In our opinion: Charitable giving to churches provides a great benefit to society


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  • 1covey Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2013 3:25 p.m.

    How much of a donation to the United Fund covers overhead costs, including salaries, facilities, operating costs? Some years ago, I was informed it was 50%. Should, then, only 50% of a donation to the United fund be Tax-deductible? And other charities have greater "overhead costs". Decide for yourself. There is, arguably, a better return for contributions to churches which even have a professional clergy, when you consider the personal and moral and spiritual support given by these institutions (meaning the people, mostly, but also the physical facilities involved).

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Nov. 9, 2013 3:23 p.m.

    "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is criticizing the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan for cutting food stamps and other assistance programs for the poor.

    In a letter sent to the House Agriculture Committee on Monday, the bishops say the budget fails to meet certain “moral criteria” by disproportionately cutting programs that “serve poor and vulnerable people.”

    A second letter sent Tuesday to the Ways and Means Committee criticizes a provision that makes it more difficult for illegal immigrants to claim child tax credits. The bishops called the credit “one of the most effective antipoverty programs in our nation.”
    (The Hill 2012)

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 9, 2013 2:01 p.m.


    The businessmen that you mention would never give up their profitable enterprise willingly.

  • Owl Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 9, 2013 12:43 p.m.

    Charitable giving has those who abuse the privilege, but in the final count non-profits do many positive things that the government cannot do and cannot afford. Ask St. Vincent's, the Salt Lake Rescue Mission, food banks, the Humanitarian Aid Center, and many others if they want to depend on government budgets for their support. None of the universities in Utah would be in favor of giving up charitable donations.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Nov. 9, 2013 10:02 a.m.

    It does do good, but a lot of people do it simply for feel good righteousness. There are plenty of charities out there that deliver good without the fabricated god guilt trip.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 7:20 p.m.

    As you can see, one can argue both sides of this. I guess we can only relate our own experiences. I can say that donating to my church has been a net benefit for me. Beyond that, I couldn't say.

  • The Taxman Los Angeles, CA
    Nov. 8, 2013 6:17 p.m.


    "If you're LDS you don't have to worry about that. Tithing is used to build chapels, temples, pay utilities, church's administrative costs, etc. Fast Offerings are Charitable Giving (give whatever you can, 100% goes to charity, 0% to church buildings, church utilities, salaries, etc). 100% goes to charity."

    You can't substantiate a single word of your above claim because the Church does not publish in the USA. However, if you examine UK filings you will see that your fast offering claim is false.

  • The Taxman Los Angeles, CA
    Nov. 8, 2013 6:05 p.m.

    I have no problem giving to organizations who publish their financial information, but I will not give a dime (and I recommend that others also not give a dime) to any charitable organization who does not publish its financial results. We will never get much needed disclosure by charitable orgs until we demand it, and the only way we can encourage this good behavior is to channel our contributions to above-board charities who publish.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 5:52 p.m.

    In times past before I dropped out of organized religion, I contributed to various commercial charities, gave to the food bank, paid tithing and accepted my employer’s requirement to donate to the United Fund.

    Today I contribute to the support of 4 family groups, ranging from 1 to 5 people. These are people who made the “wrong” decisions about drugs and employment. I consider it charity because the money given to them holds little chance of providing any return. It’s not tax deductable because they are part of my extended family and I am not a “organized” charity source.

    The amount of tax deduction would not change my actions if it were available. Yet tax deductions for contributions to “organized” and religious entities are very vital to their existence. If the tax deduction was removed many of these organizations would disappear.

    The taxes that churches and charities do not pay are made up by adding to the tax load of others with out their consent. That’s not fair.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 4:35 p.m.

    Charity is one of the greatest financial scams in America. The truth of this is in the fact that business corporations are the greatest contributors. Business operations do not expend money without the expectation of return; and people don’t give away money without expectation of return.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Nov. 8, 2013 3:08 p.m.


    In addition to the methodological bias in the index, Schervish and Havens cite what they believe to be critical errors in the Index methodology:

    Average AGI is calculated for one group of people (all who filed income tax forms), while the average charitable deduction is calculated for a separate group—those who itemize their returns. Because the two groups are not the same, no meaningful ratio of generosity can be calculated using this data.

    Tax returns don't capture the total income of all the residents of a state, and itemized tax returns don't capture the total charitable contribution they make.

