Comments about ‘Study: Less religious states give less to charity; Utah is most generous state’

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Published: Monday, Aug. 20 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Hayden, ID

Very interesting article! There is a thesis here that if you don’t believe in a spiritual Deity, you substitute that with a belief in a powerful government and demand that people give to your substitute God- government! How else can you explain the differences of giving to charity between liberals and conservatives? It comes down to whom do you render; Caesar or God?

no fit in SG
St.George, Utah

DN...there you go again.
Yes, everyone is already, most certainly aware that Utah is/has the very best of the best in every category.
Always appreciate the reminder, tho.

Salt Lake City, UT

Uh... why would atheists (the subject of this article) pay tithing when they don't belong to a church? That's the primary reason for the difference between the one set of states and the other. This study keeps in church tithing which largely goes to maintaining church infrastructure, utilities, and pastor's pay based on this finance report for the pat year I got from the Catholic church I visit. My offerings are mostly the equivalent of "club membership" with a fraction of it going to charitable causes. Same goes for your tithing since the LDS church has made clear that its' fast offerings and the humanitarian aid fund that are the principle charitable arms of the church whereas tithing is mostly just for keeping the church running.


I wonder what the numbers look like if churches are not counted as charities. All charities have overhead, but churches have particularly high overhead. When money is given to a church, only a very small percentage of that money makes it to the poor, or to programs that benefit the poor. If the goal is to help the church, then give to the church. But if the goal is to help the poor, there are better options.


I think it depends on what you consider "charity." If one person gives 10% of their money to the LDS church, the church uses that money to run a campaign in Maine to prevent gays from adopting children, or to prevent one person in California from being able to visit their injured loved one in the hospital. Another person gives 5% of their pay to feed hungry children in Haiti - Which person gave more to "charity?"

hymn to the silent
Holladay, UT

If you take out the donations to religiously affiliated organizations, conservatives still give a higher percentage of their income than liberals. A 20 year study by Alfred Brooks (Who Really Gives?) bears this out. And the idea that non religious people pay taxes with an altruistic attitude is not really true. They pay them as begrudgingly as any of us do. But they do make career choices based on altruistic idealism (teachers, social workers, etc.) at a higher percentage than conservatives.

non believer

To Mountanman
Your thesis is completely off base and is only your own personal opinion. There is nothing in this article that supports your conclusion. The use of the word demand is also completely off base and not suported by this article. There are thousands of ways to explain the differences and each individule has his or her own reasons. Substitute God is laughable and just plain ignorant.

Salt Lake City, UT

@hymn of the silent
Sure nobody likes paying taxes but in the end Vermont citizens still voted for politicians who would have enough taxes to pay for single payer healthcare which will go into effect in a couple years and citizens in Sweden, Norway, and France pay higher taxes for things like cheap college, healthcare, and a very strong safety net. If they didn't care about programs helping the poor and elderly and instead just wanted more tax cuts for themselves... well, they'd vote for Romney/Ryan.

Sandy, UT

"'People in less religious states are giving in a different way by being more willing to pay higher taxes so the government can equitably distribute superior benefits,' Wolfe said." ROFL! No way! Thank goodness for people like this because there just wouldn't be any flavor in this world without them! What a day brightener! I've been waiting my whole life for someone from the other side of the great class warfare divide between know it all, do gooder intellectuals and us poor, unsophisticated, uneducated, neanderthals who could never give away charity on our own without the government forcing us on pain of imprisonment to do it. Yes! What a day! Why am I shouting?!?!?! Because this is just too sweet!!!! This is going on my Facebook!

Ultra Bob
Cottonwood Heights, UT

The main fallacy of the study and this article is the equating a tax deduction with charitable giving. The tax deduction represents the lobbying of private groups to induce people to give up their money and have the government further subsidize the groups.

Charity is the giving with out reward. The tax deduction alone takes the tax definition of charity out of the character of true charity.

Money given to a church is not charity. It is to purchase the product that the church is selling. The fact that the product is mostly imaginary does not mean that it is the product that the church dispenses.

Commercial charities are simply business operations. They are operated for the profit of their owner/managers. They seldom if ever make any real difference in the world of the people they are supposed to be helping. The history of the world seems to be people help the poor but don’t do anything about their being poor.

If you want to see what the true charity of Americans is, stop the tax deduction and allow charity to be it’s own product.

