Here are ways to think about making your witness of conscientious objection to war by addressing the conscription of war taxes. Action steps toward war tax refusal
(Note to reader: Additional resources on risk-taking, how to write a war tax letter, etc. are in the “articles” section of this site.)
Organizing Local Chapters – 1040 for Peace Campaign
The success of this campaign is dependent on establishing a multitude of local chapters throughout the United States. Since our motivation is faith based, the logical place to begin a local chapter is in our home church. This chapter should then spawn other chapters in neighboring churches of the same denomination and move on to churches of all denominations in the area. The leader of the local chapter and/or members of the chapter will know persons outside the area who are also concerned about the vast amounts of money being spent by the military to kill the “enemy”. By contacting these persons the number of local chapters might grow exponentially.
How to organize a local group.
Penny Poll Results
(The Penny Poll gives people 10 pennies and asks them to distribute them according to the federal budget priorities which they would like to support. See below, “How to Conduct a Penny Poll.”)
January 4, 2011
Venue: Lancaster Church of the Brethren
Penny Poll Votes
Environment/Green Energy 20.8%
Mass Transit/Roads 9.0%
Homeland Security .3%
It is very difficult to compare these Penny Poll votes with the actual federal funds budget since the budget is not organized according to the Penny Poll categories. In addition some areas such as Education receive far more funding through local taxes than through the federal budget.
Nonetheless, there are some interesting comparisons.
While the Penny Poll placed military spending at 2%, most budget analysts estimate military spending to be 40%-50% of the federal funds budget.
Another large discrepancy between Penny Poll voters and the federal budget is in the area of the environment and green energy. Penny Poll voters want 20.8% of the budget spent in this sector. The actual amount, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation is 3% (Energy, Science and Environment).
Penny Poll participants want the federal government to spend 12% of its budget on diplomacy. The actual figure, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, is 2%
 The federal funds budget is made up of discretionary spending that Congress appropriates each year. It does not include dedicated funds such as Social Security and Medicare.
 Estimates on military spending vary, depending on the amount calculated to stem from interest on the national debt attributable to military spending.
 http://www.fcnl.org/budget/, How is the Federal Government Spending Our Income Tax Dollars in 2010?, Friends Committee on National Legislation.
How to Conduct a Penny Poll
Conduct your own Penny Poll before April 15!
A penny poll is an interactive tool for good conversation and learning about U.S. budget priorities and your own values. It can engage a wide range of participants from the upper elementary grades through adult. It can be set up in any public space where there is room for a table or two midst the flow of people.
To set up a penny poll, you will need ten containers, a good supply of pennies and some signs, along with pick-up literature about the federal budget and taxes for war (see resource list below).
Each container (large yogurt containers work well) should have a sign that identifies it as a federal budget category. If you wish to participate in theLancaster County Penny Poll (see below) please use the 10 categories listed below. A category of “other” allows people to vote for a budget category that you have not included. You can ask participants to tell you what their penny in the “other” container stands for, and keep a running list.
Health/Human Services Transportation (Highways/Rail/Mass Transit)
Environmental Protection/Conservation Housing/Urban Development Homeland Security Veterans
Note that these categories only include the Federal Funds Budget, the discretionary spending on which Congress votes each year. It does not include entitlements such as social security.
How it works
The 10 containers, each bearing a sign of the budget category it represents are set up on a table. Each participant is given 10 pennies to divide among the 10 containers in a way that represents how they would like to see the federal budget spent. Participants should take a little time to look at the options and think about their choices. They may distribute their 10 pennies however they wish among the 10 budget categories.
After each participant has distributed their 10 pennies, give them a copy of the pie chart which shows how the federal budget is actually spent, from one of the following sources:
The War Resister’s League chart is especially prepared to raise the issue of taxes for war.
The National Priorities Project site listed above allows you to type in the actual $ amount of taxes paid. It uses this figure to create a pie chart indicating how many of your tax dollars go to each budget category.
If you conduct your poll in a house of worship or with another identifiable group, tabulate the results and report them the next time you meet. This will help keep the conversation going.
Framing the Question
Your location for the penny poll will influence any additional literature you provide or the questions you would like to leave with individuals for further reflection.
If you decide to conduct the penny poll in a Christian house of worship, you might want to create a sheet with reflection questions and further resources for study. Below is a starter list:
- What differences do you notice between how you distributed your pennies and the % of the federal budget that actually goes toward these categories?
- When Jesus told his disciples to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, how do you think they understood these words (Mark 12:17)?
- What limits might Jesus’ statement place on our obligations to Caesar?
- If your tax dollars are spent in ways that violate your conscience, do you resolve the tension in favor of the law or your conscience? Why?
The Lancaster County Penny Poll
We suggest that you conduct a Penny Poll at your place of worship, school or other public space between January 1 and April 15, 2011. Send your results to Titus Peachey: firstname.lastname@example.org Indicate the number of participants and the % of “votes” for each budget category. We will post the results on the 1040 for Peace website, send them to our legislators and seek other ways to give these results publicity.
email@example.com – 717 859-1151
1. http://1040forpeace.org/ This website invites you to consider expressing your commitment to peace on tax day by withholding $10.40 from your federal taxes.
2. http://co.mcc.org/us/co/wartaxes/ This Mennonite Central Committee site includes biblical studies, stories of war tax resisters, responses to practical questions about war tax resistance, as well as statements and reflections.
3. http://peace.mennolink.org/wartaxes.html This Mennonite Church USA site includes statements, worship materials and reflection related to war taxes.
4. http://nwtrcc.org/ This National War Tax Resister’s site offers personal stories of war tax resisters and a series of short pamphlets on the many questions faced by war tax resisters.
5. http://www.peacetaxfund.org/ This National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund promotes legislation that would allow conscientious objectors to war taxes to direct their tax dollars toward peaceful purposes.
6. http://www.warresisters.org/wartaxresistance The War Resister’s League website includes a budget pie chart and links to their 144 page guide to war tax resistance.
7. http://www.nationalpriorities.org/taxchart2009 Allows you to enter your actual tax payment and learn how it is spent by the federal government.
The site includes a biblical study on war taxes by Willard Swartley, former professor at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries.
9. See a courageous witness at the White House, to strengthen your own resolve!