ONLINE Edition of the Spring 1997 Newsletter
|Campaign Maps Out Strategy for New Congress|
Congressional Directory 1997-1998 (webpage uses tables)
International Conference Brings Activists Together
On the Trail
White House and Campaign Lobbyists Discuss Peace Tax Fund Bill
Past Newsletters:Summer 1995, Fall 1995, Spring 1996, Summer 1996, Fall 1996
CAMPAIGN MAPS OUT STRATEGY FOR NEW CONGRESS
In 1997, the top priority for the Campaign is a Senate hearing on the Peace Tax Fund. Efforts to achieve this may hinge on a new strategy being employed by Campaign officials. On the advice of Congressional supporters, the Peace Tax Fund Bill is being rewritten. The point of this redraft is to increase the focus on the freedom of conscience and decrease language directed at the tax code. Supporters hope this will result in a referral to House and Senate judiciary committees, places more likely to hold hearings. Previous Congressional sponsors are excited by this strategy and believe it will increase bipartisan support.
The lead sponsors for the Peace Tax Fund Bill in the House and Senate during the 105th Congress will be announced soon. Rep. Jacobs and Sen. Hatfield retired at the end of the 104th Congress. At this point it appears a Democrat from the south and a Republican from the midwest who will lead the charge in the House.
In the last Congress, military spending was off the table for cuts. Despite Speaker Gingrich's call to turn the Pentagon into a triangle, it is not clear the will to reduce military spending exists in this Congress either. Some believe Congress will continue to fund the Pentagon at Cold War levels and above amounts requested by the President. Military-related spending will continue to take half of each federal income tax dollar.
The last Congress reduced spending and ended mandates on many programs serving low-income and other disadvantaged people. The driving force behind many of these cuts was balancing the budget. In 1996, both presidential candidates ran on a platform of tax cuts. To achieve this and stay on target for a balanced budget, the 105th Congress will need to make deeper spending cuts. Spending for social service program looks vulnerable. Look for less and less of each federal tax dollar to go for social services in the near future.
There is speculation that radical tax reform is on the horizon. President Clinton and House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Bill Archer are interested in reforming the tax structure and are considering a national sales tax as a substitute for the federal income tax. This plan would eliminate the Internal Revenue Service and radically alter the present proposal for an alternative to paying taxes for the military.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on the constitutionality of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Enacted into law in 1993, RFRA forces the government to prove a "compelling interest" and employ the "least restrictive means" in situations where governmental requirements overrule individual conscience. A Texas town seeking to keep a church from enlarging its historic worship space is asking the high court to strike down the law. The Court is expected to rule on RFRA this summer.
Some war tax resisters are thinking of using RFRA as a defense against punative actions by the IRS. A test case will go before tax court in 1997.
Nearly ninety people from sixteen countries attended the Taxes for Peace Not War conference at High Leigh Conference Centre in Hertfordshire, England, on November 29 to December 1. Fifty hailed from England, Scotland and Wales. Russia and nine other European countries, as well as India, Palestine, Canada, Honduras, and the USA were represented by one or more persons.
The conference included a strong Quaker presence as well as members of the Protestant Churches of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany; Mennonites, Anglicans, and Catholics; and Gandhian, philosophical, and political peace leaders.
Keynote speaker, Erik Hummels from the Netherlands, defined peace as "a dynamic process of cooperation among people which includes human rights, economic justice, and the absence of situations that can lead to war." Hummels and other speakers reported on the peace tax legislation proposals in various countries and expressed the hope that if one country passes a Peace Tax proposal, the other countries will soon follow.
CPTI Biennial Assembly
Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI) met for business and decided to apply to become a non-governmental organization to relate to the UN. CPTI, which was formed at the international conference in Spain in 1994, also made plans to send representatives who could give the peace testimony to thousands of church delegates at the Second European Ecumenical Assembly on Reconciliation at Graz, Austria, in 1997.
Action for Prisoners of Conscience
Prisoners for Peace Day was observed on Sunday. Names and brief stories of persons imprisoned in nine of the countries represented at the international conference were displayed on rainbow-colored banners. These persons and others who have suffered for being true to their conscientious objection to war were remembered. On December 2, I joined a group of six international conferees to personally deliver the colored banners to the appropriate embassies, along with a letter and the spoken message: "It is wrong to imprison people for their conscientious objection to war."
