Resisting war taxes

Mar 14, 2016 by

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As a conscientious objector to war, I believe that paying for war is a form of participation in war.
Knowing that 45 percent of my federal tax dollars underwrites warmaking and militarism presents a profound moral dilemma when I prepare my federal income tax returns each year.

As I have done in past years, I will pay the portion of my taxes that goes toward peace-oriented systems that support human life. But I will withhold $10.40 as a symbol of my refusal to participate in war and inform my representatives in Congress of my action. I will join the movement, which supports peaceful alternatives to war by contributing to the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (

Many U.S. citizens have religious scruples against financially underwriting the military. Shouldn’t their rights, based in historical beliefs that are foundational to their faith, be respected?

Harold A. Penner
Akron, Pa.

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  • Dale Welty

    Mr. Penner, do you also believe that paying for abortion via taxes is participation in abortion? Jesus paid his taxes to the Roman government, therefore I have recently paid my taxes to the U.S. government. If it is not sin for Jesus to pay his taxes, neither is it wrong for you and me to pay federal taxes. Dale Welty

  • Berry Friesen

    Dale, you ask Penner a good question. My answer is “Yes, paying for abortion would be participating in abortion.” I assume you would answer the same, right?

    We can both be thankful that none of our federal income tax payments go toward abortion coverage.

    But back to war, close to 50 percent of our federal income tax payments do go toward war-making, preparation for war-making and payment for past war-making. So you and I are participating in war, right?

    Jesus paid the temple tax, not the imperial tax; we know that because neither he nor his disciples carried imperial coins and Jesus embarrassed the man who produced the imperial coin, saying “Give to Caesar what belongs to him.” So we can’t use that gospel story to get us off the hook; you and I are complicit in the war-making we pay for.

    So I pay my federal income tax under protest, withhold $10.40 like Penner does, confess my sin and don’t feel a bit righteous for having done so.

    But with my letters to my members of Congress and to my congregation protesting my nation’s endless war-making and imperialism, I at least raise my voice in opposition. It’s the least I can do.

    • Dale Welty

      Berry, with all due respect, Planned Parenthood, an abortion provider,
      receives federal tax dollars, I don’t consider our military as war
      makers, any more than I consider our local, state and national law
      enforcement people promoting crime, our fire department people promoting
      fires and our doctors, nurses and hospitals promoting illness, disease
      and bodily injury. Regarding Jesus paying taxes, I refer you to Matt
      17:24-26, Matt 22:17-22, Mk 12:13-17, Luk 20:22-25 and Rom 13:1, 5-7.
      It would have been sin for Jesus to not pay his taxes to the Roman
      government. The word ‘tribute’ in these verses refers to taxes paid to
      government agencies and not temple tax. Further, Joseph took his
      pregnant wife Mary to Bethlehem because of Caesar’s ruling that all the
      world should be taxed. Caesar was not interested in funding temple
      costs. It was the much hated Publicans among the Jews in Jesus’ day who
      were the tax collectors for the government and not the temple. Further, no place do we read that Jesus sent his disciples to governmental leaders to protest taxes to fund the military. Dale Welty

  • Gene Mast

    “close to 50 percent of our federal income tax payments do go toward war-making….” I am interested in how this is calculated. It appears from cursory research that around half of discretionary spending is for defense, but discretionary accounts for maybe a third of total spending. How is the fifty percent of tax payments arrived at? Being solidly of a two kingdom persuasion, I am not defending in any way Christian participation in military affairs, but if the argument is somehow advanced by the exorbitant sums spent, painting an honest picture seems like a minimal obligation. The further burden of one pursuing this line of moral reasoning is setting the level at which, for the follower of Christ, financial support for killing becomes moral. If it is immoral to support war through tax payments, symbolic withholding is still immoral, merely serving to make one feel better. It is all or nothing. Christ demands nothing less.

    • Berry Friesen

      Gene, it’s 44 percent, to be precise. Go to, scroll down a bit and click on “pie chart flyers.” You will find a downloadable PDF with details describing how it is calculated for FFY’17. Total funds committed to war (past, current, future) is $1,357 billion; total funds committed is $3,042 billion.

      How much of this obscene spending for war can we pay and still claim to be moral? Nothing! So yes, I am complicit in this evil. Nothing but the grace of God can save me!

      Rather than curse the darkness, I can light a candle, which I do by nonpayment of $10.40 in taxes, letters to my reps, voting for candidates not associated with the two war parties (Democrat and Republican), every little thing I can.

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