Church-goer says poor families feel pressured to tithe

A south Auckland councillor is calling for tithing to be banned at churches located in low-income communities.

Tithing typically involves giving 10 percent of a person's income to the church, and Manukau Councillor Efeso Collins said poorer families are already stretched and the practice needs to stop.

"I've been challenging our churches, why are they still taking from our families when they're some of the poorest families in the city?" he said.

Wellington church-goer Maria Ale said there's a lot of pressure at church to give generously.

"The more you give, the more you feel you've got a right and a stronger say in the church," she said.

"At some churches they read out the family name and the amount. People love to hear their names and a big amount.

"As a low-income family, I agree tithing should be what you can afford. That's what me and my husband live by now."

Mr Collins said people feel obliged first to tithe, then borrow to pay the bills.

The Newtown Budgeting Service deals with 500 clients each year. Manager Geoff Curson said many of its families are required to give 10 percent to the church.

"So a family with a combined income of $900 has to cover rent, food, bills and expenses for their children, while still paying $90 to their church," he said.

"I see the damage tithing can cause for clients. Some people are exceedingly generous on what they earn, especially on benefits and low incomes."

Seventeen percent of registered charities are churches, or groups involved in religious activities. Tithing is a donation to a charity, meaning those donating can claim a tax rebate. 

But Mrs Ale said that's not why people do it. Worshippers are told, "whatever you give, your blessings will come back ten-fold".

None of the churches Newshub approached - including Destiny, a Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, or The Street - would comment, or didn't reply to a request for comment on the matter of tithing.


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