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Texas governor's modest Christian giving raises eyebrows
June 13th, 2011
02:14 PM ET

Texas governor's modest Christian giving raises eyebrows

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently attracted national attention for publicly mixing Christianity and politics, is putting some of his money where his mouth is - but not, critics say, very much.

According to an analysis of his tax returns by the San Antonio Express-News, the Republican Perry has given half a percent of the $2.68 million he earned as governor to churches and religious organizations.

Here's the Express-News:

By comparison, Americans averaged gifts of nearly 1.2 percent of their income to churches and religious groups from 2004 to 2008, according to Empty Tomb Inc., an Illinois-based research firm specializing in U.S. church-giving trends.

In 2007 — a year in which Perry reported an income of more than $1 million — he gave $90 to his church, according to the Perry family's tax return. Twice since becoming governor, in 2000 and 2009, he reported no contributions to churches or religious organizations.

Speculation about whether Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, will join the Republican presidential field is intensifying, as more and more Republicans encourage him to enter the fray.

Earlier this month, Perry made national headlines by partnering with a conservative Christian group to host a forthcoming prayer event at Houston's Reliant Stadium.

"America is in crisis, " the governor says on a website promoting the event. "We have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters."

The Express-News quotes critics of Perry who say his modest giving despite his outspoken Christian faith makes him a hypocrite. The paper also suggests the revelations about his charitable donations may cause him political problems among his Christian supporters:

 His track record could be a problem said Michael Lindsay, incoming president of Gordon College and author of “Faith in the Halls of Power,” about the growth of evangelical politics.

“He's going to have a hard time with this,” Lindsay said. “While that may be acceptable for someone who does not aspire to leadership, evangelicals get very concerned when their leaders don't walk the talk.”

What do you think? Will Perry's modest giving be an issue for his Christian supporters, especially if he runs for president? Should it be an issue?

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Money & Faith • Politics • Texas

soundoff (292 Responses)
  1. Rennes

    Just like the rich not to pay their fair share of their taxes or to their church.

    June 25, 2011 at 1:16 am |
  2. zip

    Yeah, that first simpleton that was a former governor of Texas really worked out for America. And he got elected after admitting he was a coke snorting, draft dodging, no good alcoholic. God bless Texas.

    June 24, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  3. Jose

    I pray to God ( and im mostly agnostic) he fails.

    June 21, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  4. El Kababa

    Perry is a gasbag in a $2000 suit and a $300 haircut. He has no brains and no talent.

    His charitable contributions are no one's business. Many Christians give anonymously, in cash, just like the Bible says you should.

    June 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  5. Jeanne duBois

    Perry is governor of Texas, not archbishop of Texas. His religious beliefs and charities are nobody's business but his own.

    June 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
  6. Scales of Justice

    How did the national media miss the state news story regarding Govenor Perry's veto of a no "texting while driving" bill. I read that Gov. Perry did so on the basis such legislation would be an infringement on civil liberties. Huh? Republicans have been in charge in Texas for at least 10 years. Yet, the State of Texas had monumental budgetary problems this year so much so that education was cut, no, hacked, to the bone. I thought when Republicans were in the majority there would be no monetary problems because "trickle down" would insure that all would make financial progress. Wrong! In any event, I cannot think of a single thing that Gov. Perry has done for the quality of life of Texans. And, yes, while giving may be a private matter, it does make me wonder why Gov. Perry, who is ostensibly rich, seems so miserly in support of his church. Will a man rob God?

    June 20, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  7. Ben

    We should tax religious organizations, especially since so many act as political organizations. If we don't tax them, then we must allow tax-free status to any non-religious person or group who wants to make a non-profit organization, whether in the form of a bar, coffee shop, swimming pool area or whatever, in order to not give preference and privileges to religious organizations, which is currently what exists.

    June 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
  8. Nick

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? RICK PERRY makes $2.65 MILLION a Governor???

