a half days, and one billion seconds is about thirty-two years.
The media and IRS often give a different picture. The figures above pertain only to payments of federal income, estate, gift and excise taxes, revenues which go into the federal fund. Not included in the calculations are monies in trust funds such as Social Security and Medicare, highway and other small funds collected for dedicated purposes. Figures cited by the government and media often lump revenues for both budgeted funds and trust funds together. Thus the level of military spending per income tax dollar is distorted. This "unified budget" originated during the Vietnam era as the government sought to cloak increased levels of military spending for the war.
When it comes to the financial burden of military spending, taxpayers in the United States stand alone. The gap in percentage of taxes for military programs between the United States and other western nations is large. Taxpayers in most western nations pay less than 10% for military programs. This gap will likely increase. The Citizens Budget Campaign, a coalition of peace and religious organizations that work to reduce military spending, predict the military will take an increasingly larger bite from income taxes in the future as the government decreases social spending and increases military spending.
(The author is the Executive Director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.)
You would have a right to be upset with me if I failed to share with you the spell-binding and enriching experience of the book **Walls: Resisting the Third Reich - One Woman's Story** (Beacon Press, 1974). For twelve terrible years of war and oppression, author Hiltgurt Zassenhaus endured unbelievable hardship and danger. She voluntarily attracted additional adversity to defy external powers from forcing her to cooperate in an evil she could not abide.
Given the job by the Nazi government of censoring the correspondence of Scandinavian political prisoners in Germany, she used the position to smuggle them food, medicine and a little human kindness. A succession of harrowing close calls resulted. At war's end, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for saving the Scandinavian prisoners from the firing squads that emptied those prisons with such awful efficiency. The pressure to comply and survive was intense. "We are to obey orders, not ask questions," she was instructed. "You're young. You can bend. Go along and the future will be yours!"
When I realized to my amazement that Dr. Zassenhaus, now a retired physician in her 70's, lives in the U.S. not an hour from my home, I reached for my telephone. I explained the nature of our work at the Peace Tax Fund. "Good for that," she exclaimed. "I am on your side. Can you please come and visit me?"
I inquired about her observations since the Nazi years. She had an instant reply: "I used to get very angry when people suggested that Nazism could also happen here. It was my great error. It can appear whenever there is a climate of apathy, indolence and fear. It happens every day in daily life. The same apathy that benumbed the vast majority of good German people, who neither adored nor resisted Nazism, can engulf us. Those marching with guns and boots were relatively small compared with the vast indifferent majority who pretended not to hear or see. The majority of Germans, sooner or later, succumbed to pressure and joined the Party, not because of their convictions, but because they had none."
To make another point Dr. Zassenhaus related a recent experience when she asked a class of kindergarten children to define conscience. "It tells you when you're bad and when someone hurts," they agreed. "Where is it?" she asked. "Is it on the wall? in the corner? Let's look for it."
"It's not in the corner!" piped one as they searched the room. "It's in me."
"Where inside?" she asked.
"It's in your head," said one. "When I do something bad, my head hurts."
"It's in your stomach," said another. "My stomach gets sore."
"No," said a third, "it's in your skin. Mine gets cold and prickly."
Not long after her day with the kindergartners, Dr. Zassenhaus, busy with patients, reluctantly accepted a phone call only because of the caller's insistence that his concern was extremely urgent. "This is Danny from the other day," a small voice said. "I've got a conscience problem. My friend is in the hospital. My mother thinks I should visit him, but I want to go to the movies and my friends want me to go to the movies with them."
"What is your conscience telling you?" Dr. Zassenhaus asked. "What would make you feel better tomorrow?" Silence, then: "I'll visit my friend in the hospital. I can go to the movies tomorrow."
"Children know the truth more than older people, " Dr. Zassenhaus told me. "Conscience is born with you the same as your two eyes and two arms. If you never used your arms you'd be crippled. It's the same with the conscience. If you don't use it - little by little - it will be insufficient ... not working anymore.
"How could it happen in Germany that people didn't feel the conscience?" she agonized, and then answered her own question. "If you don't use the truth, it dies. That is how concentration camps can happen. People ignored their consciences until they didn't have them anymore. It's a very frightening thing."
The poignant insights of Dr. Zassenhaus seem an especially timely gift as we embark on the busy tasks of 1996: seeking a hearing on the Peace Tax Fund Bill in the Senate; taking advantage of the last year for our lead Congressional sponsors; making arguments so strong they have the stature of religious liberty. A prerequisite for this busyness, I now know, is to identify the location of our conscience and to do some painstaking internal work - a task we often avoid, I'm convinced, because it's easier to blame Nazis.
As Dr. Zassenhaus says, talking about conscience is one thing. Listening to it is another.
