Screening of ‘Contempt of Conscience’ at Passing Clouds

by Outreach ~ January 15th, 2016. Filed under: News.

On Sunday evening we did another screening of ‘Contempt of Conscience’, a documentary about a group of war tax resisters who took their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

We screened the film at the cultural project and music venue, Passing Clouds. The evening was almost exclusively attended by people who had no previous knowledge of Conscience: Taxes for Peace Not War, or the history and practice of military tax resistance.

In the discussion which took place afterwards, a couple of points came up which are not unfamiliar when discussing the concept of a peace tax.

The first is, where do you draw the line? This is the “floodgate” argument that states that if you let people start picking and choosing between what tax they pay, then you’ll have healthy people refusing to pay for the NHS, and people without children not wanting to pay for education.

This argument, although common, is simple to address on a number of levels. Firstly, the major difference between funding the military and new road-building schemes, for example, is that the military intentionally kill and harm people as part of their role. A peace tax therefore has a higher level of personal urgency to many.

Secondly, the desire not to contribute to state education, for example, is a political objection, not one based on conscience. There are very few areas where the claim of conscience is recognised in law. First is conscientious objection to military service, the right we are trying to extend to adapt with the changed nature of warfare. Second is the right of medical practitioners who have a conscientious objection to abortion being able to refuse to perform the operation. If a group wanted to campaign for conscientious objection to taxes paid for performing abortions, they would be the only other campaign that could use the same arguments as us, as abortion is also a matter of life and death, and is an area where conscience is already legally recognised.
Some argue, however, that people may want to redirect tax away from other areas on the basis of conscience, such as the right not to pay taxes for fossil fuel subsidies or government grants to pro-vivisection research groups. These can also be issues of conscience rather than politics. Our proposed law however, which would enable the redirection of military tax to more peaceful forms of security, already has a parliamentary precedent. 100 years ago, the 1916 Military Service Act introduced military conscription for the majority, but by establishing the right to conscientious objection also recognised the rights of a minority to not to be complicit in killing. The campaign for the right to conscientious objection to military taxation is therefore not starting from scratch, but is rather developed from its legal precedent in line with changes in modern warfare. It could, much the same as the 1916 clause, become a milestone for further individual freedoms, and recognition of individual conscience within law.

We’d like to thank everyone who came on Sunday, we really enjoyed raising awareness of our campaign, and engaging a new crowd in the concept of conscientious objection to military taxation. Make sure you keep up with the progress of the Peace Tax Bill, and register your objection to the payment of taxes for military purposes here.

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