Articles in the ONLINE edition:
Campaign Seeks Ten Cosponsors
A Change in Language
The Political Spread
10,000 Letters Program Nears End
Your Tax Dollar and the Arms Trade
A Haven for the Cause of Conscience
Lead House Cosponsor to Retire
Judge Rules Against CO
The Challenge of Shalom
CAMPAIGN SEEKS TEN COSPONSORS
Senator Hatfield believes that in the Senate our chances will be greatly enhanced if we can introduce the Peace Tax Fund Bill with ten cosponsors instead of the usual two or three. While we have had as many as 60 House cosponsors, we have never had more than four Senate cosponsors at one time. We now have three of the ten Sen. Hatfield wants: Mark Hatfield (R-OR), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and most likely Paul Wellstone (D-MN). We need seven more. Here is a list of those we feel are likely cosponsors: Charles Grassley (R-IA), John Chaffee (R-RI), Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Bill Bradley (D-NJ), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL), Paul Simon (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), and possibly Kent Conrad (D-ND).
Getting these cosponsors in the next months is urgent for several reasons. First, Senator Hatfield will not run again when his term expires at the end of 1996. Senators Bradley, Simon, and Kassebaum have also announced they will they will leave after 1996. Senators Harkin and Wellstone are up for reelection in 1996. Also, as some remind us, our chances are better with President Clinton than they are likely to be with another president.
Help us to get the ten! Do you know of persons in these states whom you could urge to support the Peace Tax Fund Bill? Be sure that in their communications your contacts name their deepest convictions about their participation in erasing fellow human beings through military means. Members of Congress do change their perspectives on this legislation when they understand the depths of conviction.
As the Peace Tax Fund Bill gets more attention on Capitol Hill, it gets closer scrutiny. The part of the Peace Tax Fund Bill that has been most problematic in Congress is the section on eligible uses for money in the fund.
The legislation Sen. Hatfield seeks to introduce will omit the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Peace Corps from the list of eligible activities. When enacted, money in the Peace Tax Fund will now go to WIC (the federal nutrition program for Women Infants and Children), and for Head Start, a program providing comprehensive developmental services to a wide range of "at risk" children.
Congress and many supporters had questions about the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Peace Corps. "Why not remove those two?" asked one Senator. "Why start a fuss?" Legislative aides for our main proponents in Congress agree that USIP and Peace Corps are contentious and that WIC and Head Start are less controversial with members of Congress.
As the Bill is modified we are assured that the essentials will remain. Conscientious objector taxpayers will be given a legal way to pay their taxes without violating their beliefs. The percentage of an individual's taxes equaling the current military portion of the federal budget will go to life-affirming rather than life-destroying purposes.
The political spread of those who support the Peace Tax Fund Bill is broadening in dramatic ways. We have been joined by "unlikely allies," organizations from whom we would not have dared to expect support only a few years ago. This development is important to those on Capitol Hill who favor the Peace Tax Fund Bill. It shows that the Campaign is effective in depicting the burden on conscience when we are asked to pay for military expenditures. Your clarity on that point has gotten supporters from the left and right. More and more members of Congress now see the Peace Tax Fund Bill as a sound and responsible piece of legislation. The political spread we enjoy is a great advantage. Congress may yet be willing to acknowledge and accommodate the moral and religious objections of citizens who cannot pay for the suffering inflicted by war.
The Peace Tax Fund journey is a long road and requires a good deal of patience. If we become discouraged, we have only to remember what a difference passage of the Peace Tax Fund Bill would mean.
There would be a tremendous educational opportunity. Each publication of general instructions accompanying an income tax return would explain the purpose of the Bill, the criteria for determining eligibility and the process for making the designation as a CO. Imagine this information being at the fingertips of 160 million taxpayers.
Each year the number of participants in the Peace Tax Fund would be published in the Congressional Record. This would serve as the best barometer of the nation's conscience regarding participation in war.
It will be a watershed event for religious and civil liberties when a major military power acknowledges its citizens should not be coerced against their consciences into paying for killing other human beings in war.
If the Peace Tax Fund Bill becomes law it would not only benefit our own citizens, but would signal a change of thinking in our government. That would be highly encouraging to our brothers and sisters who seek peace tax legislation in many countries around the world. Broadening the definition of conscientious objection to include military taxes is something no country has ever done. Our work on the Peace Tax Fund Bill enlarges understanding and discussion of true conscientious objection as a valid public issue involving core values of concern to all citizens.
Our work has reached a crossroads. Everyone's help is needed for the Campaign to take the next step forward. If you have not recently written your Representative or Senators about the Peace Tax Fund Bill, now is the time. If you have written recently, now is the time to send a follow-up letter or to organize others to write. Contact the national office for assistance.
