A Persistent Voice
Marian Franz and Conscientious
Objection to Military Taxation

As I think about the life and work of Marian Franz and read her essays published here, two movies come to mind: Jessamyn West’s Friendly Persuasion, in which the Hoosier Quaker who declines to go to war is told by his combatant, non-Quaker friend, "It’s good to see someone holding out for a better way of settling things," and Han Suyin’s Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, in which the heroine says, "there is nothing stronger in the world than gentleness."

Another phrase that Marian considered important was "Blessed are the peacemakers." Therefore, many times blessed was our many-splendored friend and blazing talent Marian Franz. In her pleasant and lovely way, she uttered gentle and powerful words for a better way of handling federal income tax obligations of conscientious objectors whose consciences will not allow them to help finance military activities. One way is to send them to prison. The better way? The same way the government handles such citizens in the case of military service, where conscientious objectors are enabled to perform non-combatant or alternative civilian service.

Conscientious objector status is as old as our republic. The first president to support governmental accommodation of conscientious objection was—the first president. At the start of the Revolutionary War, George Washington issued a call for "all young men of suitable age to be drafted, except those with conscientious scruples against war."

The better way than prison, in the case of federal taxes, is to allow conscientious objectors to pay their full amount of taxes for any government purpose but military. The effect of the Peace Tax Fund Bill, when enacted by Congress, will be to provide for "alternative service for tax dollars." There are plenty of government expenditures besides military, and the Peace Tax Fund would not reduce U.S. Government spending on the military by one cent. Considering the amount of junk the Pentagon buys at jewelry prices, such spending should be reduced, but the Peace Tax Fund would have nothing to do with that reform.

The beginning of my involvement with the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill started with a phone call to our Tenth District Indiana Congressional Office in Washington. "My name is Marian Franz. May I speak to your administrative assistant?" My coworker David Wildes took the call, an appointment followed, and thus began a beautiful friendship between Marian and David. Once Marian explained her Peace Tax Fund mission, David suggested a meeting with the congressman, who happened to be myself. There would be very many more such encounters. Marian knew that during her long and tiring day she was more than welcome to relax in our office, to make herself at home. And whenever she did, a special sparkle arrived with her.

She was modest, quiet, brilliant, and beautiful to the heart, to the soul and to the eye. Marian was eloquent, polite, typically soft-spoken—and persuasive. It was a privilege to work with her on the legislation of which I became a sponsor, along with the magnificent Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon. We were granted a hearing before a House Ways and Means Subcommittee. The case for the Peace Tax Fund Bill was made beyond any logical debate to the contrary, but there was an obstacle. Many politicians perceive a peculiarity among the American public that sees violence as an index to patriotism. And in many cases that index overrides reason. It is the task of "blessed peacemakers" to dispel such superficial logic.

It has been said that politics is the art of the possible. It has also been said that statesmanship is the art of making things possible. That was Marian, a statesperson. On his deathbed, FDR’s Cabinet Secretary Henry L. Stimson wrote, "The person who works for [her or] his goals, believing in their eventual attainment, while that person may suffer setback and even disaster, [she or] he will never know defeat. The only deadly sin I know is cynicism." Marian had faith in our cause as long as she lived. She never gave up.

Marian stated the verity plainly: "The Peace Tax Fund is a win-win proposal." The government gets its complete taxes from the conscientious objectors, and the latter get to obey their consciences. Moreover, the government does not have to spend enormous sums prosecuting, feeding and sheltering such citizens in prison. There is yet another gain for the government: the receipt of taxes which at present are legally avoided. If a conscientious objector has a profession which, if practiced, could earn high income, she or he could do bare subsistence work and be below the threshold of federal income tax. If such a person could practice her or his profession with a clear conscience, as a consequence the government would get more tax income.

This establishment, in law, of the principle of conscientious objection to military taxation was the sublime mission of our beloved Marian Franz; a holy cause that, in the words of Lincoln, she has "thus far so nobly advanced." We shall miss her bright eyes and sweet smile.

Betweeen 1964 and 1997, Andy Jacobs served fifteen terms in the U.S. Congress representing Indiana’s Tenth District (Indianapolis). From 1991 until 1996 he was the lead sponsor of the U.S. Peace Tax Fund Bill.


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