Eighth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Washington, DC USA 2000

USA Country Report Number 1

National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund (NCPTF)

The National Campaign for a Peace tax Fund (NCPTF) was founded in 1971 to address the basic issue of conscientious objection to war as it involves the payment of taxes. NCPTF is organized solely to promote legislation to allow citizens who are conscientious objectors to pay their full tax liability without violating fundamental moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. See www.peacetax.com (now www.peacetaxfund.org/) for more info.

The Peace Tax Foundation is dedicated to education and research. It educates the public about alternative tax payment programs that are based on moral, religious and ethical opposition to participation in war.

Staff:

The staff is made up of four people who make up an equivalent of three full time jobs. Marian Franz is executive director and lobbyist. Tom Kierans is Director of Development and Research. Rachel Harrison is Assistant Director for Development and Research and works with congressional contacts around the country. Jennifer Beall is the administrative assistant. Greg Reagle is a new intern. Joanna Reese is a valued volunteer. Emily Hamilton recruits activists around the country.

The Board of Directors meets twice a year, and has 15 elected board members. Board officers are: Bill Galvin, chair; James Garber, vice chair; Rosa Packard, secretary; Ben Richmond, treasurer; and David Bassett, honorary chair.

Main goal and activities of the organization

Lobbying: Marian Franz coordinates all lobbying visits to members of Congress. She is often accompanied by leaders from other religious organizations that have made statements in support of Peace Tax legislation.

The Peace Tax Fund Bill was introduced in the US House of Representatives in 1972 and in the US Senate in 1975. The Bill has been introduced in every Congress since. It has undergone several changes. It no longer specifies where the COs money would go, but only that none of it can be used for a military purpose.

Current size and scope of the movement in the USA

Support in Congress:

There are significant indicators of growing congressional support, even though the number of cosponsors is not high. There is silent support from members of Congress who are not yet ready to cosponsor the Bill, but are indicating that they will not work actively against it.

Support from Organizations:

This supports has come in stages. In the beginning of the Campaign's efforts, support came mainly from the Historic Peace Churches: Quakers, Mennonite and Church of the Brethren. Then much larger mainline denominations lent their official support. Finally, we were joined by allies who include more conservative religious bodies.

This dramatic increase of support from organizations which previously had paid little attention to Peace Tax legislation helps draw attention to our cause. These bodies have come to see the Peace Tax Fund as a religious freedom issue to be considered in the context of the US constitution's First Amendment granting the right to free exercise of religion. Support from this broad spectrum has emphasized the depth of concern of conscientious objectors to military taxation. It has also drawn the attention of members of Congress who see our concerns in a new way.

Support from a new coalition of 80 religious groups. A new group of religious and civil liberties bodies, the Coalition for the Free Exercise of Religion, has come together to oppose Supreme court decisions that undermine religious freedom. These organizations now offer help to the Peace Tax Fund. Most of these groups do not espouse pacifism, but agree that conscientious objection to war is a valid issue of religious liberty, and see conscientious objection as a fundamental right.

History and Current Status

In 1992, a subcommittee of the tax writing committee of the House of Representatives held a hearing on the US Peace Tax Fund Bill. Leaders from religious bodies, legal experts, and war tax resisters testified about the importance of Peace Tax legislation. The hearing caused the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to define its objections: that the measure would be too costly to administer, would involve IRS in determining who is truly a conscientious objector, and that the entire budgetary process would be undermined. Answering IRS were members of Congress and attorneys who insisted that the Bill would actually benefit IRS through increased voluntary compliance and decreased collection costs.

In 1995 and 1996 we worked for a hearing in the US Senate. Although the hearing did not occur, we succeeded in prompting letters from eight Senators who requested a hearing, and from a diverse group of religious leaders.

From 1998 on, we have had several visits in the White House which asked the Department of the Treasury to meet with us.

Constituent Actions

Congressional District Contacts:

We attempt to stay in touch with Peace Tax Fund activists in as many of the congressional districts as possible. At present we have 30 congressional district contacts who have committed to do a major amount of work to promote the PTF Bill in their districts.

The Grass Roots:

Our grassroots activists make progress by printing information in other organizations' newsletters, writing letters to Congress and organizing others to do so, asking their congregation or social justice group to ‘endorse’ the Campaign (thereby activating the awareness of others), putting up posters on college campuses, leading introductory evenings, and writing to local newspapers or taking up collections to buy advertisement space in newspapers.

There are over 4,500 on our mailing list. Of these, 1,500 are national and local religious and peace groups. The remaining 3,000 or more are individuals. We produce a newsletter, Quarterly Updates, for the grassroots four times a year. We have also developed a site on the Worldwide Web, and advertise for free on websites that match volunteers with organizations.

Significant Challenge:

The total US military budget is $519 billion! (41% of overall national budget) -- $293 billion on current expenditures and $225 for past military expenditures.