Statements of Conscience from the Peace Tax 7

The Peace Tax 7 were a group of individuals whose conscience’s led them to withhold tax until the government respected their right to not be complicit in deliberate killing.

They fought for the legal recognition of freedom of conscience as a basic human right to be realised in UK tax policy. Read more about their story here.

STATEMENTS OF CONSCIENCE BY PEACE TAX SEVEN

Brenda Boughton (d. 2012)

I was confirmed in the Church of Englanbrendad in 1949 and believe I have the right to attempt to follow its precepts. Having lived through the Second World War and grown up in the shadow of the First I have for many decades strongly believed that all of God’s children need to learn to care for each other and not pursue selfish sectarian ends to the point of murder.

In 1989 opened a bank account to hold withheld tax money pending outcome of court case. Initially the amount was the percentage destined for nuclear expenditure only. Closed the account in 1991. Then, and thereafter, sent the money straight to Oxfam.

Since 1991, whenever asked for tax payments above the minimum collected at source I have withheld the estimated percentage intended for the use of the Ministry of Defence for all expenditures. When these sums have ultimately been removed from my bank account by the Inland Revenue (garnishee) after a court hearing, the result has been that the sum requested has been paid twice.

I tried to get an Appeal Court hearing in 1993 but failed in my application to Lord Justice Butler-Sloss. She pointed out that the European Convention on Human Rights had not yet been adopted into English law. Since then I have repeated the withholding process described above whenever occasion demanded.

This cumbersome process is the only way I can continue to refuse to pay for other people to engage in warfare (that takes human life inevitably) in direct opposition to the Christian demand that we try to love one another.

Robin Brookes

Robin

I am withholding my taxes because I cannot in all conscience continue to pay taxes to a government which even now considers their reckless and illegal war against Iraq was justified. I want to make it clear, I am not against paying tax. I am in full agreement with the principle of paying a proportion of my income for the good of our society as a whole. Consequently I have the money put aside and I will voluntarily pay it when I see a real and convincing change in our governments’ approach to world problems.

I find it absurd that in this new century, our government continues to respond to conflict in the world with bombing. It has been well proven that war does not achieve its proposed aims, costs more civilian lives than military, leaves poverty and continued danger in its wake. Our most recent wars in Kosovo and Iraq have left thousands of civilians dead, their societies in ruins and a continued threat from unexploded ordinance.

We know from long history what devastation this will go on causing for decades. Laos, which had more tonnage of bombs dropped on it than on Germany and Japan in the Second World War, is nearly the poorest country on Earth. There are estimated to be 30 million unexploded cluster bomblets still lying around, still claiming victims after 30 years. A huge number of Vietnam’s children are born deformed still, four generations later, from the effects of Agent Orange.

It is time we made our government change from being a machine for making war to being a facilitator for building peace. Peace has to be built it is not just a matter of absence from war. We need a governmental department which is dedicated to cultivating peace. It should make it its business to know about areas of potential conflict in the World and work to resolve these non-violently. It should work with the UN. It should be ready to send assistance to trouble spots in the world with the express purpose of protecting civilian life and helping societies stabilise themselves . It should promote and use the International Courts. It should restrain the arms industry.

This is where I want the proportion of my taxes which is spent on military preparations to be spent. It should be a choice for everyone. It is taken for granted that we contribute taxes for military preparations. This is conscription by proxy because we live in a world where civilian men are no longer required for military service. Advances in technology and the speed with which decisions to go to war are made, make this an outmoded act. Our government has shown it is prepared to go to war without the majority of opinion behind them, either at home or worldwide and British citizens have been involved, largely against their will, through their taxes.

We should each have the right to have that part of our taxes spent on the military diverted to peace building activities. I want to live under a government which pro-actively seeks to resolve conflicts long before they escalate into war. I want to live under a government which goes out of its way to deal with tyranny – around the world – by legal means through the International Court, in ways which impact on the tyrant, not their victims. I want to live under a government which leads us from dependancy on oil to becoming an energy efficient society, which uses scarce resources wisely and considerately. I want to live under a government which supports and contributes to a World Community under the United Nations, not tyranny of another kind under the New World Order.

 


sian

Sian Cwper

I refuse to kill people or to be responsible for people being killed because I paid for arms to make it possible, because it is wrong.

