This tax season — which the IRS has extended to July 15 — Mennonite Church USA is highlighting its Church Peace Tax Fund, formerly known as the War Tax Alternative Fund, in an effort to re-engage constituents in its peacemaking efforts.
“I am so thankful for MC USA and its peace witness. When I was serving as a captain in the United States Air Force, Anabaptist peace theology helped to transform my thinking and values,” said Glen Guyton, executive director of MC USA, who eventually left the military under a conscientious objector discharge.
“This Church Peace Tax Fund provides individuals with a tangible way to support the church’s ongoing peace mission, while symbolically protesting government spending on war and militarism.”
MC USA’s Church Peace Tax Fund will:
— Provide funding for educational programs that address militarism and promote living out ways of peace.
— Allocate a $100 annual grant to a Mennonite youth (ages 16-25) who is actively engaged in resisting war and promoting peace in their congregation and community.
— Annually recognize a faith leader in MC USA who has committed to resisting war and promoting peace.
— Provide grant opportunities to support war-tax resisters through already established alternative funds.
The Church Peace Tax Fund reaffirms “A Resolution on Faithful Action Toward Tax Withholding” passed by congregational delegates of the General Conference Mennonite Church, a predecessor of MC USA, in 1983 at Bethlehem, Pa.
The resolution states: “We accept our obligation to pay taxes. However, we must witness to governments our conviction that war and preparation for war do wrong to our neighbors and are contrary to the will of God, as revealed in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
Sue Park-Hur, MC USA’s denomination minister for transformative peacemaking, said: “Historically, Mennonites have resisted war based on Jesus’ teaching of nonviolence and loving our enemies. Our peace theology is integral to our faith. For this reason, we want to recognize the integrity of those who are not avoiding taxes but rather are compelled by conscience to promote war-tax resistance.”
Individuals and congregations may contribute to the Church Peace Tax Fund by donating directly. Some may choose to donate an amount with symbolic significance, such as the portion of their required taxes that is equal to the percentage that the government applies to military spending. Others may practice civil disobedience by withholding and redirecting that amount to support peace initiatives, such as the Church Peace Tax Fund.
According to the National Priorities Project, 24 cents of every 2018 tax dollar was spent on the military — more than the combined amount spent on education, energy, the environment, housing, agriculture and international aid. This means the average U.S. taxpayer worked 63 days in 2018 to fund military spending. These figures almost double depending on how they are calculated.
“The Church Peace Tax Fund provides a faithful testimony to the world regarding Jesus’ way of nonviolence and peace,” Park-Hur said.
The fund is consistent with the way Mennonites have historically supported conscientious objectors:
— During World War II, the historic peace churches bore the cost of maintaining the Civilian Public Service camps where conscientious objectors did their alternative service.
— Donations to MC USA and Mennonite Central Committee have since underwritten most of the costs of subsequent alternative service programs, including Mennonite Voluntary Service, Pax and Teachers Abroad.
— More recently, MC USA established the Student Aid Fund for Nonregistrants to support students who refused on the basis of conscience to register with Selective Service.
More information on how to engage with the Church Peace Tax Fund is available from Park-Hur at SuePH@MennoniteUSA.org.
To donate to the Church Peace Tax Fund, visit mennoniteusa.org/give, click on the “Peace Witness” button and check the “Church Peace Tax Fund” box on the form. Donors also may write a check payable to Mennonite Church USA, 718 N. Main St., Newton, KS 67114 and designate “Church Peace Tax Fund” in the memo line.