106th Congress Begins with Good, Bad News
The good news is that all of the House cosponsors of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax
Fund Bill who ran were successfully re-elected to the new Congress. Only two
cosponsors will not be returning for the 106th Congress: Rep. Ron Dellums (D-CA-9th)
and Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-OR-1st) retired last year.
In the House, the Bill will be introduced again by lead cosponsor John Lewis
(D-GA-5th) under a different number. We hope to build upon our solid base of support
in the upcoming session.
The bad news is that the U.S. government has again used its military to try to solve
diplomatic problems with Iraq. In December, U.S. forces launched hundreds of
Tomahawk missiles from their well-protected command posts in the Persian Gulf, killing hundreds of Iraqis. What these bombings accomplished diplomatically is, at least for the
moment, unclear. What is clear is that Saddam Hussein remains in power, many in Iraq
continue to starve, and the United Nations is no longer able to inspect weapons sites.
Fresh from this public relations opportunity, the Pentagon chiefs again asked for a
spending hike. President Clinton granted their request, and presented a plan to increase
military spending by an additional $12 billion next year. As if that weren't enough, the
plan includes an additional $110 billion for the next six years. This comes at a time when
the U.S. military already dwarfs its enemies (not to mention its allies), and is deployed in
every corner of the world. It comes at the same time that the welfare budget is being
slashed by $54 billion over six years.
During this period of misplaced priorities, the Peace Tax Fund continues to be a voice
for sanity on Capitol Hill.
PTF Members Meet their Senator in DC
News From the Field
Dr. John and Clara Schmidt are not your average retirees. The Schmidts have spent
much of their lives in Paraguay, working for Mennonite church agencies in a leprosy
mission. Although they are now in their 80's, they continue to pursue their lifelong
commitment to peace and justice with vigor.
Last October, the Schmidts traveled from their home in Kansas to Washington DC, to
attend the Peace Tax Fund board meeting and to lobby their members of Congress.
On Capitol Hill, the Schmidts were able to meet with their Representative, Jerry Moran
(R-KS-1st), who had recently become an official cosponsor of the Religious Freedom
Peace Tax Fund Bill. Along with Peace Tax Fund director Marian Franz, they thanked
Rep. Moran for taking a moral stand for the Bill.
Even more impressively, they were then able to visit briefly with one of their Senators
from Kansas, Republican Sam Brownback, in his office. They spoke in more depth with
aides of Sen. Brownback and Sen. Roberts regarding their deep moral conviction about
paying taxes for peace instead of war.
These visits underscore again how important it is for members of Congress to hear from
their own constituents about the Peace Tax Fund. We applaud the Schmidts for their
successful meetings on Capitol Hill.
Thank You for Writing to the White House
In the last newsletter, we included an Action Alert to write to the White House and ask
for their help in making the Peace Tax Fund a reality. Dozens of Peace Tax Fund
members responded - a very encouraging sign of your ongoing activism.
Our voice to the White House was multiplied when other organizations, including the
Baptist Joint Committee and the National Association of Evangelicals, distributed our
Action Alert to their members as well. Since we are a relatively small organization, we
rely on other prominent organizations to join us in pursuing our goal. We are appreciative
of the important work they do.
Something to Teach, Much to Learn
I have had the thrill of attending six international conferences of War Tax Resisters and
Peace Tax Campaigns in various European countries.
We now have the opportunity to host this biannual conference. Along with the National
War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), we will hold the next
gathering in Washington, DC on July 6-9, 2000.
The title of the conference, "War Tax Resisters and Peace Tax Campaigns," reflects the
dual interests of participants. Some believe resistance actions alone are significant, while
others concentrate primarily on legislation. Most do both.
Something new began in 1994 at the conference in Spain. Those whose primary concern
is legislation formed a spin-off organization called Conscience and Peace Tax
International. (CPTI). Two years later, CPTI was officially recognized and incorporated
in Belgium. This made CPTI eligible for the next step: application for consultative status
in the United Nations. A decision on our application is expected this year.
We learn much from sharing information with other campaigns around the world, as each
country devises its own unique methods of resistance and legislation to suit its individual
needs. In these encounters and exchanges, we have something to teach and much to
The Legal Struggle
Some national constitutions explicitly guarantee freedom of conscience. Sadly,
constitutions which guarantee freedom of conscience do not grant any more protection to
conscientious objector taxpayers than the U.S. Constitution has.
Litigation to establish a right to conscientious objection to military taxation has been
attempted in several countries, thus far without success. Court responses to these cases
are wearily familiar: that the issues raised present a "political question" which the courts
cannot address, or that constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience or religion do
not outweigh the duty of the citizen to pay taxes.
