Second Circuit NYYM Amicus Brief

New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends submits this brief, pursuant to Rule 29 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, as a Friend of the Court in support of the appeal of Plaintiff-Appellant Rosa C. Packard from the decision of the court below granting the motion to dismiss of Defendant-Appellee United States of America.

Interest of the Amicus

New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (“NYYM”) is the umbrella organization for the Quaker Meetings in New York, part of Connecticut and northern New Jersey. Rosa Packard is a member of Purchase (New York) Friends Meeting, which is one of the Meetings within New York Yearly Meeting.

For the reasons discussed in this amicus brief, Rosa Packard's case raises issues of substantial concern to Friends. A central tenet of Friends is the peace testimony (discussed in Section II., below). The Religious Society of Friends has a long history of opposition to warfare and of advocacy of alternatives to violence for settling conflicts. New York Yearly Meeting believes that the Packard case addresses these core Quaker concerns and that, in considering plaintiff's appeal of the decision of the court below, the Second Circuit would appreciate and benefit from an amicus discussion of relevant Quaker principles and practices. Thus, on December 7, 1997, New York Yearly Meeting endorsed a minute supporting Rosa Packard's effort “to seek legal recognition for the reasonableness of her tax witness under the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment,”[1] and, in July 1998, a minute was approved for New York Yearly Meeting to submit an amicus brief in support of the appeal of Rosa Packard's case.

In particular, the District Court's decision appears to lump Rosa Packard's religious beliefs together with “philosophical, moral or other reasons” generally. Packard v. United States, 7 F.Supp.2d 143, 145, 146-47 (D. Conn. 1998) (hereinafter cited as “Packard v. US ”) (Joint Appendix (hereinafter “JA”) at 23a, 26a). The decision also suggests that Rosa Packard's actions are not the product of religious conscience because she “does not contend that she is a member of a religious body which opposes the payment of taxes or that the Society of Friends could or would take any steps against her by virtue of her making payments.” Packard v. US at 145 (JA 23a). These conclusions by the District Court misapprehend the religious nature of Quaker (and Rosa Packard's) positions on warfare and of Quaker practice.

The discussion below addresses

  1. the nature of Friends' corporate authority,
  2. the history and religious character of the Society of Friends' opposition to warfare, including Friends' tax witness, and
  3. the long history of government accommodation of Friends' practices and beliefs in recognition of the mandate of the First Amendment's Free Exercise of Religion Clause.


In rejecting her suit, the District Court determined that Appellant Rosa Packard was not compelled by religious conscience to withhold tax payments because she faced no sanction by the Religious Society of Friends for voluntarily paying the taxes. The Court noted that “[s]he does not contend that she is a member of a religious body which opposes the payment of taxes or that the Society of Friends could or would take any steps against her by virtue of her making payments.” Packard v. US at 14 5 (JA 23a). This analysis reflects a fundamental misperception of the nature of Quaker authority and doctrine.

Unlike virtually all other Western religions, Quakers' concept of authority and doctrine flows upward from the individual to the group, rather than down from an ecclesiastic authority or body to the laity. Friends historically rejected the role of clergy; no ecclesia renders dogma which must be adhered to upon pain of excommunication or other sanction. Rather, Quakers ask if the act flows from the Inner Light and, if so, acknowledge it as dictated by the individual's religious conscience.

For Friends, the ultimate authority governing the individual is the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Truth, as she or he feels it and tests it and seeks to be obedient to it. Under these circumstances, the District Court's rejection of Rosa Packard's acts as not compelled by her religious organization misconstrues the very nature of Friends' beliefs and practices. Consideration of some developments in the over 300-hundred year history of Quakerism may help clarify the principles which guide Friends in the 1990s.

A. Fundamental Beliefs.

These things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by, but that all, with the measure of light that is pure and holy, may be guided: and so in the light walking and abiding, these may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not in the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.[2]

The earliest Quakers recognized what each generation of Quakers relearns: responsibility for discerning the truth and learning how to live by it rests with each individual. Each is responsible for discerning how she or he is called to act, but each person is also part of a fellowship of faith, responsible to and supportive of one another. There are institutions and forms which may help each find how she or he is led to live and act, including the authorities of Scripture, Quaker tradition (as expressed through Books of Discipline and Quaker history), the examples of people of good will and integrity in all traditions, and corporate discernment in official gatherings of Friends, such as Monthly and Yearly Meetings. To tell the story of governance in the Religious Society of Friends, therefore, we must address two interrelated issues:

  1. how Quakers have understood the ultimate sources of authority and power for their religious faith and practice, and
  2. how Friends' institutions have been created to serve and to express obedience to God.