    The Index doesn't take into account the significant differences in tax burdens in different states, other differences in the cost of living, or the differences in patterns in giving to secular and religious institutions and causes—all of which differentiate regions of the country as well as specific states.
    (Boston College edu 2005)

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Nov. 8, 2013 2:51 p.m.

    States previously reported to lag behind the nation in charitable giving actually have higher generosity levels than those indicated by a widely-touted annual index, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy.

    The report, titled “Geography and Generosity” was conducted by Paul G. Schervish, director of the Boston and John J. Havens.

    Geography and Generosity analyzed the Generosity Index (based on income tax returns)and determined that it is inaccurate partly because of a built-in bias against high-income states and for low-income states. When Schervish and his team used the same formula that was used by the Generosity Index, they determined that even if Massachusetts residents had given 1,000 times the amount of money that was in fact donated to charity in 2004, and held giving by all other states constant, Massachusetts could not rise above number 23 on the Index. At the same time, the calculation suggested that the state of Mississippi would not fall below 26th place out of 50 even if residents of that state had given zero to charity in 2004.

  • t702 Las Vegas, NV
    Nov. 8, 2013 2:37 p.m.

    "Take away religion from the picture and the United States would be less charitable, less productive and less able to deal with social ills."

    Wow very strong statement. I bet atheists don't like that. I wonder as to whom atheists take their charitable donations and how they claim on tax deductions

  • J Thompson SPRINGVILLE, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 2:30 p.m.

    @ One of a Few,

    How much do you really know about the LDS Church? Probably not as much as you would like us to think. The "Church's bureaucracy" is paid from profits made from tax-paying businesses held by the Corporation of the Presidency, not from "charitable donations" given to the Church. You can easily find that information.

    Those "general authorities" who receive a stipend, earn their keep by serving on boards to direct the activities of Church owned businesses. Charitable donations are used for the purposes intended, not for salaries. If you donate to the "humanitarian fund", you can be certain that 100% of your donation will go to humanitarian services, not to overhead nor to salaries.

    Some tithes are used to build the Kingdom of God, meaning chapels and temples, seminaries and institutes, but salaries do not come from "tithing".

    Would you tax God, who has given you life and everything pertaining to life? That doesn't seem to be "an attitude of gratitude" to me.

    Charity is not tempered by duty. Those who are compelled to help, have no love for those who are being helped. Government forces charity. Do you need compulsion?

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 2:16 p.m.


    I'm not bitter about others contributing to charity. This is a great thing.

    But part of the problem with our tax code is that it has become so complicated with the social engineering and various tweaks intended to affect desirable changes that optimizing one's tax bill has become an industry in itself, with a large number of enormous corporations and wealthy individuals paying no taxes at all.

    We hear from conservatives that the US corporate tax rate is too high, and that we should broaden the base while reducing the tax rate.

    I agree. We should eliminate most if not all of the deductions, lower tax rates, and eliminate the practice of tax avoidance, as this activity does not produce anything.

    Protecting only certain tax deductions is exactly how we got to have such a convoluted tax code. For one group, charitable giving is holy, for another, energy conservations measures is sacrosanct.

    Simplify the whole thing, and allow people to be charitable with no strings attached. I would certainly continue to donate to those charities I support now.

    I don't need a benefit for me.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Nov. 8, 2013 2:15 p.m.

    I do not see proselytizing as something that should receive a tax deduction.

    Not in this country, but especially not in another country.

    Hard to see the wisdom in giving someone a tax break to persuade others to change from one religion to another one. Or to join a religion.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Nov. 8, 2013 2:08 p.m.

    What do we expect a "charitable" organization to do? Don't we expect that it will relieve as much "suffering" as possible without requiring anyone who doesn't wish to participate to "donate" funds to that relief? When natural disasters hit, do we wait for an "invoice" from some government agency before we respond or do we give of our money and of our time to assist those who lives have been turned upside down?

    Government cannot do anything without first "taxing" someone in the private sector to raise the revenue that it needs to pay for its "charity". Forcing someone to pay taxes so that the government can render personal welfare is not included in the Constitution; that is a duty left to the States or to the People.

    What does it cost the government to provide "charity"? How much of its budget is "eaten up" before goods and services are provided to the people who need that "charity"? Churches give 100% of the contributions to help others. Government "eats up" as much as 80% of tax revenue before assisting those who need it.

