ONLINE Edition of the Winter 1998 Newsletter
"The Peace Tax Fund has Company"
Does the Term "Religious Freedom" Exclude Some Conscientious Objectors?
New Legal Case Against the IRS
Update on Priscilla Adams' Case
European Peace Congress, May 29-31, 1998
Nominate the Peace Tax Fund!
Past Newsletters:Summer 1995, Fall 1995, Spring 1996, Summer 1996,
Fall 1996, Spring 1997, Summer 1997, Fall 1997.
hanks to many months of preparation and help from the White House, the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund arranged a meeting between Campaign lobbyists and tax policy officials at the Department of Treasury on January 15. The nine-member delegation that gathered on that day was the strongest and most diverse coalition of church representatives, Congressional staff members, and Campaign staff that have come together to lobby for the Peace Tax Fund Bill in recent memory. Campaign Executive Director Marian Franz stated that the realization of this encounter was "something of a miracle."
The delegation met with Michael Thornton, Deputy Tax Legislative Counsel at the Treasury Department, and Bill Fant, an economic advisor, in order to persuade the Treasury and the IRS to support the Bill. In the past, Treasury officials have objected to the Bill, primarily because of their hesitancy in incurring added administrative costs, and their reluctance to allow taxpayers to designate where their taxes will be allocated.
Recent revisions of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act (HR 2660) have essentially eroded the basis for these objections. First, the Bill does not direct the IRS how to administer the Fund (the IRS doesn't like to be told how to do something), but stipulates that the Secretary of the Treasury administer the Fund "as the Secretary provides," so long as it is not used for military purposes. Second, the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has certified that the Peace Tax Fund would likely increase revenues to the Treasury rather than add costs.
In the meeting, Campaign lobbyists argued passionately and persuasively for support of the Bill. Forest Montgomery, Counsel for the National Association of Evangelicals and former Treasury Department official for 25 years, gave an appeal for the religious liberty of conscientious objectors and entreated the government to remove its hurdles to the Bill. Ned Stowe, from the Friends Committee on National Legislation, related his personal experience of being a war tax resister and being forced to pay excessive IRS penalties. Bishop Thom White Wolf Fassett stated that the ten million members of the United Methodist Church endorse the Bill.
On his part, Mr. Thornton promised to review the revised B ill and consult with the IRS about working through IRS objections. Campaign lobbyists plan to further develop these relationships with the Treasury Department and the Clinton Administration in order to gain their support for the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act.
Now is an important time to gain momentum in the Clinton Administration for the Bill. The Peace Tax Fund proposal is being backed by an increasing number of religious liberty organizations, and President Clinton is the most supportive President on issues of religious freedom in recent memory. Lobbyists hope to aptly convey to the Administration the need to affirm the freedom of conscience of those who object to military taxes.
In addition, the Campaign will continue in the upcoming year to pursue a Republican cosponsor in the Senate, which is much more likely if the Bill receives an OK from the Treasury. A Republican cosponsor is crucial if the Bill is to receive bipartisan support in Congress.
he National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund revised the text of the Peace Tax Fund Bill in order to reflect the Bill's focus on conscientious objection as an issue of religious freedom protected under the First Amendment. The change stems from a recognition that conscientious objection to military taxes arises from legitimate moral, ethical and religious beliefs. It is partially attributable to the passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Congress in 1993, which requires the government to have a "compelling interest" in order to violate an individual's religious freedom, and states that the government must use the least restrictive means in doing so.
Although the Supreme Court struck down RFRA last summer, insofar as it infringed on the rights of states and local governments, many people (including the President and the Department of Justice) believe that RFRA still applies to the federal government. This assumption will surely be tested in the courts. The revised Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill argues that government should affirm the freedom of conscience and religion by using the taxes of conscientious objectors for nonmilitary purposes only. What follows is a description of other legislation currently in Congress which deals with issues of religious freedom.
Many of the same people and organizations involved in the creation of the original Religious Freedom Restoration Act, including the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, are meeting in an attempt to construct a consensus bill that will pass constitutional muster. Completion of this language is expected by Spring 1998.
The Workplace Religious Freedom Act (S-1124) was introduced by Sen. Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Coats (R-IN). This bill would amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to establish provisions with respect to religious accommodation in employment. Employers would be in violation of the law if they failed to provide a reasonable accommodation to the religious observance or practice of an employee. The RFRA Coalition had a large hand in writing this bill.