Nonpayment of tax is not a legal offense in some countries, such as France and Italy.
However, collective tax refusal, or incitement to encourage others to refuse taxes, are
crimes. In Italy, there have been 25 trials of such war tax resisters, some with as many as
60 defendants. They were all acquitted! Subsequently, the Italian House of Commons
passed a resolution (not a law) which calls for some government accommodation for
those who in conscience cannot pay the military portion of their taxes.
In governments that have parliaments, lobbying is focused on political parties, rather than
individual members of parliament. Among the parties in various countries that have
supported Peace Tax legislation are the Green Party, Christian Democrats, Social
Nationalists and Social Democrats.
The Movement Spreads
The U.S. campaign is the oldest Peace Tax campaign, and it created the first Peace Tax
Fund Bill. Many of the materials which our campaign produces are translated and used in
other parliaments. For example, the first German Peace Tax Fund Bill was a direct
translation from our bill.
The PTF movement continues to spread. Countries that have Peace Tax Fund
campaigns include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary,
Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United
Kingdom and the USA. Representatives have also come to previous conferences from
Palestine and Russia. Two of the newest campaigns stirring are in Croatia and Zambia.
All who attend these conferences of War Tax Resisters and Peace Tax Campaigns
believe that these efforts are a powerful example of international cooperation that can be
a positive alternative to a military-dominated world.
Bringing War Tax Resisters Together
An Interview with NWTRCC Coordinator, Karen Marysdaughter
PEACE TAX FUND: What makes you passionate about this work?
KAREN MARYSDAUGHTER: I have been a war tax resister for 18 years, beginning
in 1981 with President Reagan's massive military build-up. From the first time I heard of
war tax resistance, I realized that if there was some way for me to refuse to pay my
taxes, I had to do so. I simply cannot work so hard for peace and then undermine all my
own work by paying for war.
PTF: What have been your most difficult challenges with NWTRCC?
KM: One challenge has been the loneliness of serving as the only staff person in a very
small movement. With NWTRCC supporters scattered all across the country, I see them
only twice a year at our national meetings. Fortunately, I have a strong support network
at home, including a couple of war tax resisters, and the NWTRCC network has done a
tremendous job of supporting me.
PTF: What has been most encouraging about your work?
KM: I have been incredibly encouraged by the creativity and persistence of the war tax
resisters I have been privileged to meet. Their stories are amazing.
PTF: How do NWTRCC and the PTF complement each other?
KM: The PTF Campaign is able to organize and work with many people who are not
prepared to commit civil disobedience, while NWTRCC offers counseling and support
to those who are. The draft resistance movement clearly demonstrated how such civil
disobedience and legislative action can work together. In order to have the legal right to
conscientious objection to conscription recognized, some folks had to refuse to obey the
laws and take the consequences. Both NWTRCC and the PTF understand that some
people have to refuse to pay taxes and violate the law in order for the legal right to refuse
to pay for war to be recognized. The PTF does a great job of telling the stories of war
tax refusers to the lawmakers.
PTF: What actions can we take that will have the greatest impact toward reaching
our common goals?
KM: My major goal within NWTRCC has been to build relationships between activists
to sustain our efforts over the long haul. We need to build those relationships not only
within the war tax resistance and peace tax campaign movement, not only within the
peace and justice movement, but among all people who have consciences and want
peace. And that means everybody! I believe human relationships are the key to
unearthing all of our deepest longings and all of our most creative efforts for peace.
PTF: As you know, conscientious objectors are in the minority in this country. Are
you optimistic about the future?
KM: I don't believe we are in the minority in regards to conscience or wanting to end
war. I think the idea of being a minority holds us back. Wouldn't it be something to think
about every person we met as an ally? To think about how to get close enough to her or
him to share our hopes and dreams for peace?
I am definitely optimistic about the future. Some days I have to indulge in a good cry in
order to hold on to my optimism, but I feel like I've become even more hopeful over the
last few years as I've built supportive relationships for myself both within the peace
movement and outside of it. It's a clich , but a true one, that a people united will never be
defeated. I'm getting united with as many folks as I can!
PTF Job Opening
If you are interested in working for the Peace Tax Fund, please send us your resume . A
full-time, paid position may be opening in June. Tasks would include fundraising;
producing literature (including this newsletter); activating members and organizations; and
some finance and administration. Qualifications include affinity with the goals of the Peace
Tax Fund; good writing and personal skills; computer layout and communications
experience (Macintosh); and comfort working with budgets.
[National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund] [Newsletter Contents]
PTF Director Speaks at the UN
Marian Franz spoke to the United Nations Peace Caucus last November about the need
for an international response to the dilemma of paying for war. She presented an update
on the status of some of the 18 nations in the world with active Peace Tax campaigns.
