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

Conscientious Objection to Military Taxation as a Human Right

Workshop Number 10

Led by Gerald Drewett, Pedro Otaduy and David Bassett

Eighteen of us introduced ourselves and shared why we came to the conference. We were provided with nine questions to consider. We spent the most time on the first one: “What is Conscience?” Our responses varied with many overlapping points. We decided that there were 3 major themes about what conscience is:

  1. that of God in each person,
  2. an innate biological part of each person,
  3. and our trained will.

Conscience tells us what is right and wrong. A study was spoken of that children learn from their parents and other mentors that right produces a happy reaction and wrong produces an angry reaction. This influence doesn't seem to be the only learning, for we keep refining our sensitivity to a, b, and c over the years. Some saw conscience as telling us right from wrong after we have done something; others saw it as a guide to future action. It is a connection with creative energy or love.

We looked at the question of whether people can exist without a conscience, but felt that for everyone to be accountable we need to believe that all have a conscience. We each may get different direction from our individual consciences, which means that no one has a right to judge another.

Instances were cited of killing the consciences of 12-16 year olds in Africa and of training soldiers to kill. Fear was seen as what keeps us from hearing our consciences, disconnecting us from them. An example was given of the well-armed soldier shaking with fear as he was taking into custody a protester who was not shaking with fear.

We turned to the question: “Need it become a legislative issue?” When war tax resistance is seen as illegal, then the laws do need to be changed, and that means drafting and passing legislation. That process allows more people to be educated.

Seeing that conscience is a biological part of us leads to it being a human right not to kill others. We see war tax resistance as a witness to one's conscience and a way to help ourselves and others get back to the truth. Having a religious freedom peace tax bill passed would give those who think it is necessary to pay to kill in order to solve problems a second choice, one of which they currently are unaware. Such a law could pave the way for future legislation that would encourage more widespread use of conflict resolution and peace making.

Scribe: Anne Moore