 

 

 

Simon Heywood

sicourtMy starting point in this is the recognition that, in order to live a fully human life, I must acknowledge all human life as equal in value to my own. As I am a human being, nothing can entitle me to decide when and how another human being shall die. For me, this is bound up in a recognition of God as the source of all life, and in upholding of the historic peace testimony which has been essential to Quakers, from the years when George Fox “lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars,” to the New Zealand Quakers who declared in 1987 that they “totally oppose all wars, all preparation for war, all use of weapons and coercion by force, and all military alliances.”

It is currently impossible for any taxpaying UK citizen to live by this principle without coming into conflict with the government and the courts, because the courts enforce a policy which compels the individual taxpayer to contribute about 10% of their total tax bill to military expenditure, irrespective of conscientious objection. This ignores the unique personal urgency of the issue of the deliberate taking of human life, which is already conceded in the right to conscientious objection to military service (a right established at the height of the Great War in 1916) and in the disinclination of political parties to dictate to MP’s consciences on comparable issues such as capital punishment. Respect for human life and freedom of conscience is enshrined in UK law and justifies a minor and well-precedented adjustment to UK tax administration.

Freedom of conscience, as enshrined in article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, is now supported in UK law by the 1998 Human Rights Act. That is, UK tax policy ignores the fact that, on this specific issue, UK citizens arguably already have the right to translate an ancient and compelling conscientious objection directly into tax policy. It is vitally important that they do so.

The world cannot support the humanitarian, economic, environmental, legal, costs of war. One week’s global military expenditure could end world poverty forever. A single fighter aircraft equals over sixty council houses. The costs of the Iraq war dwarf spending on international development, which alone can create the global prosperity that will prevent future wars. And no war is inevitable. The existence of weapons encourages war; there is no truly “defensive” arms spending. By pouring taxpayers’ subsidies into prestigious but barely profitable arms industry, the UK floods the globe with cheap weapons and makes an unjust world a more volatile and dangerous place. All wars are deliberately and institutionally created by the rejection of negotiated settlement and non-violent resolution of conflict. International events in recent years have illustrated the waste and madness of war and the urgent necessity to build a culture of peace.

90% of war casualties are now civilian, and armies are small bodies of highly trained technicians. Civilians pay for war and suffer most from it. In Iraq, US and UK military casualties are in the tens and hundreds. The Coalition forces do not even bother to count Iraqi civilian casualties of the 2003 invasion, but the website iraqbodycount lists around 10,000 verified deaths. Despite the conventional disclaimers of governments, these are not “collateral” or “accidental” casualties. Killing civilians is an intrinsic and predictable part of modern military strategy, for which, for the sake of future generations, all who prosecute wars must be held responsible. As the cost and pain of war is now largely a civilian business, so peacebuilding is a civilian responsibility, incumbent on each individual, no matter how powerless or insignificant they may feel. I am involved in this case because I believe that, in the specific case of war, I have the right to determine how my taxes are spent, and the moral obligation to exercise this right.

I want my taxes to go towards conflict resolution which works with the broader context of political, social and cultural issues and economic issues in order to transform conflicts and achieve creative solutions to violence. If my money goes on that, then I will get more peace for my pound than I will if it goes for cluster bombs.

 

Joe Jenkinsjoe

I consider myself to be a law-abiding citizen. Ever since I received my first wage packet in 1971 I have always paid my income tax. However at the outbreak of the war against Iraq in 2003 I informed the Inland Revenue that as a matter of conscience I was unwilling to see a proportion of my tax fuel this illegal and immoral war, asking that my taxes be redirected instead, towards conflict resolution and peace-building initiatives.

This was a decision not taken lightly for the law is not to be violated wantonly or unadvisedly. But, the law is not an end in itself. It is there to serve human needs and interests. This is my instinctive understanding of the law and any interpretation of the law cannot allow the death or maiming of innocent people. The right to life is an absolute right and any violation of this right can never be justified by ‘collateral damage’ arguments or by narrow utilitarianism, and cannot be traded off ‘in the national interest’ particularly when all other peace-building and conflict resolution avenues have not been exhausted.