The Peace Caucus is a group of nongovernmental organizations that are officially
recognized by the UN. The talk was a good opportunity to establish links with important
peace organizations with an international presence.
Goals for 1999: Envisioning Success
We've come a long way in our work toward a Peace Tax Fund in Congress, and many
people think we have a long way to go. It's impossible, though, to predict when a major
event will happen, momentum will surge, and the Peace Tax Fund will become a reality.
In the next year, we will be working on the primary goals listed below. If one or two of
these could be accomplished, it would carry us a long way toward success.
1) Get the Department of Treasury to remove its opposition to the Bill.
2) Enlist a prominent Republican cosponsor in the Senate, allowing us to introduce a
bipartisan Bill that would attract more support.
3) In the House, gain support from more members of the Ways and Means Committee
(where the Bill would be considered), particularly from Republicans.
4) Work toward a hearing in the Senate Judiciary, or the House Ways and Means
5) Obtain additional endorsements from influential religious and civil liberties groups.
The PTF Goes to College
In order to recruit activists in a broader age range, and to get involved in the strong
network of campus activism, intern Rachel Harrison is currently looking for college
groups to take on some of the work of the Peace Tax Fund. She hopes that interested
college students will make presentations to campus groups, and that these groups will
write to Congress and educate others about the rights of conscientious objectors and
issues around military taxes.
Groups which might be interested include peace and social justice groups, as well as
ACLU chapters (the ACLU originated in 1916 to protect the rights of conscientious
objectors). If you know of anyone affiliated with a college that might have interested
individuals or groups, please call Rachel at the national office, toll-free, (888)
New Resource Available!
The Bruderhof Communities, recent endorsers of the Peace Tax Fund, have provided us
with their book entitled Seeking Peace to re-sell to our members. The book is written
by Johann Christoph Arnold, and published through the Bruderhof's Plough Books.
Seeking Peace provides stepping stones for those on the journey to both outer and inner
peace. Arnold uses his Christian background to explore various meanings of peace and
describe characteristics that are found along the journey. It is a profoundly personal and
Seeking Peace is hardcover, 258 pages. Order one today for $15.00 (plus $4.00
shipping). Use the Resources form on page 7 of this newsletter.
Update on WTR Legal Cases
In previous newsletters we highlighted the court case of Priscilla Adams, who is suing the
government for the penalties and interest the IRS took from her taxes. For about twenty
years, Priscilla has been a conscientious objector to military taxes. Last summer, a
federal judge dismissed her legal suit.
On January 14, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed her case in Philadelphia. They
will deliberate and make a decision in the upcoming months. If the appeals court rules
favorably for Priscilla, it would be an historic event in the recognition of conscientious
objection to military taxes.
Also in January, the IRS summoned war tax resister (and long-time peace activist) Ed
Hedemann to court in New York to present information about his assets, which the IRS
is attempting to seize. Our thoughts are with them as they provide a witness for
Peace Group is Fined $163,000 for Donating Medicine
What did the U.S. government do when the peace group "Voices in the Wilderness"
(VITW) donated medicine for sick and dying children? It fined the group $163,000.
In a sadly ironic story, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has fined
VITW for violating the economic embargo against Iraq. Since 1996, VITW has led 19
peaceful delegations to Iraq, bringing medical and relief supplies for many of the children
suffering from the sanctions. According to UNICEF, up to 90,000 children are dying in
Iraq each year as a result of the sanctions.
Redirected war taxes have accounted for a significant amount of funds that VITW uses
to provide relief supplies to Iraq.
In their response to the OFAC penalty, VITW stated: "We will not allow a government
to dictate our conscience.... We believe it is our civic responsibility to speak out against
injustice, and our moral and religious responsibility to act on conscience: to do justice; to
feed the hungry and care for the sick."
If you would like to know what you can do to help, contact Kathy Kelly at Voices in the
Wilderness, (773) 784-8065. E-mail email@example.com.
Thousands March Against the School of the
Over 2,300 people trespassed into Fort Benning on November 22, 1998 to call for the
closing of the School of the Americas (SOA). Several thousand more joined in a legal
march on the Army base that is notorious for training Latin American soldiers who
became major human rights violators in their countries.
Many members and representatives of the Peace Tax Fund joined the march on the
SOA last November. The Peace Tax Fund helped distribute almost 2,000 flyers at the
event. The flyers urged support for the right not to pay for military institutions such as the
Last year in Congress, the amendment to close the SOA was defeated by only 11 votes
in the House, 212-201. Because of the close vote, it has a good chance of passing when
it comes before the House again this year.