The Freedom from Religious Persecution Bill, (HR-2431 and S-772), co-sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf (D-VA) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), would create a White House office to monitor global religious persecution. Under the measure, the director of the Office of Religious Persecution Monitoring would report on the oppression of religious minorities and could impose automatic economic sanctions on offending nations. The Clinton administration and many religious bodies oppose the bill in its current form, saying that imposing sanctions may result in more persecution in the offending country, not less.
Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) has again introduced an amendment to the constitution called the Religious Freedom Amendment (House Joint Resolution 78). Supporters say the measure is needed to correct church-state judicial rulings. Opponents fear a dangerous undermining of the wall of separation between church and state. The phrase, "The government shall not.... discriminate against religion, or deny equal access to a benefit on account of religion," is intended to allow public funding for religious schools. Over 140 members of the House are cosponsoring the amendment, which requires a two-thirds majority before it goes to the states for ratification. That majority is not expected to be reached at present.
Other church-state issues that may surface early in this year include education vouchers and bills to fund faith-based social service programs. Sen. Spencer Abraham (R-MI) has introduced a bill that would allow all faith-based drug rehabilitation programs to receive federal funds on the same footing as other private providers. Opponents warn that it could undermine church-state separation because the faith-based programs could require that beneficiaries "actively participate in religious practice, worship and instruction."
he percentage of conscientious objectors (COs) who claim religion as their primary motive has declined. Religious objectors now make up only a minority of the total number of conscientious objectors - 14-18% in European countries. The U.S. does not keep track, but during the Vietnam war an increasing number of draftees stated moral, ethical or humane objections.
According to studies, this pattern of acceptance of non-religious COs goes through familiar stages: 1) official recognition of conscientious objection is granted, but is usually limited to traditional peace sects (Mennonites, Quakers, Church of the Brethren); 2) authorities recognize a broader religious criterion for conscientious objection, and allow some forms of alternative civilian service; and 3) secular motives are accepted along with (in some countries) selective objection to particular wars and nuclear weapons.
If most COs are not religious, why did we add the name Religious Freedom to the Peace Tax Fund Bill? Are we excluding sincere COs?
No. The term "religious," as used in this case, is a legal term and excludes no one. It protects equally the freedom of religion and the freedom not to have a religion. The United National Charter of Human Rights enshrined in 1993 the "right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion." Thus, the Peace Tax Fund uses the term "religious freedom" in its broadest sense of referring to religion, conscience and moral beliefs.
Religion, however, is still used as a base-line measurement. When the Supreme Court greatly liberalized the rights of COs in the 1970s, it extended the definition to include "a meaningful belief occupying in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those admittedly qualified for the exemption." Secular criteria for conscientious objection followed closely after recognition of religiously stated motives, not before. Opinion surveys show greater acceptance of religiously motivated COs, and membership in an organized religion is still considered a mark of sincerity. Legal systems do make accommodation for the reasoned and articulate objector. Sincerity is often measured by clarity of expression.
Clearly, many groups who are joining us now say that "peace" is not the door through which they entered to lend enthusiastic support, but rather the First Amendment protection of freedom of conscience/religion. As a result, active support for the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill (RFPTF) has grown beyond what many of us would have predicted. Two visits to the White House and a re-write of the RFPTF prompted the White House to request that Treasury officials meet with us.
In a face to face dialogue at the Treasury Department, we learned first-hand about IRS questions and perceptions. Our delegation (see p. 2 for participants) indicated a desire to work cooperatively to find a way for conscience against war taxes to be accommodated in law. The delegation was supported by phone calls made by the Religious Action Center for Reformed Judaism, and the Legal Counsel for the National Council of Churches. Support at this level would have been hard to imagine a few years ago. In the meeting, the Treasury officials promised to consider the RFPTF proposal among themselves.
As you work locally, you will be able to approach our new allies in forming delegations to meet with your own Washington representatives. Fresh opportunities for dialogue emerge for us at all levels: local, national and international. The spectrum of pacifist and non-pacifist, political left and right, demonstrates the breadth and depth of support and calls for serious consideration.
