Obligation of Conscience | Sojourners

Obligation of Conscience

When this article appeared, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen of Seattle had become a firm voice for peace in the church (see "Converting to Peace" in the January Sojourners). In June, 1981, he asked those in his archdiocese to consider withholding half their income tax in protest of the amount of revenue spent on nuclear arms. Then in January 1982 he became the first U. S. bishop to publicly resist paying federal income taxes in response to the government's military policies. He explained the reasons for his action in a pastoral letter to his people. The text follows.
--The Editors

As you all know, I have spoken out against the participation of our country in the nuclear arms race because I believe that such participation leads to incalculable harm. Not only does it take us along the path toward nuclear destruction, but it also diverts immense resources from helping the needy. As Vatican II put it, "The arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured."

I believe that as Christians imbued with the spirit of peacemaking expressed by the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, we must find ways to make known our objections to the present concentration on further nuclear arms buildup. Accordingly, after much prayer, thought, and personal struggle, I have decided to withhold 50 per cent of my income taxes as a means of protesting our nation's continuing involvement in the race for nuclear arms supremacy.

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