[Hpn] To Spend, Save or Support;Washington Post;7/14/01;Re:Tax Rebates;USA
Morgan W. Brown
Sat, 14 Jul 2001 14:16:17 -0400
Saturday, July 14, 2001
Washington Post <http://www.washingtonpost.com>
[Washington, D.C., USA]
In the News
To Spend, Save or Support?
Pooling Tax Rebates for Social Causes Can Make Big Difference, Some
Religious Leaders Say
By Bill Broadway
Washington Post Staff Writer
Over the next few weeks, most U.S. households will receive an "advance
payment" check as part of the $1.35 trillion tax cut President Bush
signed into law June 7. Generally, single taxpayers will get $300, and
couples will get $600.
While many people have earmarked this found cash for a car payment,
weekend trip or new CD player, many in the religious community are
saying: "Hey, not so fast. Think carefully about what you're doing with this
money and who, other than yourself, it might help."
"Will $600 make my life any better? Probably not," said Thomas Moore, a
retired phone company manager and member of Grace United Methodist
Church in Baltimore. "Why not use it for something good?"
At the annual meeting of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the
United Methodist Church on June 10, Moore -- the finance chairman of his
congregation -- called on the area's 200,000 United Methodists to donate
their checks to their churches.
He calculated that if just one-third of the membership participated,
the contribution to the 702 churches' outreach ministries and social
programs would total more than $10 million. That would be more than
twice the amount received last year for the same purpose, said
conference treasurer Jim Knowles-Tuell.
This week, Jack Rogers, moderator of the 2.5 million-member
Presbyterian Church (USA), sent a letter to 11,200 congregations asking
"every Presbyterian household" to give a tithe -- or 10 percent -- of their
rebate to the church. Nationally, such a contribution "would generate about
$50 million in additional mission support," he wrote.
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, which represents 1.5
million Reform Jews, also sees the potential of pooling rebates for
social purposes. On June 7, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, its president, sent a
memorandum to its synagogues encouraging them to use rebate donations to
create ongoing social action funds called Tzedakah (justice) Collectives.
"In a congregation of 400 families, with an average gift of $300 per
family, you could provide groceries for 50 families of three for an
entire year," Yoffie wrote. "If you multiply that by 900 congregations, you
will see the impact that we, as a movement, can have."
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington is
preparing a booklet with guidelines on setting up a collective and a
list of potential recipient organizations, said Rabbi Marc Israel, the
group's director of congregational relations.
Most of the agencies support programs that the center says are
underfunded by the federal budget, including education, health care and
Arthur Bardos, a member of Bethesda United Church of Christ, views the
tax-rebate program as a social-justice issue, giving middle- and
upper-income Americans a break but slighting those who need the rebate
the most. He cited a report by Citizens for Tax Justice, a nonprofit
research organization, that estimates that one-third of the 95 million
taxpayers will not receive a rebate because their taxable income last
year was too low.
During the "joys and concerns" segment of a worship service at his
church last month, Bardos argued that the congregation could increase
its mission outreach significantly if members donated all or part of
their rebate checks to a special fund to be divided among charities.
The church implemented a rebate donation plan and then took the idea a
step further, drafting a resolution asking all 185 area United Church of
Christ congregations to develop similar programs.
Two weeks later, at its annual meeting, the Central Atlantic Conference
approved the resolution, "Redistributing Tax Rebates to the Poor," and sent
it to the national level. Leaders of the 1.4 million-member denomination
will consider the proposal at its five-day general synod, which began
yesterday in Kansas City, Mo.
Other efforts promoting rebates-to-charity include Project Rebate
Redirect (<a>web2.airmail.net/pmc/rebateredirect</a>), established by
Peace Mennonite Church of Dallas, and a direct-mail solicitation by the New
York-based National Council of the Churches in Christ. A strongly worded
letter by Robert W. Edgar, the council's general secretary, challenged
former contributors to its social programs to help stanch the widening gap
between affluent and poor Americans:
"You will shortly be receiving your thirty pieces of silver (or $300 to
$600) in the form of a tax rebate," Edgar wrote. "I urge you to do what the
President and the Congress had not the wit, the will or the
foresight to do -- reinvest your tax rebate with the poor!"
Not all socially conscious religious leaders believe that an organized
effort to collect and redistribute rebates is appropriate.
"I personally have a problem with the image of the church always asking for
money," said the Rev. Lee Alan Brewer, pastor of Bethesda First Baptist
Church, an American Baptist congregation that identifies itself as "socially
conscious" and "intentionally inclusive."
Bethesda Baptist has a history of social involvement, he said, and is
active in such ministries as Bethesda Cares, a local nonprofit group
that assists the poor and others who have no place to live or are in
danger of losing their homes. The church was a founding member of
Bethesda Cares and serves noon meals for the homeless two weeks of every
"Our members already have a social consciousness and give as their
conscience dictates," Brewer said. The church doesn't have to ask for a
specific gift, especially to "put extra pressure to use money they
already have given once to support another organization."
The Rev. Derrick Harkins, pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in
Northwest Washington, said the decision of how to use the rebate lies with
the individual, but he said he believes that there is a moral dimension the
religious community should consider.
The money was in the public domain and should have been used to support
programs for those in society "with the greatest need," he said. Now the
money is being returned to individuals who have an opportunity to contribute
to nonprofits and "make the impact of the money larger than themselves."
If people can afford to donate the money to charity, they should think
seriously about doing so, Harkins said. However, he said, "I have the
sensitivity to know that for many households, $300 will be a significant
thing" and should be used for such pressing needs as paying the rent and
basic household bills.
The Rev. Vinton R. Anderson, bishop for the Washington region of the
African American Episcopal Church, encourages his congregants to view
the tax rebate like any other income -- to be used "in a manner
representative of Christian stewardship."
That means first setting aside a tithe for the church, then putting the next
10 percent into savings, he said.
The remainder of the rebate should be be spent wisely. "Don't use it to
splurge," the bishop advised. "And don't go buy a Lotto ticket."
**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this
material is distributed without charge or profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving
this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
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Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA
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