B. The Beginnings of Quakerism.

The Religious Society of Friends arose in England during the Seventeenth Century, a particularly turbulent era in British political and religious history. The 1600s saw the English Civil War and the beheading of Charles I (1649), the Puritan Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II (1660). Underlying these political events was a bitter religious struggle among the established (Anglican) Church, the remnants of the Roman Catholic Church from which it had separated in 1534, the Puritans, and other Protestant sects. The printing press and newly sanctioned English translations of the Bible contributed to the intensity of the struggle by making the Scriptures more readily available to the laity. And, as had occurred in the reformation begun by Luther a century earlier, seekers of religious revelation, including those who were to become the Religious Society of Friends, were concerned by, and were protesting against, the rigidification of faith and practice -- the exaltation of dogma and rite and ritual over individual discernment -- in the established churches.

From that crucible emerged a Quaker theology, culture and traditions, and the organizations and institutions shaped by them. George Fox, the chief founder of Quakerism, was a charismatic leader whose message was as simple as it was radical: When all outward religious authorities had proven untrustworthy, and his hopes in all men were gone, he heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.”[3] Fox's concept of “that of God in everyone” was radical in his time, and remains radical today.

Quakers believe each individual can know God directly by experience because, as stated in the Gospel of John (ch. 1, verses 6-9), the Light is placed in us as a birthright, a capacity and potentiality. But direct experience alone is not enough; it must be tested for its truth-bearing value and, if found trustworthy, lived by. Only then is experience authoritative. Not even Scripture, in itself, has authority; before it can speak to us, we must learn how to understand it “in that Light and Spirit which was before Scripture was given forth, and which led the holy men of God to give them forth....”[4]

C. Minding the Light.

From the days of its founders, the “Inner Light” has been a dominant Quaker image to describe how God works in us. “Perhaps the most important feature of the light metaphor is that light is the medium of discernment. The God of light is not a God who tells, but a God who shows.”[5]

Respecting the Inner Light in each individual, however, has the potential to create tension with the organizational and other needs of the group. George Fox and other early Friends sought to devise practices which would leave the spirit truly free, yet preserve a sense of order within the group and between the Quaker group and its often hostile environment.[6] The organizational structures created by those early Friends were responsive to the immediate challenges of persecution and inner division, while protecting the specific leadings or actions of the individual within the fellowship.

D. Founding Monthly Meetings.

Even before they were called Quakers (i.e., before 1650), Friends were already meeting at regular intervals to attend to the business of the fellowship. In 1653, a general epistle from William Dewsbury urged that meetings should choose as overseers of the fellowship “one or two Friends who are most grown in the power and life, in the pure discerning of the Truth,” and an epistle sent out in Fox's name offered recommendations for keeping good order in business meetings.[7]

These early Quakers faced the paramount problem of holding their fellowship together under the pressures of prolonged legally-sanctioned persecution.[8] Those conditions compelled Quakers to address two kinds of governance needs:

  1. pursuing the (religious) business, interests and callings of the group and of individuals within the group, and
  2. maintaining discipline within the group.

Attending to the needs of Friends entailed, among other things, caring for the families of prisoners and captives, apprenticing young people, relieving the poor, supporting ministers and their families, publishing the truth, lobbying Parliament and other leaders, maintaining and protecting property owned by the Society, as well as encouraging and exhorting one another through epistles and visits, and setting up simple arrangements for calling people together for worship and for maintaining the “joint and visible fellowship”.[9] Money also had to be raised for these purposes, and needs and “sufferings” had to be accurately recorded and publicized.[10]

The second set of issues concerned keeping the spiritual discipline of the fellowship and arose from the need of local groups of Friends to correct “ranters” and “disorderly walkers,” individuals whose behavior brought scandal to the fellowship.[11]

Over time, Friends developed practices to facilitate testing and supporting individual and group leadings or actions. Fox began the system of monthly meetings during the 1650s and, through quarterly meetings, general meetings and later yearly meetings, “initiat[ed] a regular, if minimal, super structure above the level of the local units.”[12] Under the new structures, individual leadings or conduct would be subject to the group's shared insight, and, where there was disagreement over leadings, those who were most seasoned and “ancient” in the faith, the elders of the fellowship, would speak with the fullest authority.

