Resolution on Military Tax Withholding (Mennonite Church, 1989)

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Resolution on Military Tax Withholding (Mennonite Church, 1989)


Commentary on the Resolution

Resolution on Military Tax Withholding

  1. That the Mennonite Church General Board facilitate the church's continued study of issues raised by taxation for military purposes. These issues include:
    1. The church-state issues raised by the collection of taxes by church agencies, paying particular attention to our history, and the action of other groups within our faith family.
    2. The payment of the military portion of taxes by individuals.
    3. Church institutions responding to employees who, for the sake of conscience request that the military portion of their income taxes not be withheld/forwarded.
    Proposed steps by which the Mennonite Church General Board would facilitate these studies are:
    1. Preparing study materials related to the issue (gathered from historical committee, General Conference materials, etc.).
    2. Planning for a consultation using these materials to which conference would be encouraged to send teams of persons who would, in turn, guide conference studies.
    3. Gathering a sense of direction from the conferences that work at it for a report to Assembly 91.
  2. That conferences and congregations be urged to provide financial and other support for the Peace Tax Fund options being proposed in both Canada and the United States. We call each household in the Mennonite Church to commit itself to a contribution of at least $5.00 to the Peace Tax Fund campaigns in Canada and the U.S. as well as to write letters of support for the legislation to the appropriate elected officials. This effort will be coordinated by the Peace Staff person at Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries.
  3. That, in cases where members have a conscience against paying the portion of their income tax used for military purposes, and where they are now able to resist the collection of that part of their taxes, we encourage our congregations to be supportive by:
    1. Studying the pertinent biblical texts and praying together.
    2. Negotiating financial assistance to those required to pay penalties.
    3. Participating with the resisters in the opportunity to witness to the authorities.
    4. Sharing in the sorrow and joy of being misunderstood by other Christians as well as those exercising power over us.
  4. That the Normal 89 General Assembly delegates (a) support the Mennonite General Board in establishing a policy that federal income taxes not be withheld from the wages of any of its employees who make this request because of conscientious objection to the use of their taxes for military purposes, and (b) support other church boards and agencies that may adopt similar policies.

Adopted by the Mennonite Church General Assembly, August 3, 1989

Commentary on the Resolution

The Mennonite Church General Assembly delegates in 1987 asked the denomination's General Board to bring on proposal to the 1989 Assembly on how the church should respond to conscientious objectors to the payment of military taxes and the withholding of the military portion of employee income taxes by church institutions.

The General Board in the subsequent two years tested with area conferences affiliated with the denomination a policy that would honor the request of employees not to forward war taxes to government. Based on area conference feedback the General Board "deemed there was not enough support ... to ask church boards to engage in civil disobedience."

Vigorous delegate debate resulted in the resolution published above. The General Conference Mennonite Church had pursued a policy to that outlined above since 1983. The Mennonite Church General Board did not subsequently establish a policy in line with paragraph 4 of the resolution.

In Canada the matter of military tax witholding was not as widely debated as in the United States. The Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada (MCEC) received a request from an employee in 1991 to not withhold the military portion of his taxes. Although the Executive Board brought a recommendation in support of the request, the MCEC delegate body voted overwhelmingly against the resolution.

Context written January 2000 by Sam Steiner


Burkhardt, Ferne. "Church Wants to Help Employees who Object to Paying Military Taxes." Mennonite Reporter 18 (April 25, 1988): 5.

Burkhardt, Ferne. "Call to Spiritual Renewal Makes Impact on Delegates." Mennonite Reporter 19 (August 21, 1989): 11-12.

Hull, Robert. As Conscience and the Church Shall Lead : an Assembly Congregational Study Guide for the Mennonite Church on the Withholding of Military Taxes. Scottdale, Pa. : Mennonite Publishing House, 1990.

Rempel, Ron. "Conference Responds to Military Tax Objectors." Mennonite Reporter 21 (February 18, 1991): 1.

Rempel, Ron. "Delegates Defeat Proposal on Withholding of Military Taxes," Mennonite Reporter 21 (April 15, 1991): 1, 5.

Proceedings, ninth Mennonite Church General Assembly, July 7-12, 1987, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. Lombard, Ill. : Mennonite Church General Assembly, 1987: 10.

Proceedings, tenth Mennonite Church General Assembly, August 1-4, 1989, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois. Elkhart, Ind. : Mennonite Church General Assembly, 1989: 14-15, 31.

Proceedings, eleventh Mennonite Church General Assembly, July 30-August 3, 1991, Lane County Convention Center and Fair Grounds, Eugene, Oregon. Elkhart, Ind. : Mennonite Church General Assembly, 1991: 19-20.

Workbook, Mennonite Church General Assembly, General Conference Mennonite Church Forty-fifth Triennial Sessions, August 1-6, 1989, Illinois State University, Normal, Ill. Newton, Kan. : General Conference Mennonite Church ; Elkhart, Ind. : Mennonite Church, 1989: MC-19 - MC-20.