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Franz, Marian Claassen (1930-2006)

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Mennonite Weekly Review obituary: 2006 Dec 4 p. 1, 3

Birth date: 1930 Oct 12

text of obituary:

Peace-tax campaign leader dies

By MCC Washington Office and MWR staff

WASHINGTON — Marian Franz, a witness for peace in the halls of power as leader of a movement to extend conscientious objection to the payment of war taxes, died Nov. 17 after a two-year struggle with cancer. She was 76.

Franz marian classen 2006.jpg
Franz directed the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund for 24 years, beginning in 1982. As a lobbyist, she called upon members of Congress to pass legislation allowing conscientious objectors to pay all of their taxes without funding the military.

She stepped down from the directorship in January to dedicate herself full-time to fighting an aggressive, recurring cancer.

Establishment of a peace-tax fund remains unfulfilled, but Franz believed no witness for peace and conscience is ever lost.

"Marian was a tireless voice for religious freedom and the rights of people of conscience," said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. "Her energy and persistence in advocating for the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund was a reflection of her deep commitment to our democracy and to the cause of peace."

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.,called Franz, "a longtime and effective advocate for peace and human rights. She believed in the dignity of every human being, and that's how she treated everyone she met."

J. Daryl Byler, director of the Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office, described Franz as "a pastor-prophet to the U.S. Congress, combining gifts of compassionate listening with passionate advocacy. Her vision and energy were contagious, and her life's work was a powerful illustration of Paul's words to the church at Galatia: "So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.'"

Franz was born Oct 12, 1930, in Newton, Kan., to Ernest G. and Justine Claassen of Whitewater. She graduated from Bethel College in North Newton in 1954. Also that year, she married Delton Franz.

After brief pastorates in Kansas, the Franzes moved to Chicago to attend Mennonite Biblical Seminary, where she earned a master's degree in religious education in 1957.

In Chicago, the Franzes began an interracial Mennonite church. They were active in the civil rights movement and coordinated rallies and speaking engagements with Martin Luther King Jr.

In the 1950s and '60s, Franz worked for the Church Federation of Greter chicago and became director of Weekday Religion Education — then run in co-operation with public schools — for one-third of the area of Chicago. She wrote articles for the International Journal of Religious Education.

In 1968, the Franzes moved to Washington to open the MCC office there.

In 1971, she helped found Dunamis, a Christian organization that spoke to policymakers about political issues facing the nation. She became its first director.

In 1982, Franz became the first full-time director of the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund.

Franz believed that war taxes have enormous consequences.

"They kill twice," Franz said. "First, they directly enable war, . . . particularly paying for weapns. Second, taxes allocated for war represent a distortion of priorities. Money is taken away from the important work of healing and spent to destroy and kill."

Franz was a founder of the Faith and Politics Institute and served on its board for 14 years. The non-partisan, interfaith organzation was founded in 1991 to help public officials stay in touch with their faith and deeper values as they shape public policy.

In recent years, Franz commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Selma Civil Rights March with President Clinton and the Southern Christian leadership Conference.

She made numerous trips to Europe to attend international conferences that promoted conscientious objection to the payment of military taxes. She gave testimony before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in New York.

She was a founder and the current chair of Conscience and Peace tax International, which works with institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union to seek recognition of conscientious objection to paying for armaments and war.

Franz was a member of Hyattsville (Md.) Mennonite Church, where a memorial service will be held Feb. 17.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Delton; and siblings Vernon Claassen and Doris Claassen.

She is survived by a son, Gregory Franz of Los Angeles; two daughters, Gayle Franz of newton, Kan., and Coretta Franz-Eby of Lancaster, Pa.; and two grandchildren.

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