Conscience, Community, and Compromise

The last day of the year is, somehow, a good day to settle things. And so it was for us on December 31, 1993. On that day an out-of-court settlement was reached between the Valley Community Land Trust and Danny Franklin, a settlement that ended the nearly five-year campaign of non-cooperation with the U.S. government’s seizure and sale of our funky little farmhouse in the hills of Western Massachu-setts (see "We Shall Not Be Moved," May 1990).

At the time of the initial IRS seizure in March 1989, my wife, Betsy Corner, and I had been withholding our federal income taxes for 12 years, publicly redirecting the same amount of money to groups that serve the poor in our local community and assist victims of U.S. war-making abroad. The IRS had long since attached our bank account, garnisheed our wages, and placed a lien on our property—with little monetary success.

But seizing our home was more complicated than they thought, not only because it triggered an enormous outpouring of nonviolent resistance, but also because the land under and around our house was land we didn’t own. We’d been leasing it from our local community land trust. The trust had argued from the beginning that it was illegal for the government to transfer our leasehold to Danny Franklin, who paid $5,400 for it at an IRS auction in February 1992 and then took it over by force two months later.

The settlement called for the Franklin family to move out of the house and deed it and the land-lease over to the land trust in exchange for an undisclosed sum of money from the trust. It also provided for the dropping of the opposing civil suits that had been brought by the Franklins and the trust.

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Sojourners Magazine April 1994
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