WASHINGTON — Individuals can still contribute to charity or pay religious tithing even if they have declared bankruptcy, under a bill approved by Congress Wednesday.

The House passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Barrack Obama, D-Ill., that clarified bankruptcy laws to override a court's interpretation of the law that would have prohibited tithing or other charitable giving if a person had declared bankruptcy.

"Congress has a long history of protecting our religious freedom to tithe," Hatch said. "That was our intent when we enacted bankruptcy reform last year, and this bill clarifies the law so that those who tithe can continue to live their faith while in bankruptcy."

A New York bankruptcy judge ruled earlier this year that those in bankruptcy at a certain level could not include a tithing payment or other charitable giving in their repayment plans. The bill passed Wednesday would allow people to continue to give while repaying the debt.

"For millions of Americans, charitable giving and tithing is an essential part of their lives," Obama said. "And in a country where 37 million citizens live in poverty, we should be encouraging charitable giving, not limiting it."

The Senate passed the bill in September and now with the House's approval it can go to the president for his signature.