A CALL FOR ACTIVISTS
The Campaign is seeking volunteers for a new network of grassroots organizers. The Congressional District Contact (CDC) program has been reorganized and is now seeking activists who want to make a commitment to working with the national office on issues of taxes and conscience. The basic tasks of CDCs are to educate and organize at the local level, to maintain a dialogue with congressional representatives, and to work with the national office to amplify lobby efforts. Each CDC will be asked to make a one year commitment. For more information complete and return the form on the enclosed envelope, or contact the national office.
FINAL COUNT: 10,000 LETTERS
The 10,000 Letters program came to a close in November. At that time, organizers announced that the Campaign had met its goal of generating 10,000 letters to Congress over the past year about the Peace Tax Fund Bill. Organizers say the credit for the program's success lies with the more than 100 local activists who relentlessly coordinated letter-writing efforts in 41 states. The 10,000 Letter project has given the Campaign's legislative efforts a boost and reinvigorated grassroots support for the Campaign.
WANTED: WAR TAX STORIES
The Campaign is collecting information regarding war tax resistance. If you have a story about the impact of war tax resistance on your life, about the reasons why you are a war tax resister, about your experience with the IRS, or any other aspect of war tax resistance, we want it. The Campaign is planning to collect these stories for distribution to the public and Congress. If you have information to share, please contact the national office. Written information is especially helpful.
TOLL FREE NUMBER FOR CAMPAIGN
Starting in April, you can contact the Campaign at no cost by using our new toll-free number. Just dial 1-888-PeaceTax to order resources, to change your mailing address, or for the latest information about the Bill.
There are new and updated resources now available for you just in time for tax day. The Campaign will be distributing a resource with specific steps you can take to help pass the Peace Tax Fund Bill. The Friends Committee on National Legislation is also producing a tax day resource. Designed to be copied and distributed, this sheet gives updated information on military spending and the Peace Tax Fund Bill. The War Resisters League is once again this year producing a handout with a detailed breakdown on the percentage of each income tax dollar that is spent on the military. All of these resources can be useful tools for your tax season organizing. Contact the national office for information on ordering.
"Let us pledge our support to all who struggle against religious oppression and rededicate ourselves to fostering peace..." President Clinton in a proclamation making January 12th Religious Freedom Day, 1996. "Any steps I've taken against the practices that are so obviously evil seem to me to be more from my desire to be free." Marion Bromley, a founder of the modern war tax resistance movement and a 50-year war tax resister, passed away on January 21, 1996. "Although we did not always agree, he is a statesman of true dignity and integrity." Sen. Robert Dole on the retirement of Peace Tax Fund cosponsor Sen. Mark Hatfield from a half-century of public service. "The only way to eradicate the threat of nuclear war and ensure human survival is to abolish war." Nobel Peace Prize winner Joseph Rotblat. Rotblat quit his work on the project to develop the atomic bomb 1944 for reasons of conscience. "We're having a problem generating peace worldwide." Andrew Messing, a retired Special Forces officer and executive director of the National Defense Council Foundation. The foundation released a report listing 71 little wars were fought around the world in 1995 and called for increased military spending to meet this threat.
STATES WITHOUT ARMIES
Besides Costa Rica, there are at least 22 other countries without armies, including; Africa - Mauritius; Americas - Dominica, Haiti, Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Asia - Maldives; Europe - Andorra, Iceland, Holy See, Liechtenstein, Monaco; Pacific - Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Belau, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Western Samoa. ---- From AFSC's Peacework
Compelled by Conscience: Why We Need a Peace Tax Fund. A 20 minute video with instruction pamphlet to rent $10.00; to purchase $15.00
Communities of Conscience: Collected Statements on Conscience and Taxes for Military Preparation, 2nd edition. $7.95
War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military, 4th edition edited by Ruth Benn. $12.00
Questions that Refuse to Go Away, by Marian Franz. $5.95
Downwardly Mobile for Conscience Sake, edited by Dorothy N. Andersen. $10.00
Why I Am a Conscientious Objector, by John M. Drescher. $4.95
Handbook on Military Taxes and Conscience by Friends Committee on War Tax Concerns. $8.00
What Belongs to Caesar? and The Tax Dilemma: Praying for Peace Paying for War --- two classics by Donald D. Kaufman. $4.95 each or $7.95 for both
Peace & Taxes... God & Country: A Guide for Seeking Clearness on War Tax Concerns, by Chel Avery. $2.00
TOOLS FOR PEACE TAX FUND ACTIVISTS
Peace Tax Fund Basic Brochure. 0.10 each
Peace Tax Fund Penny Flyer: Do Your Taxes Have to Pay for War? 100 for $1.00
Paying for Peace an overview of peace tax bills throughout the world. $5.00
Employing Conflict Resolution Skills when Lobbying Congress 0.50
The text of the U.S. Peace Tax Fund Bill - HR 1402. 0.50
Buttons: Taxes for Peace Not War or Dove with Leaf (circle one). 0.50
NCPTF Poster: Dove and Planet Earth $1.00
Up to $5.95..........add $1.00
$6.00 to $7.95......add $2.00
$8.00 to $9.95......add $3.00
$10.00 and over...add $4.00