    Why would anyone begrudge donations to churches?

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Nov. 8, 2013 2:00 p.m.

    Many/most churches in the U.S. don't make public their financial records regarding expenditures for charity. So, all we have are the claims made by churches. Generally I don't give to charitable organizations until I can look at their financial records and see how the money is spent. What percentage of donations to religious organizations is used for charitable purposes--helping the poor or needy meet temporal needs?

    We know tithing generally doesn't go toward charitable purposes. But what about fast offerings? Why doesn't the church at least make public the records involving fast offerings, perpetual education funds and other charitable donations?

    When I've had to make calls within my local congregation to find people to take a meal to someone I've noticed specific trends. Many people are willing to help new moms, and favored/popular church members. It is much more difficult to find help for others. Additionally, people are much more willing to help in the rare occurrences of major disasters as opposed to the daily, weekly, or monthly needs that people have.

  • OHBU Columbus, OH
    Nov. 8, 2013 1:43 p.m.


    I stand by my statement, though I do admit I overlooked the "disclaimer." The very fact that I had to read the article twice to notice it buried in the parentheses about charitable donation, means it doesn't meet basic journalistic standards. It's better than I initially thought, though not by much. A disclaimer is either stated up front, or as a postscript. This is not a chance or tangential connection. The article is arguing directly for tax-exempt status for its parent organization.

    Nov. 8, 2013 1:40 p.m.

    It's always easy to spend other people's money. If government was able to confiscate all the wealth in the country, it would not be enough to satisfy the spending needs of the out of control federal government.

  • One of a Few Layton, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 1:31 p.m.

    @ No Paid Clergy in the LDS church - not exactly accurate for purposes of this discussion. The church's bureaucracy is vast and very much compensated. The presiding bodies are rumored to be well compensated at least with respect to specific positions, but that information is either secret or sacred we aren't exactly sure. The most one can say is the church has a lay clergy that is not compensated but then most churches do as well. Perhaps not on the scale of the LDS faith but then most churches operate as individual ministries rather all being financially dependent and tied to a central organization which is the LDS model.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 1:27 p.m.

    Why all the bitterness from some about tax incentives for charity, giving to churches, etc?

    Taxes are not only used for fund raising. They are also a tool the government uses for social-engineering (meaning encouraging the population to do the things the government WANTS them to be doing). Ie, Buying houses, saving, having children, educating their children, buying insurance, etc...

    If you're gonna get all grumpy because somebody gets a small tax break on what they donate to charity or their church (which the government believes will bring more good/benefit to society than it costs them in the tax break)... then should we also be grumpy about people getting tax breaks to encourage them to buy a house, have kids, buy insurance, go into the military, etc?

    The government gives tax breaks to incentivise activities they want to encourage in the population. Charity just happens to be one of them. It doesn't hurt you. It just means the Government is using this incentive to encourage more people to do it... and the government believes they get more benefit from people doing what they are encouraging than it will cost in tax credits.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 1:26 p.m.

    "100% of LDS charitable giving goes toward the needy."

    Depends on what you're talking about. That definitely isn't true for tithing money since, as is reasonably expected, a lot of it goes to the building and upkeep of church buildings. The church states basically as much, it's some of the other portions of the tithing slip like fast offerings and the humanitarian aid section that are pure charity.

    As for the humanitarian aid budget and things like that... that's much much closer but technically not 100% since there is understandable overhead (like the costs of transporting goods to the Philippines after Haiyan) that nobody would begrudge the church for paying. I certainly have no problem with the LDS church being... 95% efficient or whatever it is with those funds.

    "Pay taxes and what percentage of that actually benefits an individual?"

    Medicare and food stamps have roughly 5% overhead costs so around 95% benefits the individuals. One of the reasons the public option and medicare buy-in were blocked from Obamacare (by Republicans and the blue-dogs) is the insurance lobby wanted to stop those options since they are so efficient.

  • David Centerville, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 12:45 p.m.

    OHBU & 10cc,

    In the article it stated that the LDS Church owns the DNews. I would consider that a discloser. Go back and read the article again.

    I believe all contributions to a church should be tax deductible, except perhaps salaries for employees of the church, including mega-pastors and televangelists.

    Pay taxes and what percentage of that actually benefits an individual? I would propose that a large percentage of the tax is wasted on duplicative administration, corruption, and political programs. Only a small percentage actually benefits those in need.