Say No to BO
Mapleton, UT

Professor Wolfe's rationalization that some people think their taxes are symbols of altruism is humorous on its face. You gotta love the ivory tower.

salt lake, UT

@mountain, hymn and killpack
You should actually read the article before commenting. “Churches are among the organizations counted as charities by the study, and some states in the Northeast rank in the top 10 when religious giving is not counted.” In Mormon teachings, for instance, Latter Day Saints are required to pay a 10 percent tithe to remain church members in good standing, which helps explain the high giving rate in heavily-Mormon Utah. When only secular gifts are counted, New York climbs from No. 18 to No. 2 in giving, and Pennsylvania rises from No. 40 to No. 4. Utah gives 10.6%, If LDS Utahan's are paying10% towards something other then “staying in good standing” with their church how much are they really giving to charity out of kindness versus compulsion and how much chest thumbing should you really be doing?

spring street

Some interesting facts from the actual study left out of the article. The rich aren’t the most generous. Middle-class Americans give a far bigger share of their discretionary income to charities than the rich. Households that earn $50,000 to $75,000 give an average of 7.6 percent of their discretionary income to charity, compared with an average of 4.2 percent for people who make $100,000 or more. Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a share of their income to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities. The Northeast region ranks the highest when religious giving is not factored in.

spring street

From the study sited in the article, "because taxpayers are allowed to claim deductions only if they itemize on their tax forms, so no precise data exist to determine how much those who don’t itemize give."

So who do you think this mostly likely applies to and how does it effect the conclusions you can draw about who really gives the largest percentage of their income to charity?

Bountiful, UT

LDS fast offerings are inde

The Rock
Federal Way, WA


With no paid clergy the LDS church as particularly low over head. There is not better way to help the poor than donating to the LDS Church's Fast Offering fund.


LDS Tithing funds are not used for political purposes ever. Not in California's Prop 8, and not in Maine and not anywhere else. Members are encouraged to get involved in politics and to donate but they are never told what political parties to donate to. The church only got involved with Prop 8 because it was a moral issue.

Salt Lake City, Utah


As "The Rock" pointed out not one single dollar of LDS tithing money was spent on Prop 8, in Maine, or anywhere else. To do so would have threatened their tax exempt status.

Re: Tolstoy salt lake, UT

You are confused about tithing (10%) and charitable donations (fast offerings) made by LDS members. Whether Mormons give $1 or $500 in fast offerings is totally up to them. They don't thump their chests when they donate to charity because that information is not made public. Perhaps we should worry a little less about how much others give to charity and a little more about how much we give.

Salt Lake City, UT

@The Rock
"With no paid clergy the LDS church as particularly low over head. There is not better way to help the poor than donating to the LDS Church's Fast Offering fund."

The church itself says that tithing money (which is the majority of their donations) is primarily for building churches, maintaining the buildings (utilities etc) and for supplies/activities for church use. The charitable arms of the church (humanitarian aid and fast offering funds) have low overhead, however, so I agree with the second statement.

Of course, both of us are speculating to some extent since the LDS wards don't hand out annual budget reports.

"The church only got involved with Prop 8 because it was a moral issue."

The church doesn't seem to really be involved in Washington, Maryland, Minnesota, and Maine's ballot question matters so it seems like the church isn't fond of getting involved in that kind of thing anymore.

Far East USA, SC

Have not seen it mentioned, but my understanding is that money donated to the general missionary fund is tax deductible while money given specifically to a specific persons mission is not.

So, are much of the missionary expenses across the globe considered tax deductible in the US?

West Haven, Utah

Killpack -

I agree with you. When I read it, I was ROFL also! Then I wondered if he had a point, so I spent my lunch hour researching the issue. I indexed the tax burden by state and compared it with the generosity indicated in this article. I averaged them (Most Generous = 1, Highest tax burden = 1), then compared them with the Religiousity index. What I found was startling! All 10 of the most religious states have higher than average tax burdens, too! In fact, of all 50 states and D.C., Alan Wolfe can point to only two outliers for the accuracy of his statement (D.C., which was #12 in Tax Burden and #2 in Giving, but 42nd in Religiousity and New York, which was #2 in Tax Burden and #18 in giving, but 41st in Religiousity). For those interested, Utah ranked 28th in tax burden and 1st in giving, and was 2nd in Religiousity (behind Mississippi).

We both had good reason to laugh...big time! And Tolstoy - percentages of Mormons would only affect two, possibly three States - Utah, Idaho, and possibly California.

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