It is not too early to begin planning for tax season. There is a unique opportunity for advocacy and education around issues of taxes, spending priorities and conscience in the approaching months. The intersection of four elements make this possible: 1. Presidential and congressional election campaigns; 2. A tax bill which reflects federal spending priorities that were heavily influenced by the Republican-dominated Congress; 3. Debate around a congressional budget resolution for 1997; and 4. the one year anniversary of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19. All of these offer the opportunity for us to bring our message of peace and conscience before the public's eyes.
When Campaign organizers planned the 10,000 Letters program it was based on the following figures: 100 activists generating 10 letters a month over 10 months would create 10,000 letters to Congress. Two months were added for elbow room, making the length of the program one year.
The 10,000 Letters program was launched in November 1994. Nearly one year later, this is how the numbers look. By November 1995, 97 activists have worked over 13 months to generate nearly 8,000 letters.
This is numerically short of the stated goal. Yet as the 10,000 Letters program approaches its scheduled end date, organizers are calling the program a success.
The 10,000 Letters program has boosted the profile of issues of conscience in Congress and across the country. Many members of Congress received more mail on the Peace Tax Fund Bill in the last year than they have in recent years combined. Likewise, many supporters have been much more active than they have in years past.
The success of the program can be also be judged by the quality of the letters generated. A personal letter from a constituent to a member of Congress is rare and appreciated. Of the thousands of letters generated during the last year, most were not long or extremely eloquent. However, they were effective because they communicated personal beliefs regarding participation in war. This is an example:
I am a conscientious objector to war. This objection is based on the teachings of Jesus. For years I have agonized over the payment of that part of my income tax which goes for military expenditures. This should not have to be in a country which by law guarantees religious freedom. My forebears came to this country seeking the very religious freedom which I feel denied.
The 10,000 Letters program has also taught the Campaign some lessons. It demonstrates that there is a commitment on the part of supporters to be active on behalf of the Peace Tax Fund Bill. Given the proper time and resources, the national office and constituents working together are able to make a program like this possible.
The program has taught us that a network of educated and motivated activists is very important and worth taking the time to develop and cultivate.
Additionally, this past year shows that the Campaign can draw new people in and reinvigorate long-time advocates with a program like this. Even though 10,000 Letters is nearing its scheduled end, the national office continues to receive inquiries from people who have just learned about the Bill and want to be involved in the letter writing.
Organizers are holding out the option for activists to continue the program until the 10,000th letter reaches Congress. Whatever occurs, this past year has brought the Campaign one step closer to its goal.
As we go to press, Congress is putting the final touches on the spending bills for fiscal year 1996. The spending priorities established by these bills promise to be historic as the 104th Congress seeks a spending plan that balances the budget over seven years as well as gives a tax break.
The Pentagon is slated to receive $243 billion next year. This is $1.7 billion above the '95 level and $7 billion more than the President's request. Among the items notrequested by the Pentagon but funded are $493 million for B-2 bombers, $2.27 billion for landing and transport ships, and $470 million for fighter planes. Congress also seeks to give $736 million for a national missile defense system (Star Wars), more than double the President's request.
Additional spending for military programs in the Department of Energy, NASA, and others will boost the total another $30 to $40 billion.
A LEAGUE OF OUR OWN
Another military item likely to receive an increase is taxpayer support for the arms trade. The United States is in a league of its own when it comes to exporting weapons. Since the Gulf War, the U.S. government and the arms industry have sold more weapons to the third world than the rest of the world combined, according to the Congressional Research Service.
In 1994, due to an aberration based on a few big sales, the United States came in second to France in the international arms trade. The powerful arms industry pounced on this news and called on the government to increase its support.
However, the truth is the arms industry is already heavily subsidized. In 1995, taxpayers spent more than $7 billion to promote foreign weapons sales, according to the National Commission for Economic Conversion & Disarmament.
Taxpayer support for the international arms trade comes in a number of forms. There are the foreign military financing programs which give grants to foreign countries to purchase U.S. military equipment. There are economic support funds which make cash payments to foreign governments to indirectly subsidize purchases of U.S. arms. There are export loan guarantees which back loans to foreign countries for the purchase of U.S. weapons. Taxpayer dollars also subsidize industry participation in international arms trade exhibitions as well as pay for government personnel and activities in promoting arms sales.
THE HUMAN TOLL
The human impact of this line of business cannot be overlooked. There are over 30 wars raging around the globe today; almost all of these wars are being fought with imported weapons. "It isn't surprising," writes Lora Lumpe of the Federation of American Scientists in a recent article in The Nonviolent Activist, "given its market dominance, that U.S. weaponry is finding its way into combat in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Kashmir and Somalia to name a few."