E. Evolving Views of Authority Over Time.

Through the eighteenth century, Quaker meetings on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean attempted to keep order by ever more rigorous application of their loose system of governance. Compilations or “extracts” from minutes, epistles and Advices began to take on the form of Books of Discipline. In 1704 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting approved a compilation “relating to good Order and Discipline.” London Yearly Meeting approved its first Discipline in 1737, and, by 1800, all the Yearly Meetings in America had published Disciplines.[13]

By the end of the Nineteenth Century, however, all branches of Quakerism seemed on the verge of extinction because, in part, of a fossilization of these disciplines into rigid codes and the resulting intolerance of diverse views.

In response, the Religious Society of Friends changed: “Ever so slowly, and most begrudgingly, Friends learned to live with, respect, and even love individuals within their Meetings with whom they had profound differences. Such tolerance of diversity brought the birth of modern Quakerism.”[14] With it came increased responsibility for the group and individuals to work together to discern and support individual leadings and actions. For all Friends, however, the responsibility to discern the truth for oneself and in the framework of the community of faith remains paramount.[15]

A significant contribution of Friends to the world is the Quaker ethic by which individual discernment is blended into the group. This ethic is a process, rather than a theory or a set of dogmas; it is open-ended in ways that lead to “openings” or revelations both for the individual and the community; and it is “an activity born of commitment and concern... rooted in a coherent set of ideas about the nature of meaning and truth, and...a living discipline.”[16] The practice of the Quaker ethic can be described as involving five stages or aspects: “quieting impulses, addressing concerns, gathering consensus, finding clearness, and bearing witness.”[17]

Experience with this process evolved into the unique modern Quaker style of faith and practice. Truth is not prescribed by rules. Rather, Friends eschew dogma in order to facilitate individual and group revelation through attention to the Inner Light. Corporate decisions are not made by vote or the force of authority. Rather, Friends strive to find answers through the sometimes arduous process of communal deliberation until a “sense of the meeting” or consensus is reached. As noted in New York Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice (1995), the yearly meeting's book of guidance in self-discipline, at page 21:

The Religious Society of Friends does not impose laws or rules for conduct upon its members but lays upon us the responsibility to live by the Spirit of Light and Truth in each of us and provides Advices and Queries as an aid to faithfulness.

Individual concerns can become the means by which the community can bring the power of the Spirit into social action; the method Friends have developed to do this involves the progression and deepening of concerns from monthly to quarterly to yearly meetings. This process is another part of our gospel order, by which we wait with a concern and test it individually, then with a friend or family member, then with a group of Friends and the monthly meeting itself, and finally with quarterly and yearly meetings. Friends are thus available at each step to “test the concern in the Light,” to consider the concern in relation to all they know about the situation and the persons involved and, most important, to hold the concern up to the light of the Inward Teacher, although we do not need to share, agree with, or endorse each other's concerns in order to support them.

As discussed in Sections II. and III., below, Rosa Packard's concern and leading reverberate with traditional and core Quaker beliefs. But even more importantly, her resolve cannot be tested against Quaker “dogma” and “sanctions”, nor by comparison with the behavior of other Quakers. Rosa Packard's witness has been tested repeatedly by the Friends' clearness process, and affirmed.


We do utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretense whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world... The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; we do certainly know, and do testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never more move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ, nor for Kingdoms of this world.[18]

Quakers are well known for their unyielding religious conviction that attention to the Inner Light, present in every person, empowers all of us to resolve disputes without resort to the machinery of war. This conviction results in Friends' uncompromising stand against warfare in all forms. Nonetheless, the District Court appears to have dismissed Appellant Rosa Packard's principled religious leading on the payment of war taxes by casting it together with acts grounded in “philosophical, moral or other reasons”. The court below first announced: “This Court rejects the argument that following one's conscience for religious, philosophical, moral or other reasons amounts to a compulsion.” Packard v. US at 145 (JA 23a). It then sought to magnify the potential consequences of accommodating Rosa Packard's religiously-prompted position by again conjoining her leading to non-religious motivations: “[I]f the Government could not assess a penalty for the late or non-payment of taxes, we would be opening Pandora's Box to tax evasion because, in effect, plaintiff's argument says to all who will not pay taxes for religious, philosophical, moral or other reasons that the Government must first levy before imposing a penalty.” Packard v. US at 146-47 (JA 26a).

