Fifth International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns - Hondarribia, Spain 1994

Workshop 5: Lobbying for Peace Tax Legislation:

How Do You Do It?

The preparatory document

All exchange of ideas on how to reach and gain support from politicians, representatives of trade unions, peace movements, environmental groups, third world groups, and churches

Marian Franz and Kees Nieuwerth.

Preparation of workshop:

Either by an introductory talk or by a series of questions appropriate to both phases of the workshop.

We propose that the workshop should go through two phases:

  1. Participants can briefly tell who they are, what their Peace Tax Campaign activities are, and particularly, can elaborate on their experiences concerning the topic of this workshop (+/- one hour)
  2. After a coffee/tea-break (half an hour), the discussion should be conducted more systematically in order to arrive at conclusions and/or strategies for action (both nationally and on the level of international cooperation). It should also be clearly indicated which person or persons are responsible for the follow-up of subsequent actions (+/- one hour)

Kees and Marian will ask a person from either of our organizations to commit him/herself to providing a written report of the workshop within one month of the conference. Possibly this job could be done in close cooperation with the chairpersons.

Series of questions appropriate for the workshop.

Phase 1:

  1. Name, country, organization/group affiliated with Peace Tax Campaign.
  2. Status of legislative process in that person's country.
  3. Actions taken in that country on behalf of legislation.
  4. Results of those actions, positive and negative. What has been successful?, What has been learned?
  5. Strength of the movement
  6. How do people make personal contact with individual members of Congress/Parliament? And with political parties?
  7. Who are allies (important individuals, organizations) in the movement? And in the government?
  8. Have your fortunes changed since we last met at Brussels?
  9. Actions planned (brief report)
  10. Status of corporate war tax resistance, that is, religious of other bodies who for reasons of conscience refuse to withhold the ‘military portion’ of taxes from the salaries of their employees.
  11. Sharing materials for the lobbying task.
  12. What printed materials have been helpful?
  13. What exposure have you been able to get in the press and/or electronic media?
  14. What approaches have been useful in regard to fund raising?

Phase 2:

  1. Brief comparison of the various ways in which proposed legislation has been drafted into Peace Tax Bills in a number of our countries: differences and similarities in content-matter.
  2. Responses to key issues which legislators consider to be obstacles. What are our arguments against their arguments against?
  3. How to establish and maintain an on-going personal contact with individual members of Congress/Parliament and with political parties.
  4. Stories of conscientious objectors that may help to convince Congress/ Parliament, including punitive measures taken against war tax resisters.
  5. How to obtain new allies (individuals or organizations)...
  6. How to get support (monetary and moral) for the campaign from religious bodies, from peace and civil liberty organizations?
  7. What concrete steps can be taken in the European Union, the Council of Europe, the UN Commission on Human Rights or other international organizations to have conscientious objection recognized as a human right?
  8. Brief status-report on the Conscience and Peace Tax Campaign's International Committee by Kees.
  9. Report on the follow-up of the USA Congress Hearing/Status report PTC in the USA by Marian.

The report

Workshop leaders:

Marian Franz; Executive Director, National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund; Washington, DC, USA

Kees Nieuwerth; Legislative Committee, GMBB; Netherlands

At this workshop, we heard reports on the status of Peace Tax Fund legislation by representatives from the following nations:

1. Germany

(by Klaus Hecker). A Peace Tax Fund (PTF) Bill has been introduced in three earlier sessions of the Bundestag (the Parliament). There will be another round of elections for the Bundestag next month; German peace workers will try to introduce their Bill again. There is some uncertainty at present, because if a party which might support PTF legislation receives less than 5% of the votes, that party is not represented in the Parliament. The peace movement, which was very active at the time of the Gulf War, is now less active. One active member is Gunther Lott (a pharmacist), who has talked in Bonn at the Bundestag with close to 100 members of Parliament about PTF legislation. German peace workers have developed a pamphlet, How to lobby for Peace Tax Fund legislation, to encourage other peace workers to visit members of Parliament at their local offices where they hold open office hours (usually on Friday mornings). The German ‘Netzwerk Friedensteuer’ (Network Peace Tax) also promoted a letter-writing campaign to members of Parliament. In one area, German PTF supporters wrote about 400 letters to members in the two most promising parties. German PTF supporters recognize the importance of building coalitions with other groups interested in peace. They plan to arrange for local campaigns, involving the press and electronic media.

In 1993, the ‘Netzwerk Friedensteuer’ was awarded the ‘Aachener Friedenspreis’ in recognition of their continued support of peace. There is always a German part and a foreign part of this award; the latter was awarded to Aristide.

2. Belgium

(by Koen Moens). They have the same Parliament which was in power when we were in Brussels two years ago, so there have been no major recent developments in this Parliament. There will be an election in 1995. Last time, the Bill was introduced by members of the Green Party. The next time, Belgian PTF supporters hope to have the Bill introduced by at least two parties (perhaps the Greens, and the Socialists).