One example of this is Turkey. The State Department acknowledged in June that Turkey is using U.S.-supplied weaponry against its Kurds in operations "during which human rights abuses have occurred." Since 1984 the Turkish armed forces have destroyed more than 1,000 villages with bombs and missiles from American-made Blackhawk helicopters and F-16 jets, displacing tens of thousands and killing over 15,000 people, mostly civilians. Taxpayers are footing much of the bill for this devastation.
On the domestic front, taxpayer support for the arms industry also has a lethal impact. The $1.8 billion in arms grants for Israel in 1992 could have funded job training programs that would enable 326,000 new trainees to be placed in jobs. The $58 million in arms grants for Morocco, Honduras, Tunisia, Oman, and Jamaica could have restored cuts for Federal programs serving pregnant women, poor children and the homeless. Tax dollars spent on the military kill by denying resources to those who need them most.
Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. -- the Constitution
During emperor Constantine's reign in the 4th century the church emerged as a power alongside the state. Bishops we happy to accept Constantine's patronage and in return followed his directives. Empire and church eventually became fused. This union of church and state led to holy wars andinquisitions so abhorrent we still refer to those times as the dark ages.
A profound belief in the free exercise of religion motivated the 18th century founders of the U.S. who named it the first freedom in the founding documents. Many immigrants had experienced the bite of persecution that inevitably results when government either promotes or hinders religion. In naming and elevating this first freedom the founders underscored the government role with two restrictions: it cannot establish and it cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion. Government cannot facilitate or impede, aid or oppose, help or hinder. Together these two clauses guarantee religious freedom for citizens of every faith as well as those who profess no faith at all. The connecting link between the two clauses is freedom of conscience.
Surely, religious liberty is not a subject that should be driving us apart. Yet it is. Disturbingly, the first freedom has currently become a contentious political issue. In fact, the First Amendment is cited repeatedly as an obstacle to private expression of religion.
As one example, a misrepresentation is made of the issue of prayer in public schools. On Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich said, "Most people don't realize it's illegal to pray in public schools." Except by misinformed school administrators, in fact, prayer has not been banned in public schools, nor should it be. Students are free to pray privately, and to have prayer meetings and Bible studies as long as they are not disruptive. Students have a right to share their faith with their friends, wear religious garb and express religious opinions in class and homework. The only prayer that is prohibited by the courts is the prayer that requires government endorsement or approval.
Government support for religion does not enhance religious liberty. Instead, it proves a hindrance. Religions have flourished in this country with unparalleled strength and diversity. Religion prospers most when freest. In fact, attempts to have the state advance religion are, in the last analysis, a confession of the religion's weakness. Church and state are not enemies of each other. They simply operate with different authorities.
We at the Peace Tax Fund office are asking you to argue the religious freedom aspect in your lobbying and letter writing. Our mission in this regard is three-fold.
First, we assert that without a Peace Tax Fund Bill the First Amendment's second clause is being violated. Hear again this testimony from our 1992 hearing: The Peace Tax Fund Bill "seeks to reduce the 'inhibiting effect' of current law on the practice of religion. -- Michael McConnell, Religious Freedom expert, Univ/Chicago Law School. "If not allowed to follow one's conscience, there can be no religious freedom." -- Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton. "Faced with the conflict between religious duty and civil law each of our traditions has tried to no avail to honor the conscience of employees who do not want their tax money used for military purposes. We appeal to an end to what we consider to be the oppressive entanglement of the government in the practice of our faith." -- Quakers, Church of the Brethren, Mennonites.
Secondly, we ask Congress to serve as a check and balance to another branch of government, the courts. When the Supreme Court refused in 1990 in the Smith case to recognize religious practice as a constitutional right, Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and provided a statutory right. RFRA is hailed as the most significant legislation affecting religious liberty since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791. Before RFRA, almost all religious liberties cases were resolved in favor of the government and against the religious claimant. In the three years since RFRA the process has been reversed. As the courts consistently fail to establish conscientious right to re-direct military taxes as a constitutional right, we rightly insist that Congress must establish a statutory right, as it did in RFRA.
Third, by our efforts we can safeguard what Roger Willians called "a haven for the cause of conscience." Williams felt conscience is best protected by maintaining a healthy distance between church and government. We would certainly have to agree: a look back reveals that history is strewn with the wreckage of churches and states, each destroyed by unhealthy unions between the two. In these unions each party denies freedom of conscience.
Remember, unlikely allies win religious freedom battles. Some members of Congress have changed their perspectives on Peace Tax Fund legislation when they have understood that this Bill represents an appeal for the freedom to practice one's religion and one's deepest moral-ethical convictions faithfully in all aspects of life.
The lead House cosponsor of the Peace Tax Fund Bill, Rep. Andrew Jacobs (D-IN) announced that he will not seek reelection in 1996. Jacobs, who has represented a district that includes much of Indianapolis, has been the lead cosponsor since 1991. He played a key role in getting Congressional hearings on the Peace Tax Fund Bill in 1992.