There is, of course, a substantive and principled difference between conduct prompted by religious conviction and acts stemming from “philosophical, moral or other reasons”. The First Amendment's Free Exercise of Religion Clause, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 USC § 2000bb et seq., mandate careful consideration of acts of religious conscience. For this (and other) reasons, New York Yearly Meeting believes that the Court may appreciate and benefit from a discussion of Friends' peace testimony which undergirds Rosa Packard's leading.

A. Origins of the Quaker Peace Testimony.

The Religious Society of Friends was born during the era of violent revolution and counter-revolution in seventeenth-century England. The times compelled the early Friends immediately to confront their faith in the Inner Light in every person in response to demands that they participate in these British wars.

Thus, in 1651, while incarcerated for disturbing the peace, George Fox twice declined offers of freedom in exchange for serving in the Commonwealth's army. He reported that “I told them that I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars”. [19]

With the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, the peace testimony was first formally articulated in the official Declaration delivered to Charles II in January 1661 quoted at the start of this section. Friends renounced forever war and bearing arms: “We do utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretense whatsoever.”[20]

From this date on, the peace testimony has been an integral and distinctive feature of Friends' beliefs and practices, distinguishing the Society of Friends from nearly all other religious groups and calling Quakers to personal witness and testimony to support the end of warfare and the promotion of nonviolent alternatives for resolving disputes. This is reflected in Advice # 14 of New York Yearly Meeting's Faith and Practice (at pages 60-61):

Friends are earnestly cautioned against the taking of arms against any person, since “all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons” are contrary to our Christian testimony. Friends should beware of supporting preparations for war even indirectly, and should examine in this light such matters as non-combatant military service, cooperation with conscription, employment or investment in war industries, and voluntary payment of war taxes.... Friends are advised to maintain our testimony against war by endeavoring to exert an influence in favor of peaceful principles and the settlement of all differences by peaceful methods. They should lend support to all that strengthens international friendship and understanding and give active help to movements that substitute cooperation and justice for force and intimidation.

B. Expressions of the Peace Testimony.

Friends seek to make real their faith and concerns through personal acts (“witness and testimony”). As a core Quaker belief, the peace testimony has been expressed in a multitude of ways. The discussion below addresses three of these:

  1. the refusal to pay taxes used to support military objectives,
  2. refusal to participate in military service, and
  3. the provision of humanitarian aid in times of war and acting to prevent warfare.

1. Refusal To Pay War Taxes.

An evolving expression of the peace testimony is the refusal to pay taxes levied for military purposes. Friends have long been concerned by the inconsistency of helping to finance a war effort, while refusing to participate in warfare. For at least two hundred years, this concern has led some Friends to decline to support the machinery of warfare.[21]

For example, in 1755, while the Pennsylvania Assembly was debating raising funds “for the king's use” in the French and Indian War, a delegation of 20 Quakers addressed the Assembly in opposition to the raising of money for the war. They expressed willingness to pay taxes for peaceable purposes, such as “to cultivate our friendship with our Indian neighbors and to support such of our fellow subjects who are or may be in distress”; but with respect to monies destined for war purposes, they warned that “many among us will be under the necessity of suffering rather than consenting thereto by the payment of a tax for such purposes”.[22]

When the bill became law, these Friends published An Epistle of Tender Love and Caution to Friends in Pennsylvania to explain the basis for this testimony and to encourage others to follow their faith in refusing to contribute to war taxes:

And being painfully apprehensive that the large sum granted by the late Act of Assembly for the King's use is principally intended for purposes inconsistent with our peaceable testimony, we therefore think that as we cannot be concerned in wars and fightings, so neither ought we to contribute thereto by paying the tax directed by the said Act, though suffering be the consequence of our refusal, which we hope to be enabled to bear with patience.[23]

In 1776, during the Revolutionary War, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting approved a minute or statement “that a tax levied for the purchasing of drums, colours, and other warlike purposes, cannot be paid consistent with our Christian testimony.”[24] Similar positions were expressed in opposition

  1. to taxes imposed to retire the debt from the Revolutionary War,
  2. to import duties used to finance the War of 1812, and,
  3. to a lesser extent, during the Civil War.[25]

During the last twenty-five years, Quaker organizations have sought to support individual refusals to pay taxes destined for military purposes. For example, many Friends and Quaker organizations, including New York Yearly Meeting, refused to pay the federal telephone tax imposed to help finance the Vietnam War.[26] As well, the American Friends Service Committee objected to being compelled to withhold taxes from the wages of Quaker employees who were refusing to pay taxes being used, in part, to fund warfare. See American Friends Service Committee v. United States, 368 F.Supp. 1176 (E.D. Pa. 1973), rev'd on procedural grounds, 419 US 7 (1974)(per curiam). And Philadelphia Yearly Meeting refused to comply with levies on wages of employees who were engaging in war tax protests. See United States v. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 753 F.Supp. 1300 (E.D. Pa. 1990).

