PRESS RELEASE (prepared 4-7-06):
Quakers Issue Statement against Paying for War
Quakers from New York State and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut have issued a statement affirming that the use of their taxes to pay for war violates their religious conviction and their faith in the Power of the Living Spirit to bring peace and prosperity in this world.
Representatives of New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, the umbrella organization for Quaker meetings and churches in the tri-state area, approved the following minute at their Spring Business Sessions on April 1:
“The Living Spirit works to give 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 witness to this religious conviction in each of our communities.”
This statement reflects Quakers’ steadfast testimony that any participation in war, including payment of taxes for war, is a violation of our faith. By compelling support of war making through taxation, our government and political leaders have forced many people of faith to subordinate God’s Word to the dictates of the state. The statement seeks to uphold a foundational principle of our nation that freedom to practice our religious faith is a matter of moral imperative, and is not dependent upon the grace of rights or privileges granted by the legislature.
For nearly 350 years, members of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, have upheld a testimony of peace and nonviolence that embodies their belief that God’s spirit, present in every person, empowers all of us to resolve disputes without resort to the machinery of war. Quakers, Mennonites and other faiths came to the New World to escape persecutions in Europe for their religious convictions. The work of these “peace churches” in the United States eventually led to the legal recognition of the right of all persons not to be forced into military service in violation of their conscience. To date, however, the United States government has failed to respect the right of religious conscience, recognized by the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion, not to be compelled to support war through the collection of taxes.
The US Congress has before it legislation introduced by Congressman John Lewis of Georgia and supported by 40 Representatives — H.R. 2631 (the “Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill”) that would provide conscientious objectors to military taxation with an option. Individuals who establish a sincere religious objection would have their tax payments directed towards non-violent and life-affirming means for protecting and promoting national security, consistent with their faith. Until that time, many Quakers and others are being forced to choose between being faithful to their religious convictions and being in compliance with our federal tax laws.
“As a religious body, we cannot in good conscience support war, and we have borne that witness for over 350 years,” said Christopher Sammond, General Secretary of New York Yearly Meeting. “We are clear that violence only begets more violence, in a never ending cycle of horror that diminishes all humankind. Being required to pay almost half our taxes to support war-making is a violation of our religious convictions, and we will be seeking ways to redress this, individually and corporately.”
For further information contact:
Helen Garay Toppins
New York Yearly Meeting
15 Rutherford Place
New York, New York 10003