Friends World Committee for Consultation - Europe & Middle East Section

Pre-Triennial study booklet: Being Faithful Witnesses: Serving God in a Changing World

Contents

10. Witness

Anne Thomas Canadian Yearly Meeting

It suddenly became clear to me as I walked down the hallway in Friends House, Toronto, that I could no longer pay taxes for war. There had been a small but faithful group of Friends in Canadian Yearly Meeting who had withheld taxes for war for many years, but up to that moment, although I respected the witnesses of these Friends, this had not been my concern. I felt a sense of lightness and absolute clearness about my leading. During the years I actively maintained this witness this clarity never left me.

On returning home I spoke with my husband and children, who felt this was crazy. After all, how much money would I withhold from my part-time Quaker position? What good would this do? Would it jeopardize our family finances? And how could this be done? Up to that time war tax resisters in Canada were usually self-employed, as no organization had agreed to break the law by withholding taxes on behalf of its employees. I spoke to my Monthly Meeting, who named a Committee of Clearness to meet with me. The committee members made it clear that they did not understand this ‘symbolic gesture’. We met several times, and the committee reported to the Monthly Meeting that, while they did not support war tax resistance, they recognized that my leading was valid.

I informed the Yearly Meeting of my leading and asked if they, as my employer, would withhold the percentage of taxes that were going to pay for current and past wars, about 9% of my income tax payments. The Yearly Meeting named a committee and sought legal advice on who would be deemed responsible if the government decided to seize the monies which were withheld and fine the organization. After three years the Yearly Meeting approved a minute supporting staff who were war tax resisters, the first, and still the only, Canadian employer to do so.

When I sent in the required tax each month, I added a letter explaining why it was short and informed the government of the name of the bank and the account number in which the $13 was deposited. Each month’s letter included the text of a different expression of the peace testimony. As other Yearly Meeting staff were not called to follow this leading, I closed the account when I resigned from my position several years later, and sent the money to the Canadian Friends Service Committee, informing the government of this.

Was it worth it? I believe so. I could do no other.

Queries:

- What experiences have you had where you have felt led to a particular act of witness in relation to the secular world?

- How can we, in our churches and meetings, help one another to test our leadings?

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