Similarly, New York Yearly Meeting and its constituents, Purchase Quarterly Meeting and Purchase Monthly Meeting, have actively supported the testimony of Appellant Rosa Packard in this case. In February 1991, Purchase Quarterly Meeting established the Peace Tax Escrow Fund utilized by Rosa Packard and continues to administer the Fund for the tax witness of her and others. See Complaint at ¶¶ 14-15, 36 (JA 7a, 12a). Purchase Monthly Meeting regularly records the amount of interest and penalties seized from Rosa Packard, which is the subject of this action, as a minute of suffering for religious conscience. And New York Yearly Meeting, in addition to authorizing and preparing this amicus brief, has similarly noted with support her witness.

2. Other Expressions of the Peace Testimony.

A. Conscientious Objection to Military Service.

Conscientious objection to military service, as exhibited by Fox's refusal, is the oldest and most familiar expression of Friends' peace testimony. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the absolute refusal of Quakers to fight was so familiar that at least five colonies -- New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Rhode Island -- allowed Quakers to be exempted from the military service obligatory for other able-bodied males. (Pennsylvania, more heavily Quaker, did not even adopt a military conscription act until 1775.)[27] Conscientious objection by Quakers in the United States has continued to be an important expression of the peace testimony in all the major wars, from the Revolution through the conflict in Vietnam.[28]

B. Humanitarian Actions.

The peace testimony has also led to witness against war by actions reflective of Friends' belief that no human being can be deemed an “enemy”. For example, as they have done in numerous violent conflicts over three centuries, Friends acted to provide medical supplies and other relief assistance to all sides in the Vietnam War and during the more recent struggles in Bosnia and Rwanda. Quaker advocacy groups in Washington (Friends Committee on National Legislation) and in New York and Geneva (Quaker United Nations Office) also work actively with Congress and the United Nations to develop alternatives to force and coercion in national and international affairs.[29] Other well-known Quaker organizations which seek to pursue and promote non-violent alternatives for the resolution of disputes include the American Friends Service Committee, the Alternatives to Violence Project and Friends Peace Team Project.

The peace testimony also finds expression in Friends' work to relieve or overcome poverty, injustice, and other forms of suffering, which are among the causes of war.[30] It was work of this sort that was the primary basis for the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Religious Society of Friends in 1947.[31]

C. Conclusion.

All the various expressions of the peace testimony find their roots and inspiration in the conviction that the spirit of God dwells in each person, and that the calling of Friends is to listen and speak to that of God in others, thereby strengthening that of God within themselves. There are, of course, conflicts and disputes, and we all must struggle with evil. But in such struggles, Friends' only weapons are love, gentleness, faith, patience, purity, grace, virtue, temperance, self-denial, meekness and innocence. Appellant Rosa Packard's peace witness profoundly reflects these core Quaker religious beliefs.


The District Court twice subtly sought to deflect Appellant Rosa Packard's request for governmental accommodation of her religious beliefs by asserting that “if she wishes to engage in civil disobedience, she must expect to pay the price.” Packard v. US at 145, 146 (JA 23a, 24a). Merely because someone is willing to “pay the price” for engaging in acts of religious conscience, of course, does not excuse the government from accommodating the person's religious beliefs if required by the Constitution or statute.

Modern Constitutional analysis frequently employs a substantial historical review to discern the probable intent of the Founding Fathers. New York Yearly Meeting believes that the Court may appreciate and benefit from a discussion of the lengthy history of governmental accommodation to Quaker testimonies and witness, which began in the pre-Revolutionary era. These include:

  1. accommodation of Friends' peace testimonies,
  2. exemption from paying certain taxes,
  3. excusal from having to swear oaths and from service on juries in death penalty cases, and
  4. validation of Quaker marriage practices and manumissions.

A. Accommodation of Friends' Peace Testimonies.

Quaker opposition to military service was recognized and accommodated even during the American Colonial and Revolutionary War eras, and exemptions from military service on religious conscience grounds have been continued to the present.

