HA Penner(Akron, Pa.; March 26, 2019)   Is now the time to create a “Church Peace Tax Fund?”

That’s the subject of one of the seminars being offered at the MENNOCOM19, the July 2-6, 2019 convention in Kansas City of the Mennonite Church USA.

In response to Jesus’ exhortation to “love your enemies,” (Matthew 5:44), this seminar proposes that the Mennonite Church USA support, enable and equip religious freedom rights as outlined by the U.S. Constitution for those who, because of conscience, are unable to pay taxes that underwrite war and militarism.

Bearing witness to the good news of Jesus Christ in a world involved with endless war in the pursuit of imperial control, the creation of a church peace tax fund would channel conscripted income toward meeting human needs and help to save the planet while providing a faithful testimony to the world regarding Jesus’ way of nonviolence and peace.  In the process, a church peace tax fund would enable and equip conscientious objectors who refuse to pay war taxes.

Conscripted daily to pay taxes that underwrite killing and war making, many U.S. Mennonites are seeking ways to refrain from paying for war.  This plan provides the spiritual resources, human solidarity and material support to enable Mennonites and other people of goodwill to follow the prompting of their Spirit-led consciences and publicly object to paying the taxes that are used to support killing, war making and militarism.

Historic Mennonite statements have called on Mennonites not to pay for war:

  • “In response to global violence, we call the church to . . . be steadfast in our refusal to participate in, train for, pay for, or directly profit from the use of military violence.” – And No One Shall Make Them Afraid: A Mennonite Statement and Study on Violence Adopted by the Mennonite Church General Boards in Denver, Colorado on November 22, 1997

Three years ago, the MCUSA delegate body said:

  • “We remain committed as a church to the belief that participation in war is contrary to the will of God. . . Therefore, the Delegate Assembly of Mennonite Church USA calls affiliated congregations to a renewed emphasis on trusting God and the way of Jesus, not violence, for our security. For this teaching to be effective, it must address our society’s commitment to the moral necessity of violence, our government’s undisclosed purposes in its so-called ‘security efforts,’ and our often-secret sympathies with so-called security operations.” – Faithful Witness Amid Endless War Resolution Passed by the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly at Kansas City, Missouri, July 1, 2015

Historically U.S. Mennonites have supported conscientious objectors with their money:

  • The Historic Peace Churches bore the cost of the maintenance of the Civilian Public Service camps where conscientious objectors did their alternative service.
  • Donations to the Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Central Committee have since underwritten most of the costs of subsequent Voluntary Service, Pax, Teachers Abroad Programs (TAP) and other church-related alternative service programs.
  • More recently, the Mennonite Church USA established the Student Aid Fund for Nonregistrants (SAFNR) to support students who refused on the basis of conscience to register with the U.S. Selective Service.

We fail in our Christian calling if we only celebrate this legacy of witness and do not act during the current era of perpetual war, when our national government conscripts our money, not our bodies, and spends as much on military force as the next seven countries combined–$716 billion  during FY2019!

By creating a Church Peace Tax Fund, Mennonite Church USA will

  1. Provide a way to redirect resources from war to problem solving programs                     —which are a realistic path to peace (war is not a realistic path to peace).
  2. Support individuals and their families who experience material loss as a                         result of their refusal to pay all of or a portion of federal tax assessments               allocated to present or past military purposes.
  3. Underwrite peace education and action in the church.
  4. Provide a model for doing what the U.S. government has been unable or unwilling to               do through the proposed Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Act.

The “Church Peace Tax Fund” will be funded by designated contributions received from individuals and local participating congregations.  For record-keeping purposes via a mutual Memorandum of Understanding, donors will share with their local congregation whether their donation is a portion of the federal government’s income tax assessment attributable to war which is being redirected from war making to problem solving.

This endeavor has potential to capture the attention of the public, governments and those involved in the manufacturing and sale of armaments, both in the U.S. and around the world, where it will likely be perceived as a challenge to exorbitant military spending.  (Efforts to overcome slavery 150 years ago likewise challenged the “system!”)

In the process, might it be possible that many persons around the globe will become interested in this faithful peace-making pursuit of modern-day Anabaptists?

Prepared by H.A. Penner and John Stoner

March 26, 2019

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