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

Judicial Efforts and Strategies

Workshop Number 16

Led by Rosa Packard and Priscilla Adams

Priscilla Adams and Rosa Packard told the stories of their war tax resistance court cases, and the group raised questions and discussed strategies for future witness through the United States judicial system.

Priscilla initiated her own case in the tax court in 1996. The IRS did not take her to court. Her lawyers, Peter Goldberger and Jim Feldman, thought it was time for a court case to test the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 for the first time regarding tax issues and religious freedoms.

Priscilla began war tax resistance in 1974. She is employed by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting which includes over 100 congregations in the Philadelphia area. The Yearly Meeting took on her WTR case in a special way, and she felt a lot of support from the faith community.

Priscilla's case lost in tax court and in appeals court. The Supreme Court refused to hear it.

Her case asked that war tax resisters not be given penalties, and that there should be an accommodation, such as the peace tax fund bill to allow for religious freedom of WTRs. It argued that although the government has compelling interest in tax collection, it should impose its interest by the least restrictive means.

In hindsight, Priscilla said she is glad, even though her important case did not win, that she pursued it, because it is important to strive for our goals of conscience whether or not we achieve all that we hope for. The case strengthened support for these issues and the peace tax Fund among both people familiar with and new to these issues. Her case received some media exposure. The judge at the appeals court congratulated Peter Goldberger and said the world would be a different place if more people thought about the importance of conscience.

Since the Supreme Court wouldn't hear Priscilla's case, she and Peter are suggesting that more people take their cases to court. If different appeals courts give different rulings, one or more cases would have to go to Supreme Court. A religious body could also generate a test case.

Rosa Packard has refused to pay taxes for war for twenty years and puts 100% of her assessed taxes into her Quaker Meeting escrow account. The government regularly levies the taxes plus penalties and interest money from her checking account.

Rosa's case complemented the Peace Tax Fund Bill. Three Quaker cases were testing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) at the same time. Peter Goldberger and Jim Feldman took Rosa's case to court as a test case. Before bringing the case to court it was necessary to make an administrative appeal to the IRS.

Rosa said she learned that the role of conscientious objectors is to unmask hidden structural violence. IRS policy is to ignore religious and conscientious arguments in administrative appeals.This is clearly religious discrimination, she said.

My case was focused and strong because it only appealed the discretionary penalties and I had a good lawyer. I didn't think I'd win, because of the government's bias, she said.

Amicus briefs by New York Yearly Meeting were submitted at the appeals and Supreme Court levels.

In her Quaker meeting, the interest and penalties seized are recorded in its minutes as “suffering for conscience sake.” The Yearly Meeting also expressed corporate support and witness by helping with legal costs. In the past, New York Yearly Meeting had withheld telephone taxes during the Vietnam War. In addition, it sends a representative (presently John Randall) to the PTF Campaign.

We need to affirm every Quaker who has gone to court whether they won or lost. We only get one to three media articles, but the process plants seeds, Rosa said.

The Greenwich Times named Rosa the “person of the week” and made it clear hers was a Quaker witness.

The CPTI website, www.surf.to/CPTI (now www.cpti.ws) has Rosa's documents.

In the discussion among participants, the following statements and suggestions were made:

Get a lawyer if you want to test the law; don't do it on your own.

Public witness is important [and justifies spending money to take your case to court]. Court cases stimulate dialogue with IRS agents, judges, media personnel, as well as to the defendant's friends and church members who begin to see the relationship between conscientious objection to military service and to paying for war.

If an individual owes back taxes and their employer refuses to comply with the IRS by garnishing their salary, then the IRS cannot take the money out of the account unless it takes the employer to court. If the employer is a religious body, the IRS is unlikely to pursue it, because the IRS seems reluctant to take a religious body to court. It has never taken Mennonites to court.

Participants: Priscilla Adams, Rosa Packard, Ray Gingerich, Veronica Fellerath, Charles Johnson, Judith Felker, Sarah Weber, Mary Ellen Rugg, Mira Tanna, and Carol Coney, reporter.