Jacobs was a marine who was wounded in the Korean War. This experience made a deep impression on him and led him to become one of the great voices of conscience in Congress. He was an early critic of the Vietnam war, an opponent of military aid to the Contras, and spoke out strongly against the war in the Persian Gulf.
According to the Associated Press Jacobs did not elaborate on his future plans, but ruled out running for any other office. "To my severest critics, I presume 30 minutes of my congressional service would have been too much," he said. "But surely to my loving friends and my supporters, 30 years are enough."
In July, Judge Saundra Armstrong heard oral arguments in a U.S. District Court on a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the New Campaign for Conscience (NCC). The lawsuit attempted to establish conscientious objector status for taxpayers.
In September, Judge Armstrong ruled against NCC and dismissed the suit contending that once money is paid to the IRS, it is no longer the property of taxpayers and they have no say about what is done with their tax dollars
Scott Kennedy was the plaintiff in the lawsuit. He is the former mayor of Santa Cruz, California and a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. In a letter released by NCC Kennedy said, "It's unfortunate that our lawsuit came up against a Bush judicial appointee who seemed impervious to key aspects of our legal argument... I think that the NCC legal argument will be revisited at some time in the future, and hopefully, given the fair hearing which it deserves. In the meantime, my commitment to not paying for war remains strong." He went on to thank NCC and the legal team "for their bold challenge to the government's blind eye when it comes to religious conscience and the paying of war taxes."
Believing the risks outways the advantages, NCC has decided to not to go forward with an appeal. No further legal action is planned to gain conscientious objection status for taxpayers.
--from New Campaign for Conscience
Ken Giles represents the Jewish Peace Fellowship on the Board of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.
Jewish conscientious objectors carry on an important strand of the Jewish tradition. This "Jewish peace tradition" is the theme of The Challenge of Shalom: The Jewish Tradition of Peace and Justice, edited by Murray Polner and Naomi Goodman. Polner and Goodman are leaders of the Jewish Peace Fellowship. The book offers insights into the Jewish tradition of active nonviolence and testimonies by Jewish conscientious objectors and peace activists. The scholarly essays and strong personal stories will interest any person of conscience regardless of their faith tradition.
The peace tradition in Jewish history links Biblical prophets to 20th-century peace activists. Jewish activists in the peace and civil rights movements were inspired by this ethical tradition. The prophets Isaiah and Micah -- representing the peacemakers among the Bible writers -- encouraged people to beat swords into plowshares; let everyone sit beneath a vine and fig tree and learn war no more; let nations not lift sword against nations.
While not a "pacifist" tradition, the Jewish tradition always set limits and conditions on the use of violence. In its legalistic way, traditional Judaism made it very difficult to administer capital punishment, take someone's life, or go to war. Rabbis Everett Gendler, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Philip Bentley, and others write about this Jewish peace tradition in The Challenge of Shalom.
Two major events -- the Holocaust and the creation of Israel -- deeply affected Jewish life in the 20th century. Several chapters in The Challenge of Shalom present the views of Jewish peace activists on these topics. For example, Rabbi Judah Magnes was an American pacifist leader during World War I. In the 1920's, he left the United States for Palestine where he became the first president of Hebrew University. Magnes agreed with Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher and writer, that Zionism had to be peaceful and should seek Arab/Jewish cooperation in a binational state. The book includes several accounts of contemporary Israeli peace groups, from "Peace Now" to "Yesh G'vul" (soldiers who refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories). Testimonies are presented by Jewish peace activists from World War II to Vietnam, providing personal stories and hopes for peacemaking.
The most inspiring chapter in The Challenge of Shalom is the history of the Jewish Peace Fellowship (JPF). Rabbi Isidor Hoffman, Jewish chaplain at Columbia University, worked with Rabbi Abraham Cronbach of Hebrew Union College and Jane Evans, a leader in the Reform Movement, to found JPF in 1942. For more than 50 years, JPF has helped young Jewish conscientious objectors -- including this reviewer -- and is still active today.
The Challenge of Shalom (New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, 1994) is available for $18.95 plus $1.50 postage/handling from Jewish Peace Fellowship, Box 271, Nyack, NY 10960.
National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund
The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund advocates for legislation enabling conscientious objectors to war to have the military portion of their federal income taxes directed to a special fund for projects that enhance peace. The Peace Tax Foundation educates the public about alternative tax payment programs that are based on moral, religious, and ethical opposition to participation in war. For more information, contact the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund at 2121 Decatur Place NW, Washington DC 20008-1923. Call tollfree 1(888) PEACETAX; fax (202) 986-0667; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.