When Mitt Romney's tax returns revealed the millions he gave the past two years to the LDS Church, many wondered if that won the Republican presidential candidate more favor with Mormon leaders or if he was trying to hide his income through such charitable largesse.
Most journalists, though, recognized that Romney's donation was part of the faith's routine expectation that devout Mormons give 10 percent of their income – known as tithing – to the Utah-based church.
Mormons give tithing great emphasis. In fact, some of their most sacred rites — including eternal marriage — are reserved for those who pay a full tithe and meet other requirements for entrance into a Mormon temple.
The Bible preaches the importance of tithing, too, but do other Christians also follow that practice? Not usually as much as Mormons, according to Michael Paulson of The New York Times.
In the United States, for example, evangelical Protestants and Pentecostals "tend to give the highest percentage of their income to charity," Paulson writes, "Catholics close to the lowest."
President Barack Obama — who was involved with a mainline Protestant congregation, Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, before his election — "gave relatively little to charity a decade ago," the article said, "but steadily increased his giving as he became more prominent and donated 14 percent of his income in 2010."
On the other hand, Newt Gingrich, a Southern Baptist before his 2009 conversion to Catholicism, gave "2.6 percent of his 2010 income to charity."
And the group that gave the least? Nonreligious Americans.
"Any religion," Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame told The Times, "makes you more likely to engage in voluntary financial giving."
Peggy Fletcher Stack
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