The Peace Tax movement has a Board (numbering five). They are trying to recruit one or more staff members. They have a small amount of money, and believe they could raise more; but have found it difficult to find a person who has both the knowledge about and commitment to the Peace Tax idea, and who has time available to take on a regular job as a staff member.

3. Netherlands

(by Kees Nieuwerth). The Beweging Weigering Defensiebelasting (BWD) office has moved. Hans Mulder (who was part-time staff) has moved on to other work; and Trix van Vugt is on maternity leave. One of the BWD projects was to prepare a do it yourself tax form, sending this to various peace journals and periodicals, so that people could calculate how much of their own money goes for military spending. Next year, they hope to time this more closely to Tax Day (which is April 1).

They are facing the problem faced by all of us in the PTF movement, that some supporting legislators leave office; new legislators come in who need to be oriented and persuaded; and most activists and legislators have many issues competing for their support. The challenge is to help them see the central importance of PTF legislation, if we are ever to move to a peaceful world.

Approaches have been made to politicians, especially those in the Christian Democratic Party.

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has been especially active. It has formed ties with Women in Black (in Croatia), and has sent a translated form of the PTF Bill to Croatia.

Kees had an important opportunity to speak in person with the (then) Prime Minister, specifically about the PTF Bill. (The May, 1993 elections resulted in a different party, with a new Prime Minister, holding the predominant power.)

4. Spain

Lina Warbet reported on activities in Spain, which are in the area of war tax resistance, rather than legislative. The emphasis in Spain is on total conscientious objection. An important effort has been that of objectors going to schools, to explain their military tax resistance and general tax resistance viewpoints. In schools, they seem to have reached an audience receptive to their views.

5. United States

(by Marian Franz). PTF legislation was introduced in 1972. At present, there are 37 sponsors of the US PTF Bill in the House of Representatives, 3 in the Senate. This may seem like a small number of sponsors, since one needs a majority of votes in the House (at least 218 votes), and a majority in the Senate (at least 51 votes; and actually 60 votes if there is a filibuster). But there have been other measures of progress. Marian has visited very many offices in the House and Senate, especially after the 1992 hearings, and there is now much silent support by members who won't go so far as to vote for the Bill, but they will not kill it (i.e., they may abstain, or they may take a walk, or in other words, not be present at the moment of the vote).

There is now a reasonable hope of getting a hearing in the Senate (in both the Judiciary Committee and the Finance Committee). This will take much hard work; one such effort is to generate 10,000 letters, to show support for the Bill.

A key development has come about as a result of the major effort to obtain improved health care legislation. As part of that, in working for improved women's reproductive health, the issue of abortion has arisen; and many of those who have been saying that they are conscientiously opposed to any of their federal tax moneys going for abortion, are now feeling and recognizing our conscientious objection to paying taxes which are allocated for military purposes. So efforts are underway to build a coalition of support, especially in the Senate, with those who cover the spectrum from decidedly conservative to decidedly liberal legislators.

There has come to be increased recognition in the Congress for the approach taken by the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund NCPTF ) and its supporters, as a result of our steady, persistent lobbying on this issue; behaving with decorum; recognizing and respecting the worth of each person no matter what their political view.

There was a major negative judicial decision in the US Supreme Court in 1990 (Smith vs. Oregon) which markedly damaged the principle of religious freedom. But this decision has been superseded by legislation passed in the Congress in November, 1993 (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act). The efforts required to pass this Act created another coalition, which has an increased awareness of the importance of the religious freedom issue represented by the Peace Tax Fund Bill.

Some major changes were made in the US PTF Bill in 1993, responding to input from the Bill's Congressional sponsors:

  1. Language has been added to indicate that one of the purposes of the Bill is to improve revenue collection.
  2. The separate Board of Trustees for the PTF Bill has been removed.
  3. Instead of Peace Tax Fund moneys being used for a number of general peace-related purposes, four specific federal agencies would receive PTF moneys (Women Infants and Children Program; Head Start; the Peace Corps; and the US Institute of Peace. (See NCPTF Summer 1993, and Fall 1993 Newsletters for more detailed discussion).

The NCPTF Board and the Bill's Congressional sponsors believe that these changes will improve the Bill's chances for passage. We continue to emphasize the important significance of the Bill, with its changes. When enacted, it will:

  1. establish the legal right of conscientious objection to the payment of taxes allocated for military purposes;
  2. it will have great educational significance, since information about this legal right, and the method of registering one's conscientious objection, will be sent each year to some 160,000,000 US taxpayers, challenging them to face the question whether they are conscientious objectors to war;
  3. it will serve as a referendum, each year, with results made known to the public and to Congress as to how the nation's taxpayers feel about issues of war and peace.

