Legal and Legislative Exemptions from War Tax Withholding, 1980

"We request the General Board of our conference to engage in a serious and vigorous search to use all legal, legislative, and administrative avenues for achieving a conscientious objector exemption from the legal requirement that the conference withhold income taxes from the wages of its employees. If no relief can be found within a three-year period the General Board shall bring the question back to the Conference."

Following this resolution, the General Board appointed a five-member Task Force, which later was joined by representatives of the Mennonite Church, Church of the Brethren, and Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

While the Task Force is vigorously pursuing its assignment to identify and research "legal, legislative, and administrative avenues," carrying these tasks through to successful completion requires widespread support and initiative throughout the General Conference.

I. Legislative Exeption

It is apparent that previous General Conference resolutions in 1974 and 1977 on the World Peace Tax Fund have not produced sustained work among many congregations to ensure that their congressional Representatives and Senators have endorsed the bill. To date, among congressional districts in which Mennonites reside in significant numbers, only three U.S. Representatives have become supporters. The World Peace Tax Fund is currently sponsored by only 31 of 435 Representatives. At least 100 sponsors are required for the bill to receive serious attention.

The Historic Peace Church Task Force on Taxes has set the summer of 1983 as a target date by which to obtain these 100 congressional sponsors. To this end, major educational and promotional efforts are being planned in all of the participating historic peace churches.

II. Legal Exemption

Research undertaken in 1975, following an American Friends Service Committee test case, and subsequent legal opinions sought by the Task Force on Taxes, have pointed to the possibility of a solution through judicial action. A suit requesting the court to exempt the historic peace churches from withholding their employees' income taxes against their conscience is indicated. Such an action could be a joint effort by the General Conference and other historic peace churches.

This action might cost $75,000 to $130,000, and would likely require several years to reach final decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

With these considerations, the Task Force on Taxes recommends sustained effort on both the World Peace Tax Fund and a judicial action during the 1980-1983 triennium.

Therefore, BE IT RESOLVED:

That each General Conference congregation study the World Peace Tax Fund in depth and appoint a committee of three persons as congregational educators/organizers to promote passage of the bill by the U.S. Congress;

That the Task Force on Taxes provide study and action materials to facilitate the work of congregations in seeking sponsorship of the World Peace Tax Fund bill by their U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators;

That the General Board be empowered to initiate a judicial action seeking exemption for the General Conference Mennonite Church from withholding taxes from the income of its employees. This judicial action will be based on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects church from laws causing it to violate the conscientious objection of its employees to contributing to war;

That all General Conference congregations support the judicial action efforts of the Task Force on Taxes through special offerings, budget allocations, or some other means compatible with their financial structure. U.S. congregations are urged to support efforts for the passage of the World Peace Tax Fund.

Submitted by: Heinz Janzen, Convenor, Historic Peace Church Task Force on Taxes

Delton Franz, Member

Duane Heffelbower, Member

Ernie Regehr, Member

Robert Hull, Secretary


Adopted the General Conference Mennonite Church, February 9-11, 1979, Minneapolis, Minnesota