MI, United States
We are ready to recognize one loving Creator, one unfolding religion, the oneness of humanity, and the promise of world peace.
I am a Baha'i with Christian roots. Since 1992, I have sought to reconcile conflicting demands as a citizen who is simultaneously called to obey governmental laws and to love all persons, especially enemies. I have tried several methods to observe dual allegiance (reduced income & tax liability, redirected taxes, paid under protest, sought religious counsel, and from 2006-2008 spent 60-70 hrs/wk building support for a legal alternative (the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill).
In 1912, 'Abdu'l-Baha (son of the prophet-founder of the Baha'i Faith) said:
"Implements of war and death are multiplied and increased to an inconceivable degree, and the burden of military maintenance is taxing the various countries beyond the point of endurance. Armies and navies devour the substance and possessions of the people; the toiling poor, the innocent and helpless are forced by taxation to provide munitions and armament for governments bent upon conquest of territory and defense against powerful rival nations. There is no greater or more woeful ordeal in the world of humanity today than impending war."
War and its ravages blight the world. Conquest of territory has partially been replaced by corporate control of resources, but military maintenance still taxes people beyond the point of endurance. A large portion of the substance of the people still is devoured by idolatrous militarism. And I am still being forced by taxation to provide munitions and armament to my government which inadequately uses the means of development and diplomacy to prevent or resolve conflicts.
In the past, a number of adult men were compelled by the U.S. government to directly participate in war by "the bearing of arms", in violation of their consciences. After decades of struggle, military service alternatives are now recognized by the international community as a freedom of conscience right.
At present, men, women, and children are being compelled by their governments to directly participate in the financing of war with their personal earnings, in violation of their spiritual consciences. The inequity of U.S. federal spending between military and social/environmental needs partially drive my beliefs in the inherent waste and sinfulness of war. When I knowingly contribute financially, am I not responsible for the predictable use of this money, and therefore complicit in collective sin?
The freedom to manifest one's beliefs was central to the formation of U.S. colonies and unification as States. The United Nations was created to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, to reaffirm faith in the dignity and worth of each person, and to promote social progress. I truly believe all humanity is one and my family, and seek to love all as such. How can I simultaneously love my neighbor and enemies yet pay for their harm?
I do not believe that all violence is categorically wrong or that my individual conscience should be exalted over society's need for collective security. I support efforts at the United Nations level whereby principles replace expediency and some national sovereignty is curtailed in order to create a system in which force is used collectively and as a servant of justice.
I assert it is a natural right of conscience to be free from coerced participation in killing, whether that coercion be physical or financial. In doing so, do we not manifest part of the life-affirming collective conscience of humanity which the United States and United Nations were formed to nurture and protect?
Alan Gamble, Jackson MI, United States December 2010