By the militia law passed in the Colony of New York in 1755, Quakers and members of the United Brethren (Moravians) were exempted from bearing arms or doing military service.[32] As noted above (at page 20), at least four other colonies -- Virginia, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Rhode Island -- also exempted Quakers from military service.[33] During the Revolutionary War, both the Continental Congress and colonial governments afforded exemption from military service for Quakers and other religious conscientious objectors.[34] These exemptions generally were continued by state governments until the demise of the state militia system in the 1850s.[35]

On the Federal level, conscientious objection to military service has also long received governmental recognition.[36] With the Civil War came the first federal universal military service draft. In March 1863 and February 1864, Congress adopted acts exempting from service “members of religious denominations, who shall by oath or affirmation declare that they are conscientiously opposed to the bearing of arms, and who are prohibited from doing so by the rules and articles of faith and practice of said religious denominations....”[37] Every subsequent draft law has included various exemptions for persons whose religious conscience precluded their accepting military service.[38]

B. Exemptions From Paying Taxes.

While accommodation of Quaker objections to the payment of certain taxes has been complicated because most taxation programs are general revenue raising measures, rather than dedicated to particular uses, there are significant examples of such governmental accommodations. In particular, Congress during the Civil War specifically accommodated Quaker conscientious objections to the payment of “war taxes” by providing that the commutation fee to be paid for exemption from military service was to be applied solely to humanitarian purposes.[39]

In Colonial America, the governments often imposed taxes, to which Quakers objected, for the support of ministers, commonly known as “church rates”. Though the issue continued until the disestablishment of the churches after the American Revolution, Quakers in Massachusetts received at least partial relief from paying the church rates in the 1720s; and in Connecticut, Quakers in the New Milford area and near the Rhode Island border were specifically exempted in 1729.[40]

C. Accommodations of Other Quaker Practices.

Quakers believe in a single standard of truth and, therefore, decline to swear oaths.[41] During the Colonial period, governments accommodated this belief by permitting persons of “Tender Conscience” to testify without taking an oath.[42] Since oaths had been necessary for voting, these laws also had the effect of enfranchising Quakers.[43] Following the Revolutionary War, these types of statutes typically were adopted by various states.[44] The abolition of oath requirements has been continued in current federal and state laws.[45]

In 1787, New York specifically exempted Quakers or “reputed Quakers” from being compelled to serve on juries in criminal cases.[46] The exemption was later broadened to include “persons of any religious denomination whose opinions are such as to preclude them from finding any defendant guilty of an offense punishable by death.”[47]

Quaker marriage practices differ in important respects from standard statutory requirements. State laws have long accommodated Friends' (and other religious groups') marriage practices, typically requiring only that those “marriages may respectively continue to be solemnized in the manner, and agreeably to the regulations, of their respective societies”.[48]

Friends in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had been pioneers in the antislavery movement. Quaker manumissions of slaves, however, frequently were not done in accordance with statutory requirements (where permitted at all). States, at least in the North, accommodated Friends' practices by recognizing Quaker manumissions even when not in compliance with statutory standards.[49]

D. Conclusion.

The long history of multifaceted governmental accommodation of Friends' practices reflects the profound respect for acts of religious conscience embodied in the First Amendment's Free Exercise of Religion Clause. Because they entail modification of rules or requirements of general application, requests for accommodation always appear burdensome or unmanageable to the magistrate or administrator saddled with responsibility for executing a law. Those fears were sufficiently troubling to the District Court to prompt it to declare that accommodating Appellant Rosa Packard's tax witness “would be opening Pandora's Box”, would create “an impractical and unworkable system” and would be “cumbersome”. Packard v. US at 146, 147 (JA 26a, 27a).

The history of governmental accommodation of Quaker testimonies and witness, however, demonstrates that requests for accommodation of religious conscience should be afforded careful consideration before being rejected on the basis of inchoate fears of pandemonium or burden, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act's mandate to utilize “the least restrictive means”[50] would appear to compel such a detailed analysis. If the Federal Government during the Civil War was able to accommodate the Quaker peace testimony by allocating commutation fees to humanitarian purposes, and the Internal Revenue Service today is able to administer the voluntary $1.00 campaign finance check-off, without suffering undue burden, surely Rosa Packard's tax witness deserves a discerning consideration before determining that accommodation of her testimony is not required by the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


For all the foregoing reasons, together with those set forth in the briefs of Plaintiff-Appellant Rosa C. Packard, Amicus Curiae New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends urges the Court (i) to reverse the district court's decision granting Defendant-Appellee United States of America's motion to dismiss and (ii) to remand this case for further proceedings.