Following the workshop, information was also obtained from the following persons, concerning the status of PTF programs and legislation in their countries.

6. Canada

(from Joy Newall, President of Conscience Canada). The judicial experiences of Dr. Jerrilyn Prior have been important, in setting the stage for legislative efforts. Since 1982, Dr. Prior worked through Canada's court system to try to establish the right of conscientious objection to the payment of military taxes. Canada's constitution states that everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: 2(a) freedom of conscience and religion. Yet, after her appeals had repeatedly been turned down at lower levels, the Canadian Supreme Court in 1992 denied Dr. Prior a hearing. She then, with her counsel, presented her case to the UN Human Rights Commission. This body also denied her a hearing(!), maintaining that hers is a tax case, and that the Commission therefore did not have jurisdiction.

The Canadian Peace Tax Bill has been rewritten by Conscience Canada, in collaboration with MP Svend Robinson (NDP), who has tabled (introduced) it in the House of Commons. It will wait there until its number is selected, and then it will move ahead for debate before it is accepted or rejected. If accepted, it will follow normal procedure through the two Houses of Parliament. The new Bill has removed the concept of asking for a separate Peace Tax Fund, instead asking that the Government use the military tax moneys of conscientious objectors for life-affirming government projects, such as affordable housing projects in Canada; international programs of a humanitarian nature; government-sponsored organizations that promote peace and security.

Members of Conscience Canada (CC) have completed their policy paper (white paper), which is their official statement of their position. This is being made available to all the individuals and organizations with whom they are networking, in order to build a coalition of supporters. These include many church-affiliated groups and many in the peace movement, as well as members of Parliament, and all members of CC. Their new Coordinator, Jane-Orion Smith, has organized a lobbying visit of CC members to Ottawa, to meet as many members of Parliament as will hear them.

There is an important dialogue underway by some members of CC with Canada's Minister of Finance, Paul Martin, (as reported in Conscience Canada Newsletter, Autumn, 1994), seeking common ground with the government. Jane-Orion Smith writes We must acknowledge government concerns, affirm the positive work the Department of National Defence performs, and work to find a solution that satisfies the global needs of public policy as well as the rights of conscience of COs.

CC is also moving ahead towards publication of their book, Acts of Conscience, aiming to make their position known to a wider audience possible.

7. Italy

(from Alberto L'Abate): The approval of a law recognizing tax resistance to pay for an officially-recognized non-violent defence is considered by the Italian Campaign to be a very important objective, that could lead to the conclusion of the campaign itself. For the moment, the most important result has been a declaration of the Constitutional Court that defence can be pursued also without arms. That opened the door to a recognition of Popular Non-violent Defence. Another important achievement has been, in 1992, the approval by a very strong majority of our Parliament of a law reforming the previous law about conscientious objection to military service. This new law recognized the participation of conscientious objectors in the non-violent defence of the country, and also to UN non-armed interventions in international conflicts.

But the President of the Republic, under pressure from the military lobby, rejected the law. After this, the situation became worse, because the right wing majority (a part of the governing coalition) is promoting, in agreement with the military lobby, a highly technical and professional military corps to defend, all over the world, the interests of our leading class; and they are impeding the discussion and the approval of the bill for conscientious objection to military service and also that to military expenses.

In this situation, the Italian Campaign on Tax Resistance has to find new forces and vigour.

8. United Kingdom

(from Monica Frisch): In January, 1994, a proposal for Peace Tax legislation, entitled Conscientious Objection (Public Expenditure) was introduced in the House of Commons by Neil Gerrard, a member of the Labour Party, co-sponsored by 2 members of the Plaid Cymru Party and 9 other members of the Labour Party. In advance of the Bill's introduction, staff at the Peace Tax Campaign Office and the Quaker Peace Section sent out hundreds of information packets to encourage lobbying on this Bill, and on Early Day Motion 304. (An Early Day Motion is a type of Parliamentary petition, aiming to raise awareness of the Bill, and of the Peace Tax Campaign. As of autumn 1994, 62 MPs had signed the Early Day Motion.)

The Bill was introduced by Neil Gerrard as a Ten Minute Rule Bill (10 minutes allowed for an address by the MP introducing the Bill). (As introduced, the Bill was not fully drafted legislation, but only an outline of the concept.) Before it could go to a Second Reading, it would have to be properly drafted in legal terms. The Peace Tax Campaign feels that much additional lobbying will need to be done, before there is enough support to force the issue to a successful vote.

Following the Bill's introduction, there was an encouraging response by the print and electronic media.

The Peace Tax Campaign, in their March 1994 Newsletter, reminded readers about the elections for members of the European Parliament, scheduled for June 9, 1994. There is currently support for the PTF legislation by 19 MEPs. The Campaign is working to increase that level of support.

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