In an age when the effects of mere “conventional” weapons would beggar the belief of previous generations, I, as a British taxpayer, have grave misgivings about how a proportion of my tax is spent on military activities and heinous weapons systems. For 30 years I have dedicated my professional life to teaching ethics and religious tolerance and I am deeply concerned about the effects of our culture of violence on the young generation. How can we talk about a culture of peace if that peace is predicated on the existence of weapons of mass destruction? How can we persuade the young generation to cast aside the culture of violence when they know that it is on the threat of extreme violence that we apparently rely for security?

The pre-emptive strike of Iraq confirmed my worst fears about our current system, and I engaged in a struggle to change the law so people of conscience will never again be compelled by the state to contribute financially towards institutionalized violence, and be made complicit in state terrorism.

 

Roy Prockter (d. 2014)

RoyFor me, war is just plain wrong – it would still be wrong if it worked, but it doesn’t even work as a means of solving conflicts. The reason war is wrong is that it involves killing, and for me, “thou shalt not kill” means exactly that.

Conflicts are inevitable, but can be and have to be solved peacefully; agreement is always possible if justice and not narrow self interest is the primary goal and the process is approached with goodwill by all parties, that goodwill is often lacking following the imposition of unjust conditions after a previous armed conflict, which so often result in resentment from the injustice and simply ferments the next armed conflict, maybe decades or even centuries later and the cycle of violence continues.

Even without an armed conflict to start them off, injustices, including economic injustices, lead to resentment, and resentment eventually leads to conflict – and without the means for peaceful resolution those conflicts boil up into armed struggles.

One such injustice is that clean water and basic healthcare could be available to everyone on the planet for the cost of just one weeks armament spending, but governments will not stop buying armaments for long enough to create a world order that would remove the need or place for armaments.

I did not become a pacifist because it is an easy option or because I am weak, in fact becoming pacifist has probably made me stronger. I’ve done all the demos, written to MPs, prayed for peace – and then they sent me a bill for some tax – realizing that this was effectively part of the proportion they would spend on war and preparing for war I just could not bring myself to write a cheque – I’d be paying the murderer – killing is murder even if those in power pass a law that says otherwise – and paying a murderer to murder is committing that murder yourself – there is another law that says that.

I have come to these views from a variety of influences, including that of parenthood, and when I started going to Quaker meetings I immediately felt that I belonged there. So I want the law changed so that I can support peaceful means of conflict resolution and not be forced to murder my fellow beings by paying the murderer.

It really is that straightforward.

 

Birgit Vollmbirgit

I deeply believe that each person has an intrinsic value and worth, regardless of their nationality, gender, faith or conduct. I also share the commitment to the testimonies of equality, social justice, peace, simplicity and truth with the Quaker faith. On a personal level the belief in an intrinsic value of all people and in equality dictates me to aim to treat all people with respect and kindness and not to use others for my own personal gains. On the level of a society these concerns lead to human rights for all citizens. These rights are unconditional and include the right to life, liberty and security. Any violence against people, including war and suppression is not compatible with either my beliefs or the human rights of these people regardless of the purpose of the violence. Fundamental values and rights cannot be traded off against seeming or real advantages for certain individuals or states.

Where all this holds true at all times, it is particularly relevant in a time where Britain is actively engaged in war as was the case at the time of my first letter to the IR requesting the redirection of a proportion of my taxes. This war was illegal. It violated the UN Charter which allows the use of military force only in cases of self defence or as an action authorised by the Security Council. Pre-emptive strikes have no basis in International Law. This war cost the British taxpayer several billon pounds and thousands of innocent Iraqis their lives.

The right to object to the conscription to military service has been recognised in most civilised countries including in the UK in 1916. However, in an age of sophisticated military technology, it is not so much people but financial resources that are conscripted for war and its preparations. Therefore compulsory financial service of all citizens is a prerequisite for war. The right to withhold taxes for military purposes is a logical extension of the right to refuse to take part in military activity itself.

Conscientious objectors’ taxes should be put into a non-military security fund and used to help prevent and resolve conflicts. This view is shared by 65 MPs who support the call for a bill to introduce the right of conscientious objection to taxation for military purposes. The Human Rights Act which came into force in Britain in autumn 2000 in Article 9 recognises the freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Freedom of conscience is the basis for the right to refuse military service and I believe that denying me the right to redirect my taxes towards peaceful rather than military purposes breaches these rights.

 

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