  • Dated:  New York, New York,  December 21, 1998
  • Respectfully submitted,
  • By: Frederick R. Dettmer (FD-2426)
  • The Lincoln Building, 60 East 42nd Street, Suite 1350, New York, New York 10165 (212) 599-5910
  • Attorney for Amicus Curiae

  • [1] New York Yearly Meeting, Yearbook 1998: Proceedings and Appointments, Minute # 27, at pages 7-8 (pub. November 1998).
  • [2] Elders of Balby (England) Friends Meeting, 1656.
  • [3] The Journal of George Fox, John L.Nickalls, editor. (London: Cambridge University Press 1952) (hereinafter cited as “The Journal of George Fox ”), at 11.
  • [4] The Journal of George Fox at 33.
  • [5] John Punshon, Testimony and Tradition, Swarthmore Lecture 1990 (London: Friends Home Service Committee 1990), at 69. Other images frequently used by Friends include “Christ Within”, “That Of God In Everyone”, and “The Inward Light” or “The Inward Teacher”.
  • [6] Roger C. Wilson, Authority, Leadership and Concern, Swarthmore Lecture 1949 (London: Friends Home Service Committee, 1970), at 27.
  • [7] Michael J. Sheeran, Beyond Majority Rule: Voteless Decisions in the Religious Society of Friends (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends 1983) (hereinafter cited as “Sheeran”), at 10. See, also, Letters and c. of Early Friends..., Abram R. Barclay, editor. (London: Harvey and Darton 1841), at 312.
  • [8] This persecution included the Conventicle Acts (which prohibited private or unauthorized meetings for religious worship), oath requirements, judgments of praemunire (which deprived people of their property), physical beatings, disruptions and forced terminations of meetings, wholesale arrests and long imprisonments which deprived the movement of its leaders for long stretches of time and even resulted in the death of many leaders.
  • [9] Barclay's Apology in Modern English, Dean Freiday, editor. (Philadelphia: Friends Book Store 1967), Proposition 11, Worship, at 243.
  • [10] Arnold Lloyd, Quaker Social History: 1669-1738 (London: Longmans, Green, and Company 1950), at 1
    The practice of recording and publicizing individual sufferings for their religious conscience continues to this day. For example, Purchase Monthly Meeting regularly records in its minutes, as sufferings for religious conscience, the amount of interest and penalties seized from Rosa Packard, which is the subject of this action.
  • [11] Sheeran at 10.
  • [12] Sheeran at 13.
  • [13] Hugh Barbour and J.William Frost, The Quakers (New York, Westport, London: Greenwood Press 1988) (hereinafter cited as “The Quakers ”), at 108.
  • [14] The Quakers at 182.
  • [15] Many Friends also utilize the traditional practice of “seeking clearness” from a specially-called group of persons in the meeting when they feel called to some important change in their lives. The “clearness committee” seeks to assist in discerning whether the individual's concern or leading is consistent with other revelations of the Spirit by testing it and clarifying its implications for action.
  • [16] Gray Cox, “Bearing Witness: Quaker Process and a Culture of Peace”, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 262 (Wallingford: Pendle Hill 1985) (hereinafter cited as “Cox”), at 3-4.
  • [17] Cox at 4-6.
  • [18] Declaration “Against All Plotters and Fighters in the World” addressed to Charles II by George Fox, Richard Hubberthorne and 10 other Friends, January 21, 1661; quoted in The Journal of George Fox at 399-400; see, also, Peter Brock, The Quaker Peace Testimony 1660 to 1914 (Sessions Book Trust, York, England 1990) (hereinafter cited as “Brock”), at 25.
  • [19] See Brock at 14.
  • [20] See note 18, supra.
    Shortly thereafter, Friends' principles and practices, including in particular the Quaker peace testimony and witness, were systematically articulated by Robert Barclay, who had been educated in classics and theology before joining Friends in 1667, in his An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, first published in Latin in 1676 and in English in 1678. See Brock at 27-29.
  • [21] See Brock at 184-196.
  • [22] Brock at 117.
  • [23] The Journal and Major Essays of John Woolman, Phillips P. Moulton, editor. (New York 1971), at 85-86; quoted and discussed in Brock at 118.
  • [24] Quoted in Brock at 190. Two years later another broader minute was approved which declared:

    We find in several different quarters a religious scruple hath appeared and increases among Friends, against the payment of taxes, imposed for the purpose of carrying on the present war; they being deeply concerned and engaged faithfully to maintain our Christian testimony against joining with or supporting the spirit of wars and fightings, which hath remarkably tended to unite us in a deep sympathy with the seed of life in their hearts.... [Friends are urged] to avoid complying with the injunctions and requisitions made for the purpose of carry on war, which may produce uneasiness to themselves and tend to increase the sufferings of their brethren.