    100% of LDS charitable giving goes toward the needy. I feel government should be in the business of helping churches and charitable organizations be even more efficient and proficient at helping others, rather than trying to change their tax status.

    Predictably, the Democrats are always looking for more ways to take more money, including from the mouths of the poor and needy. Democrats would begin taxing charitable organizations and churches, thus depriving those funds from reaching the needy. Despicable. Our government, and the Democratic party, is out of control.

  • QuickRick Brigham City, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 12:37 p.m.

    Re: Joe Blow
    How much of what is donated to non-church charities actually goes to those in need? Every charitable organization has operation expenses, yet the entire donation to those organizations is tax deductible.

    Re: OHBC and 10CC
    The article did give a disclaimer stating the relationship between Deseret News and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Are you maybe a little too quick to be "put off" regarding anything having to do with the LDS Church?

  • Redshirt1701 Deep Space 9, Ut
    Nov. 8, 2013 11:56 a.m.

    To "JoeBlow" that is a very myoptic view of what churches do.

    Lets look at it this way. With your donation to the soup kitchen you feed a person for a day.

    With donation to the church accompanied with attendance and activity you get much more than just food for a day.

    With churches you have networking opportunities for people to get employment, or improve their employment.

    You also have communities that look at for eachother and care for people when they are sick.

    The churches also provide support for people that need help with their homes, cars, or other things that require maintenance.

    What is better, feeding a person for a day or helping them start a career?

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 11:46 a.m.

    OHBU makes a great point. There should be a disclaimer / notice of association between the Deseret News relationship with the LDS Church, to keep everything above board.

  • Liberal Ted Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 11:32 a.m.


    My response yes. Giving to a church is charitable and tax deductible.

    What is questionable is donating money to a union and getting tax deductions on that. That is not charitable.

    Do missionaries from faiths contribute to a society when they proselyte? Yes. Having been a missionary we served society sun up to sun down. It might shock you, but, typically people aren't lined up to listen to you teach. But, I would argue the times we talked to rape victims, assisted people with mental issues, listening to one concern after another, lifting and uplifting people....that was time well spend that benefits society as a whole. Government cannot fill the void. But, people of faith can reach out and give that personal unpaid time and attention to those who are in need.

    When is the last time your local politician came to your door, new your whole family, and listened to your concerns coming from the spectrum of life? I certainly haven't seen one.

    But, I have missionaries that drop by regularly, church leaders, people of faith that have offered help.

    So yes any contribution to church is charitable.

  • OHBU Columbus, OH
    Nov. 8, 2013 11:24 a.m.

    I'm a little put off by the fact that a church-owned newspaper is running an editorial telling people to donate to churches. I don't know, at the very least there should be some statement on the matter put up front for the reader about the conflict of interest. If even CNN (CNN!) is careful to state when they're reporting on something that directly affects any company owned by Time Warner, then it feels like it should be basic due diligence within journalism. Let's be honest, CNN isn't exactly a high bar of journalistic standards, but somehow this (and other articles like it) consistently find a way to not clear it.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 11:04 a.m.

    Contributing to churches benefits society only to the extent that that church teaches people to be better people. Do they focus on teaching to treat others with kindness and honesty, or are they more focused on their particular doctrines, such as no birth control, or blood transfusions? etc. ...

  • CHS 85 Sandy, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 11:01 a.m.

    Is it disingenuous for a the mouthpiece of a religious organization to extol the virtues of charitable giving to a church? Of course their opinion is going to be on the side of making sure American keep giving to churches.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 10:39 a.m.

    Irony Guy,
    RE: "Most giving to churches goes to capital expenditures, such as buildings, or to operations--such as paying giant salaries to mega-church pastors"...

    If you're LDS you don't have to worry about that. Tithing is used to build chapels, temples, pay utilities, church's administrative costs, etc. But I don't consider that "Charitable" giving. It's paying back to God some of the blessings he's given me.

    "Fast Offerings" are "Charitable Giving" (give whatever you can, 100% goes to charity, 0% to church buildings, church utilities, salaries, etc). 100% goes to charity.

    I think it's good that they keep them separate. Then you know what you are participating in and what your contributions will be used for, and can participate in one and not the other if you want too. I have many non-LDS neighbors who contribute to Fast Offerings (but no Tithing). And that works for them.

