Saying that "all nuclear war is immoral," Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen has called for unilateral disarmament and said taxpayers who withheld half of their taxes to protest the arms race would be justified.
His stand has been supported by Seattle leaders of the Lutheran, United Methodist and United Presbyterian churches and the United Church of Christ.
The 58-year-old prelate said that "failure to achieve mutual disarmament leaves us with only one moral position in this tragic situation, the position of unilateral disarmament will trust and reliance on the Lord as security.
"Any nation which makes as a first priority the building up of armaments and not the creative work of peace and disarmament is immoral," he declared.
His views were published in a 1,200-word letter in the July 2 issue of the archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Northwest Progress, reiterating a position he had taken in a June address before the Pacific Lutheran Conference.
He said he realized his stand "provoked deep pain" in some instances, noting that the Seattle area was especially dependent on jobs in the nuclear armaments industry.
He added, "In a question like the nuclear arms race I believe it is God almighty who is calling us to take such a stand."
The archbishop said some critics failed to recognize that it was not only his right but his duty to speak out, and "I strongly reject the notion that because the episcopal office is a religious office a bishop may not speak out on issues that involve the political realm."
On the withholding of taxes, he said "it is a tactic that may or may not be used by persons who agree with the main points I made on disarmament. I have no intention of urging it strongly on anyone.
"What does concern me is the notion advanced by some that it is utterly immoral to disobey a law of the state for a good end."