Is now the time to create a ‘Church Peace Tax Fund’?

Mar 28, 2019 by and

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That’s the subject of one of the seminars being offered at the Mennonite Church USA convention July 2-6 in Kansas City, Mo.

In response to Jesus’ exhortation to love enemies (Matt. 5:44), this seminar proposes that MC USA support, enable and equip religious freedom rights as outlined by the U.S. Constitution for those who, because of conscience, are unable to pay taxes that underwrite war and militarism.

Bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ in a world involved with endless war in pursuit of imperial control, the creation of a church peace tax fund would channel conscripted income toward meeting human needs and help save the planet while providing a faithful testimony to the world regarding Jesus’ way of nonviolence and peace. A church peace tax fund would enable and equip conscientious objectors who refuse to pay war taxes.

Conscripted daily to pay taxes that underwrite killing and war-making, many U.S. Mennonites are seeking ways to refrain from paying for war. This plan provides the spiritual resources, human solidarity and material support to enable Mennonites and others to follow the prompting of their Spirit-led consciences and publicly object to paying taxes used for killing and militarism.

Historic Mennonite statements have called on Mennonites not to pay for war:

— “In response to global violence, we call the church to . . . be steadfast in our refusal to participate in, train for, pay for, or directly profit from the use of military violence.” — And No One Shall Make Them Afraid: A Mennonite Statement and Study on Violence Adopted by the Mennonite Church General Boards in Denver on Nov. 22, 1997

Three years ago, the MC USA delegate body said:

—  “We remain committed as a church to the belief that participation in war is contrary to the will of God. . . Therefore, the Delegate Assembly of Mennonite Church USA calls affiliated congregations to a renewed emphasis on trusting God and the way of Jesus, not violence, for our security. For this teaching to be effective, it must address our society’s commitment to the moral necessity of violence, our government’s undisclosed purposes in its so-called ‘security efforts,’ and our often-secret sympathies with so-called security operations.” — Faithful Witness Amid Endless War Resolution Passed by the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly at Kansas City, Mo., July 1, 2015

Historically U.S. Mennonites have supported COs with their money:

— The Historic Peace Churches bore the cost of the maintenance of the Civilian Public Service camps where conscientious objectors did their alternative service.

— Donations to MC USA and Mennonite Central Committee have underwritten most of the costs of subsequent voluntary service, Pax, Teachers Abroad Programs and other church-related alternative service programs.

— More recently, MC USA established the Student Aid Fund for Nonregistrants to support students who refused on the basis of conscience to register with U.S. Selective Service.

We fail in our Christian calling if we only celebrate this legacy of witness and do not act during the current era of perpetual war, when our national government conscripts our money, not our bodies, and spends as much on military force as the next seven countries combined: $716 billion in the 2019 fiscal year.

By creating a Church Peace Tax Fund, MC USA would:

1. Provide a way to redirect resources from war to problem-solving programs — a realistic path to peace, unlike war.

2. Support individuals and their families who experience material loss as a    result of refusal to pay all of or a portion of federal tax assessments allocated to present or past military purposes.

3. Underwrite peace education and action in the church.

4. Provide a model for doing what the U.S. government has been unable or unwilling to do through the proposed Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act.

The “Church Peace Tax Fund” would be funded by designated contributions from individuals and participating congregations. For record-keeping purposes via a mutual Memorandum of Understanding, donors would share with their congregation whether their donation is a portion of the federal government’s income tax assessment attributable to war, which is being redirected from war-making to problem-solving.

This endeavor has potential to capture the attention of the public, governments and those involved in the manufacturing and sale of armaments, both in the U.S. and around the world, where it will likely be perceived as a challenge to exorbitant military spending.

In the process, might it be possible that many people around the globe will become interested in this faithful peace-making pursuit of modern-day Anabaptists?

John Stoner has worked as a pastor, MCC Peace Section administrator, teacher and peace activist.  He is retired and lives in Akron, Pa.

Harold A. (“H.A.”) Penner is a member of the Akron (Pa.) Mennonite Church, is a religious conscientious objector and life-long war tax resister. He is convener of 1040forpeace.org, an affiliate of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee and former board treasurer of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.


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