    No paid clergy in the LDS church... so you don't have to worry about your contributions going there either.

    I see other churches doing good charitable things as well... so at least SOME of what you contribute goes to charity.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 10:32 a.m.

    Donations to churches should not be tax deductible (neither should donations to other charities). Charity expects nothing in return (like a tax deduction).

    Missionary funds are definitely NOT charity and I'm hoping the IRS will remove any deductions to missionary funds. Why should I have to subsidize your missionary program by giving your members tax deductions for it?

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 10:32 a.m.

    Charitable giving is a great thing, no question, in all its many forms.

    But making it tax deductible shifts the tax burden to others who don't write checks to churches, or to those who choose not to derive a benefit from their giving.

    The true test of charity is giving without a quid-pro-quo, ie, giving without the understanding that you'll receive a tangible benefit in return.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 9:07 a.m.

    Obviously charitable giving to churches (and other charities) benefits society. It benefits the giver (by teaching them to be giving and compassionate and act on those good qualities) AND it benefits those who are assisted by that charity.

    Nobody's saying Churches supplant Government. They are totally separate, and they should not see each other as adversaries. IMO the Left looks at Churches with suspicion, and the Right looks at Government with suspicion. I think we should fully participate in both, and not let either interfere with the other.

    Throughout history both governments and churches have eventually been taken over by bad people and been abused to oppress people. We need to do everything we can to make sure neither are used for oppression. Government should not oppress religious views and practice of ANY faith. And churches should not control the government. It think the founding fathers shared that view.

  • Semi-Strong Louisville, KY
    Nov. 8, 2013 9:03 a.m.

    Giving to a church to support its expenses or outreach may not seem charitable. But there is a lot of good done not simply by the churches but by the individual members - looking in on neighbors, taking food to them, visiting folks who are sick, etc., etc. Plus participation in the churches' formal outreach programs (which are myriad).

    I think that few of us would understand the need for or have the support system to engage in outreach were it not for our churches. Does that mean we would be more selfish, less likely to help others. Yes, I think so. THAT is what churches teach – engagement with those who are in need, and helping them where we can. Could we learn that outside of churches? Sure. On average do we? Not so much.

    Of course there are exceptions. But most of us need a little push to open our eyes and move ourselves to act. As we try to understand God and live our covenants with him, we are forced out of our natural comfort zones. And that is when we begin truly helping others.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Nov. 8, 2013 8:24 a.m.

    Giving contributions to a church shows primarily one thing: that we believe in religion as a force for good in the world. Yes, a church has expenses if it is to operate. Should a church, which teaches us to be charitable to our neighbor, not be allowed tax-exempt status when the government, which forces us to be charitable via programs such as ObamaCare, is tax-exempt. Or do you think that each department of government pays taxes on the revenue that it receives from the private sector?

    Among those who begrudge charitable giving to churches are those who give nothing to anyone without being forced. They are those who demand that someone else, some "rich guy" be forced to pay the welfare needs of their next-door neighbor so that they won't be bothered with a request for help.

    Charity is the pure love of Christ. Those who have it give freely. Those who don't have that charity are missing life's greatest purpose - which is to help us to desire to be godlike in our actions.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Nov. 8, 2013 6:37 a.m.

    Most giving to churches goes to capital expenditures, such as buildings, or to operations--such as paying giant salaries to mega-church pastors. While perhaps laudable, those offerings are NOT charity and should not count as such.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Nov. 8, 2013 6:18 a.m.

    Lets look at two extremes.

    1- give $100 to the all volunteer soup kitchen to help feed the poor and hungry
    2- give $100 to Lakewood church (Joel Osteen)

    I think everyone would agree that a well run soup kitchen is charitable in every sense of the word. I have not looked closely, but not sure what "charity" Lakewood does.

    So, lets look in between.

    Give a tithe to a church who pays the bills and tends to their "flock". Charitable? Certainly Debatable.

    When that church feeds and clothes the less fortunate, those $$ are certainly "charitable"
    When that church sends out missionaries to help rebuild an earthquake ravaged region, again, no brainer in most peoples book.

    But how about the money spent on missionaries to convert? Domestically? Around the world?

    Does that benefit society? Is that worth a tax deduction?
    Does society benefit from this activity?

    Questionable at best.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    Nov. 8, 2013 5:03 a.m.

    If you don't support the good. What would people be like with out them.