Table of Contents
A Living Testimony, Nadine Hoover, Dan Jenkins, Karen Reixach and Tom Rothschild (March 2007) submitted to the Friends Journal
By Nadine Hoover on March 07, 2007
New York Yearly Meeting Statement of Faith (April 2006): The Living Spirit works in the world to bring life, joy, peace and prosperity through love, integrity and compassionate justice among people. We are united in this Power. We acknowledge that paying for war violates our religious conviction. We will seek ways to witness to this religious conviction in each of our communities.
Early in the morning of February 22, 2007, upwards of 30 Quakers and others gathered in the cafeteria of the Federal Courthouse in Manhattan for a special meeting for worship. They came from all over New York Yearly Meeting, as well as Boston and even England. The meeting was in preparation for the argument of an appeal by Daniel Jenkins, in his case of conscience against the Internal Revenue Service. Dan Jenkins is bearing witness to the leading of his conscience that paying taxes for war is wrong, and following this leading he had withheld his payment of federal income tax, setting it aside in a special escrow account and refusing voluntary payment until the government agrees to use the money only for non-military purposes. For this, he had been charged with not only the tax and the ordinary penalties and interest, but also a $ 5,000 fine for bringing what the government contends is a “frivolous” case.
Fred Dettmer, who is also clerk of the Witness Coordinating Committee of NYYM, was the lawyer who argued the appeal. Relying primarily on the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),” he told the Court that Dan Jenkins WANTS to pay his taxes, but that the government can and must find a way to accommodate Dan’s conscientious insistence that his tax dollars not be drafted to pay for war and other military expenditures. Court interpretations of RFRA and the Constitution during 2006 created openings favorable to Dan”s appeal.
In addition, the Jenkins case argues that the Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the pre-existing rights ”of the people”, and that a New York State Constitution (which predates the federal Constitution) exempted those persons with religious ”scruples of conscience” from supplying armament or personal service to military activity. The three-judge appeals court panel permitted a time extension both in argument and in rebuttal, which is rare even once, let alone twice. A separate brief was submitted by NYYM as a “Friend of the Court.” The clerk and General Secretary of New York Yearly Meeting, and a member of the British Peace Tax Seven, who are taking a similar case to the European Court of Human Rights, as well as 30 Quakers and other supporters worshipped in the courtroom during the oral argument.
Following the court appearance, the group retired once more to the cafeteria to discuss the appeal and next steps. Dan observed that ” The result is now out of our hands and we will wait worshipfully, grateful we have a system for airing our grievances that is at least physically nonviolent, which is so rare in human history. One friend noted that Eisenhower said someday people would want peace so much government will have to get out of the way and let them have it. We now await the outcome prayerfully.”
Conference on Conscience and Military Taxation
A conference on the subject of conscientious objection to military taxation was also held over the subsequent weekend, February 23 – 25, 2007, at Purchase Meeting. The conference discussed the possibility of other legal actions advancing similar claims and the opportunities now being created for others to make formal statements of their own conscientious objection to war taxes.
A personal statement of conscience could also serve as evidence to support a claim that limitation of one’s tax dollars to non-military uses is genuinely based on conscience, something that might serve as the basis to require accommodation by IRS in the event that Dan Jenkins wins his appeal, or Congress passes the Peace Tax Fund bill. These statements are being gathered and maintained by the NYYM subcommittee on Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation. More information is available from Conscience & Peace Tax International (www.cpti.ws) and from the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (www.peacetaxfund.org). For more information about the program to encourage and maintain statements of conscience on tax witness, contact Nadine Hoover, firstname.lastname@example.org or Jens Braun email@example.com, or look on the web at www.consciencestudio.com under the conscience tab.
The group agreed to meet again June 15-17, 2007 at a location to be determined to continue work on:
Research and educational testimony road show
CO statements and files—first our own, then others
Outcome of Dan’s case: discussion and follow up
Identifying parties for future group court action
Outreach to seek other parties
Other potential actions
Individuals interested in receiving registration materials for the conference, should contact Jens Braun firstname.lastname@example.org. Jens is also organizing conference calls on the conference and further actions the second Tuesdays of the month at 12:30 EST, and these are open to individuals who want to work on COMT.