  • [25] See Brock at 194-196.
  • [26] Quaker Crosscurrents: 300 Years of Friends in the New York Yearly Meetings, Hugh Barbour, editor. (Syracuse University Press 1995) (hereinafter cited as “Quaker Crosscurrents ”), at 313.
  • [27] Brock at 48.
  • [28] See, e.g., Brock at 142-183 and 290-298.
  • [29] Quaker Crosscurrents at 253, 281, 304-307, 312.
  • [30] See, e.g., Hans A. Schmitt, Quakers and Nazis: Inner Light in Outer Darkness (University of Missouri Press 1997).
  • [31] Other examples include the International Peace Research Association, which was founded by Quakers Kenneth and Elise Boulding, and VISA and VISTA, which are modeled on earlier Quaker youth work camp programs. See Quaker Crosscurrents at 295.
  • [32] The Colonial Laws of New York, Volume III, at 1068-70.
  • [33] Brock at 48.
  • [34] Brock at 146-147; see, e.g., Sessions Laws of the State of New York: 1777-1784, Volume I, at 49.
  • [35] Brock at 156-157; see, e.g., Revised Statutes of the State of New York (1829), Volume I, at 286, 317.
  • [36] Indeed, James Madison even attempted to include a clause for exempting conscientious objectors in the Bill of Rights. See Brock at 156.
  • [37] See Brock at 169. These acts generally required the provision of some alternative civilian service or the payment of a commutation or substitution fee.
  • [38] See, e.g.United States v. Seeger, 380 US 163, 170-171 (1965); United States v. Geary, 368 F.2d 144, 147-148 (2nd Circuit 1966); Military Selective Service Act, § 6(j), 50 USC (App.) § 456(j).
  • [39] See Brock at 169-170. The Act provided that conscientious objectors who chose not to perform alternative civilian service “shall pay the sum of three hundred dollars... to be applied to the benefit of the sick and wounded soldiers.”
  • [40] Arthur J. Worrall, Quakers in the Colonial Northeast (Hanover, New Hampshire and London: University Press of New England 1980) (hereinafter cited as “Worrall”), at 118-124.
  • [41] New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Discipline of the Yearly Meeting of Friends (New York: Collins and Perkins 1810), at 47-48.
  • [42] For example, the Colonial Government of New York passed “An Act to Ease People that are Scrupulous in Swearing” in 1691 which allowed those who had “a Tender Conscience” about swearing to provide evidence before a court without having to take an oath. The Colonial Laws of New York, Volume I, at 257-58. An expanded law, this time limited specifically to persons who could prove that they were Quakers, was passed in New York in 1734. The Colonial Laws of New York, Volume II, at 828-30.
  • [43] Worrall at 109-110.
  • [44] For example, New York State in 1787 renewed the right of Quakers to affirm rather than swear. Sessions Laws of the State of New York: 1785-1788, Vol II, at 410-11. In 1798, New York extended the right to affirm to “Shaking Quakers” (Shakers) and the “Universal Friends”. Sessions Laws of the State of New York: 1797-1800, Vol IV, at 214.
  • [45] See, e.g., Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 43(d); 7B McKinney's, New York Civil Practice Laws and Rules §2309(b).
  • [46] Sessions Laws of the State of New York: 1785-1788, Volume II, at 411.
  • [47] The Revised Statutes of the State of New York (1829), Volume II, at 735. Current New York law includes provisions for a challenge for cause of prospective jurors based on the juror's conscientious opinions on the death penalty. 11A McKinney's, New York Criminal Procedure Law §270.20(1)(f) (1998 Supp.).
  • [48] The Revised Statues of the State of New York (1829), Volume II, at 141. Current New York law continues the exemption “among the people called friends or quakers”. 14 McKinney's, New York Domestic Relations Law §12.
  • [49] For example, New York State Law specifically recognized Quaker manumissions of slaves, though they had not been always made “in strict conformity to the statutes”. Sessions Laws of the State of New York: 1797-1800, Volume IV, at 168.
  • [50] 42 USC § 2000bb-1(b)(2).