If we are careful to use the inclusive freedom of religion and/or conscience language, we find we can work with a broader scope of organizations than we had thought. The term "religious freedom" is not exclusive, and it still carries a powerful message.
n January, attorneys Peter Goldberger and Jim Feldman filed a complaint in US Federal District Court in Connecticut on behalf of a Quaker and Peace Tax Fund board member, Rosa Packard. Because of her Christian beliefs, she cannot pay for war, or for the preparation for war. The test case, based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment, asks that government abate penalties applied to religious exercise and also return excess interest due to IRS delays.
For sixteen years, Rosa Packard has, each year, paid her income taxes on time and in full into a Quaker escrow account and written a letter to the IRS with her tax return, asking that her taxes be directed to nonmilitary use to accommodate her religious beliefs. She states that the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill would provide such an accommodation. By setting the taxes aside because of their disputed use, she offers the government an opportunity to respect free exercise of religion. If the government, instead, seizes the taxes from her checking account, the escrow account returns the deposited funds after the levy has occurred. The escrow account contributes any interest earned to life affirming causes.
Contributions to help with the costs of the case may be sent to the treasurer of Purchase Monthly Meeting, PO Box 164, Purchase, NY 10577.
e are happy to announce that the Christian Legal Society (CLS) has officially endorsed the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill. The Center for Law and Religious Freedom, the religious advocacy and information arm of CLS, is a nationally recognized source of balanced First Amendment expertise for churches, the media, members of Congress and the public. CLS director Steve McFarland proudly reported that the "vote in favor of endorsement was not even close." As this development shows, the base of support for a Peace Tax Fund is broadening beyond traditional political affiliations.
ollowing is an update about the war tax resistance/religious freedom court case of Priscilla Adams, a Quaker conscientious objector who sued the government after the IRS seized the taxes she was withholding. Priscilla Adams' case was featured in our Fall 1997 newsletter:
After Judge Maurice Foley set a briefing schedule for the case in October, the first briefs were filed simultaneously on December 1st. The responses to each other's briefs were filed on January 14th. Peter Goldberger and Lior Feldman wrote an excellent brief and response focusing on the government's obligation under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to provide an accommodation, such as a Peace Tax Fund, for conscientious objectors, and on the failure of the IRS to meet its burden under RFRA to prove an inability to fashion any accommodation. Now Judge Foley is considering the case and will ultimately render a decision.
t is uncertain whether members of the executive committee for Conscience and Peace Tax International (CPTI) will travel to India in 1998. We are therefore considering the possibility of meeting in Germany at The European Congress for Peace and Conscientious Objectors, on May 29-31, 1998. According to the Osnabr¸ck invitation, "people and organizations from all over Europe will gather who are engaged in finding peaceful solutions to conflict, and who support conscientious objectors." The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection is expected to attract many figures from public life throughout Europe. The conference is timed to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the signing of the historic "Peace of Westphalia," which ended the 30-year war that devastated a large part of Europe and cost millions of lives, and was settled at Munster and Osnabr¸ck.
irik Frederick Harteis, the Director of Outreach and Development at the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund since 1992, left his position at the end of 1997 to work on staff at Pax Christi Metro DC and the Campaign for Peace and Life in Guatemala. Many of you who came to know Eirik will miss your friendly contacts with him. We're grateful for his careful and competent work over the last five years. We wish the best for Eirik, his wife Alison, and their 10-month old son, Amon.
The new Director of Outreach and Development at the Campaign is Daniel Chong. Dan has a master's degree in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame, where he conducted research on social change strategies to reduce U.S. military spending. He has worked for Catholic Relief Services as an auditor for their overseas development programs. He and his wife, Amy, moved to Washington, DC in August 1997.
he Peace Tax Fund's national office is looking for a full-time Outreach and Development Assistant to work toward the passing of a Peace Tax Fund Bill. This position is a one- or two-year internship. The intern would work or assist on diverse tasks such as organizing membership, writing the newsletter and other publications, and Internet maintenance. Qualifications include computer literacy; attention to detail; previous office experience; and sympathy for the goals of the organization. To apply or receive information, please call Marian Franz at the national office at (888) PEACE-TAX, or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
f you are already a Working Assets Long Distance subscriber, you can help raise thousands of dollars for the Peace Tax Fund - without even writing a check! It's simple. Here's how: Write to Working Assets and nominate the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund as one of the recipient groups for its donations. If the Peace Tax Fund is selected, it would receive a portion of the $3 million that Working Assets donates to progressive nonprofit organizations every year. To receive information and necessary documentation, please call Daniel Chong toll-free at (888) PEACE-TAX.
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