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God Over Government; Religion Over Taxes

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JOHNSON COUNTY - They are known as war tax resisters: people who refuse to pay some or all of their taxes because we are at war. The protest is not new, and it is not legal.

On the surface war tax resistance is simple tax evasion. But it has happened in this country whenever there is a war. And one couple hopes its protest spurs debate about this latest war.

Depending on who you ask, the U.S. government spends anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of your tax dollars on the military.

Ken Gingerich of Johnson County said, "I feel the military budget in this country and military spending is way out of line."

For 40 years, Gingerich and his wife Noreen have done their best to make sure their taxes do not fund any sort of violence.

Ken said, "We've either lived below the taxable income or withheld a portion of our taxes."

Ken calls it war tax resistance. It is his protest to end violence. The IRS calls it a frivolous tax return, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine. It is a risk the Gingerich's are willing to take. They are Mennonites. Their religious beliefs do not allow for violence.

Ken said, "If I have to choose between god and country, it'll be god."

Over the years this peaceful couple has withheld less than $50,000. Not much at all when we are talking about a multi-billion dollar war on terror. And eventually the IRS gets its money.

Noreen said, "It's sort of an exercise in futility."

The Gingerich's know they cannot win this fight alone, but they say they have to do what they believe is right, and hope others will join them.

There really is no way to know how many people are withholding taxes like the Gingerich's. The IRS does not keep stats on frivolous tax returns. But the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee says they are seeing more hits on their website.

E-mail Steve Nicoles at

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