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

Visits to Congress, OAS and Supreme Court

Monday, July 10

Report by Jennifer Beall

On Monday, July 10, a group of conference attendees lobbied Congress. US citizens among the group had made appointments with their own representatives. Foreign guests accompanied them. These small groups made their way through the marble halls of Congress into the offices of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Those lobbied included Representative Lynn Rivers (Democrat - Michigan), Representative Dennis Kucinich (Democrat - Ohio), Representative Bruce Vento (Democrat - Minnesota), Senator Carl Levin (Republican - Michigan), and Senator Rod Grams (Republican - Minnesota).

Following the visits, those who lobbied met to eat lunch and to compare experiences. The reported responses from the aides included the following:

  1. Some didn't know much about the bill, but were willing to listen.
  2. One said he didn't have a clue about the bill and read it in a hurry. He suggested that lobbyists meet with the member of Congress in the home district.
  3. Some brought up the floodgates issue: If we make provisions for a peace tax fund, what about those who don't want to pay for other things?
  4. Some pointed out that this issue is not on the radar screen right now and suggested waiting until after the national elections.
  5. Some disputed the lobbyists' claim that 50% of discretionary funding is devoted to the military; they suggested that lobbyists get accurate figures and avoid exaggeration.
  6. One aide actually volunteered the information that 50% of discretionary funding goes to the military.
  7. One mentioned that a congressman (Representative Kucinich) has introduced a bill setting up a governmental Department of Peace. He said they need help with that effort.
  8. One suggested that the religious presentation is crucial and said that it is important to mention peace tax campaigns in countries other than the US, as well.
  9. The aide to Representative Lynn Rivers, a cosponsor of the bill, suggested that we get support from the grassroots and get in touch with media people. We should make people aware of the history of conscientious objection and of its official recognition in 1940.

After lunch we visited the Organization of American States (OAS) which is made up of the 35 countries in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The OAS is committed to “strengthening democracy, advancing human rights, promoting peace and security, expanding trade and tackling complex problems caused by poverty, drugs, and corruption” (quote taken from the OAS Website).

We also visited the US Supreme Court where we were given a presentation on the history and current workings of the Court. The Supreme Court chooses about 100 cases a year from a possible 7,000. Three US cases of Quaker war tax resisters have worked their way through the courts, but have not been amongst those chosen by the Supreme Court.