War tax resisters constitute a very small minority of pacifists. So an international conference focused on peace tax concerns met an important goal: to see that we are not alone.
New Resources Now Available
Still More Resources
Low Income/Simple Living as War Tax Resistance is a recently released pamphlet by the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. This resource includes simple living strategies and stories from war tax resisters living on reduced incomes.
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) has updated and released two resources. The Tax Day Kit contains information on military spending and the Peace Tax Fund Bill. Pre-printed cards to be mailed to Congress are included. Get the latest analysis on levels of military taxation from FCNL's How Much of Your 1996 Federal Income Tax Supports Military Spending.
Again this year, the War Resisters' League has produced an excellent leaflet with detailed information on how income tax money is spent. New from the General Conference Mennonite Church is Decide for Peace: A Guide for Personal Bible Study and Reflection on Conscientious Objection by Eddy Hull. Written for personal reflection or group study, Decide for Peace is designed to help youth and young adults discern about issues of war, peace and conscientious objection to military service. Contact the national office for information on ordering.
Roger Franklin, an English Quaker, is back in prison as a result of his continuing war tax resistance. The government claims he owes more than 7,000 Pounds in back taxes. His first jail term of 14 days knocked only 600 Pounds off the total.
Mennonite to Cosponsor
The first Mennonite in Congress since before World War II is a supporter of the Peace Tax Fund Bill, according to Mennonite Weekly Review. Jerry Moran, a Republican from Hays, Kansas who was elected to the House from the first Congressional district is a member of a Mennonite Brethren congregation. The first district encompasses the western and central part of the states and includes a sizable Mennonite population. When asked about his position on peace-related issues, Moran answered that he does support the Peace Tax Fund Bill but does not support significant cuts to the military budget.
Hungarian Campaign Launched
A peace/war tax working group, called the BEKERs, has been established by the Hungarian peace movement Alba Koer (White Circle). The move comes on the heels of a recent forum on military taxes sponsored by Alba Koer that drew peace and religious groups and other nongovernmental organizations. For the first time ever, Hungarian taxpayers will be able to decide where 1% of their personal tax should be spent. The working group hopes to capitalize on this to educate about conscientious objection to military participation.
The Annual Membership Meeting for the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund will be held May second and third at the national office in Washington, DC. All members of the Campaign are welcome. The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee will gather in Seattle the same weekend. All are invited.
"I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch, that he will do what he's told, that every income tax return I want to see I see, and he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends." President Richard Nixon to H.R. Haldeman on his standards for a new commissioner of the IRS.
"Nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous, hugely expensive, militarily
inefficient and morally indefensible." Retired Air Force General Lee
Butler, the former head of the Strategic Air Command.
[National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund] [Spring 1997 Newsletter Contents]
On November 20, a White House official met with Campaign lobbyists for an hour-long discussion of conscientious objection to taxes for military use. This was the first-ever meeting between Campaign lobbyists and White House officials on the Peace Tax Fund Bill. Campaign lobbyists described the discussion as a productive first step.
Campaign Executive Director Marian Franz led the delegation of seven, comprised of representatives from a broad spectrum of religious organ-izations to meet with Elena Kagan of the White House Counsel's office. Much of the meeting focused on the mechanics of the Peace Tax Fund Bill and why the legislation is needed. Special attention was given to the plight of individuals and organizations who have been punished by the IRS for resisting financial participation in the military. Ms. Kagan and Campaign lobbyists also discussed what role the President might take in helping establish a Peace Tax Fund.
The delegation explained that the Campaign has been advised to redraft the legislation to make it more clearly a religious freedom bill. As the meeting ended, Ms. Kagan asked the Campaign to return for more discussions when a new draft is completed.
Marian Franz called the visit "an exceptional and unprecedented event in the life of our Campaign." She credited President Clinton's commitment to religious liberty as well as support from members of the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion, a powerful coalition of diverse organizations advocating for religious freedom, for making the meeting possible. Ms. Kagan and the Campaign established contact at a meeting of the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion.