I read through this piece and thought it was pretty effective; I got emotionally involved at the thought of an innocent man being killed in standing up for his beliefs. Much to my chagrin, however, I found out that I misunderstood the story and Ray is actually a hypothetical character. At least to me, the story is plausible enough, but I think it would have been better if served with an actual example of someone refusing to pay property taxes and facing the violence of the State regardless (such as this here). Even if one believes that lawlessness will reign if people refuse to pay their taxes, how does he or she answer the question, “Should you be forced to fund something you find morally reprehensible?” I also like the rhetoric at the end, stating that very intimate relationships in people’s lives, such as their spouse or their faith, can be changed at their own will; however, such a thing as one’s relationship to the State supposedly is more permanent. Are we willing to accept this?
YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO “DEAR JOHN” THE STATE
by Jim Babka
for The Zero Aggression Project
Thomas Jefferson said that it was immoral to compel a man to furnish the funds for that which he abhors. The State does exactly this on countless issues. Can we ever grow beyond this?
The history of religious liberty teaches crucial lessons.
For example, a man named Tyndale was burned at the stake for distributing an English language Bible. His goal to let the plough-boy read the scriptures threatened the establishment’s monopoly control of information.
Another lesson is that most colonies had established church denominations, paid for with tax dollars. Even “dissenters,” were required to fund The State Church. This colonial practice continued even AFTER we defeated the British.
Without those taxes the other side imagined anarchy and chaos.”Why, if there’s no established church,” they asked,”how shall we ensure the development of moral character?” They claimed the decision to end state support for churches was anti-religion and would lead to their demise. The superabundance of houses of worship in virtually every city and village in our country today illustrates that the opposite happened. The absence of the tax made these churches more entrepreneurial and responsive to change. But the absence of a tax for the state denomination was a very real fear at the time, even to guys like Patrick Henry.
Does conscience only matter when it comes to religion, or should freedom of conscience extend to all peaceful life choices? Is there some part of Jefferson’s vision that we’ve yet to fulfill?
Are we as barbarous as our ancestors?
Meet Ray. We’ll call Ray a conscientious objector, because he acts out of conscience. People confine this term to those who object to military service. But why do those persons object? It’s a question of conscience. Therefore, a conscientious objector is, quite literally, someone who obeys their conscience rather than State edicts.
Today’s conscientious objector is yesterday’s dissenter.
A conscientious objector is someone who wants the right to divorce a service provider or institution. He is disgusted by what is done in his name under the rubric of democracy, appalled at what is done with the money extracted from him in taxes. He wants to terminate his support.
You may think Ray is noble until I tell you to what he objected: State schooling, otherwise known as “public schools.”
Ray loathed The State schooling service. Ray’s specific objections aren’t relevant. The subject we must keep in sight is…
The only humane way to address the conscience of another is persuasion. Feel free to talk someone out of their position. Ray would’ve welcomed such a conversation. He could’ve given you his side of the story.
Ray’s objection was deeply rooted, so he did something extraordinary. On the basis that state schools violated his beliefs, he stopped paying property taxes. Ray even wrote a Dear John letter to the school board.
A Dear John letter terminates a relationship. It’s a divorce, a secession, a break-up. Ray explained his desire to split from this scheme and live in peace.
Remember, from the previous installment that The State is a bully. Ray began receiving ominous letters about his bill. He responded with more Dear John letters sharing his concerns. But it didn’t matter. Eventually, he was, at great personal expense, hauled into court.
At this point, Ray made a very American claim. He quoted Jefferson that it was immoral to compel a man to furnish the funds for that which he abhors.
But the judge came down hard because The State is a cartel. The judge accused Ray of instigating trouble. It was Ray’s fault, he claimed, that courts were now involved. He claimed “shock” at Ray’s “unrepentant callousness.” He piled additional fines on top of Ray’s bloated tax bill.
Ray was in turmoil. He was trying to do the right thing — to obey his conscience.
A principle is a principle. So Ray didn’t turn over his money. I think you know what happened next, for (as we covered in the previous installment) The State is abusive. Armed men and women showed up to repossess Ray’s house.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Watch them unravel…
Pursuit of happiness means the ability to pursue your dreams, including home ownership. Armed men and women came to steal that.
Ray told them he wouldn’t budge. They threatened to take his liberty, to arrest him.
Ray pulled out a 20 gauge shotgun. It was more symbolic than deterring — hardly enough to win a confrontation. He waited. When the armed men and women kicked down his door, they saw Ray with the shotgun, and they killed him. They stole his life — all so that their bosses could teach boys to read, or failing that, at least how to put on a condom.
Ray was a “captive customer.” The cartel (the monopoly we described in the previous installment) said so. Ray never harmed anyone. Yet the judge blamed him, and he was murdered.
Keep in mind. You too, almost certainly, object to something The State does in your name. You resent having to pay for it.
Should YOU — should any of us — be coerced, by bribe or by threats, backed by actual violence to fund a service we loathe, particularly if that service violates your conscience?
Should Ray have been treated like Tyndale?
Should each of us, Ray included, be relieved of the Bullying, the Abuse, and the captive nature of the Cartel — left to live by our own conscience?
Is The State more important than your religious beliefs? …more binding than your marriage? You can divorce both — give either a Dear John letter, if you please. But you cannot break up with The State.
Human progress lies in continuing to move in the direction of conscience instead of coercion. We learned the lesson of Tyndale. Can we learn from Ray?