    That's WAY more than the President!

    June 19, 2011 at 8:14 am |
    • 8xInfinity

      Actually, the governor does make less than the pres. The $2.68mil is over the course of 10 years (2000-2009), so it's $268,000/year. The President makes $400,000/year.

      June 20, 2011 at 4:56 am |
  9. James

    When we give we are to do it in a way not to bring attention to our selves. Do you give wanting to write it off on tax return or give back to the one who gave it to you in the first place?

    June 19, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  10. carlos rojas

    Perry is a hypocrite and a cheapskate, he is also much like Geoorge Bush: pro corporate and pro wealthy. All the current legislation being passed in the state of Texas is anti-middleclass. The country surely does not need a carbon copy of George Bush, eight years is enough.

    June 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  11. ross chapman

    the only way Perry's tax return would show his church giving is if and when he needs to itemize to save on taxes! Depending on interest payments and medicl bills etc. He may not itemize every year , I haven't itemized for 20 years.

    June 18, 2011 at 4:09 am |
    • Lenora Sevaasiti

      Ross, you are absolutely right. We donate quite a bit of money to various charitable organizations but don't claim it on our taxes. It is our belief that if we claim it as a deduction, it's not really charity.

      June 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  12. James Black

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSvqMBj-ig&w=640&h=360]
    +

    June 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
  13. Devin Gray

    I am not concerned about this man's religious beliefs or behavior. I am concerned that 18 months ago he wanted to secede from the union that he now wants to lead. This does not inspire confidence of his love for or dedication to country. Don't like the new president, hey, let's start a civil war! Rick Perry is a buffoon and should be regarded as such.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
  14. Michael Kraft

    It very well could be he gives but does not put it on his taxes or her just gives cash in an envelope left unmarked. Giving is between him and GOD not anyone else

    June 16, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  15. Observer

    Typical of that kind of republican: money first... MY money that is. The rest is just religious rhetoric to get votes.

    No offense to main stream republicans and christians who care about social issues, fiscal health of the country, etc.

    June 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Jesse

      I give 10% every month to my church, but I never claim it on my taxes. Some people prefer to give in private. Just because your tax returns do not reflect a high percentage does not mean that you are uncharitable or hypocritical.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  16. George

    It's nice that some people in politics have a religious faith, but when they impose that faith on the rest of us is when the separation between church and state has to be applied... any religion.

    June 16, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  17. John

    Anyone who thinks religion should influence how our country is run should not be allowed to hold any public office.

    June 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
    • Person of Faith

      This may come as a surprise to you, John, but our nation was founded on Christian principles by "Founding Fathers" who were virtually all, if not all, religious people. They created the three branches of our government, with all of its checks and balances, so that Christians could have the liberty which Christians wanted. The freedoms you have today are because of their Christian beliefs and their influence. Religious people have the same right to run for public office as anyone else, and shouldn't be discriminated against.

      June 19, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Josh

      This isn't true. Only a minority portion would have been classified as "very religious." Many were not at all. Do your homework.

      June 23, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  18. carol a.

    No. A dollar amount is never the measure of Christian giving. There are countless ways to give beside stating it on your financials! Please!

    June 15, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  19. GvilleT

    Some of the comments on here are so idiotic. One says she "had" hopes he would be a good candidate. So this is what determines who will make a good president or not? Someone else put something about the "standard rule of 10% of gross". So, in biblical times there was a difference between gross and net? I hate Gov. Perry and his Texas politics, but I can see where he probably gives more than what is reflected on his tax forms. We give cash when we can and what we can. Two working parents of two children can't afford too much (it's not near 10%) after we pay for our kids medical insurance and co-pays (and everyone else's), infllated gas to and from work, groceries, bills and taxes. I have a feeling we're about to have to start paying for our kids' education becasue the State sure is falling short. Pretty soon, Texas will be referred to as the "Dumb A$$" State thanks to Rick Perry and friends.

    June 15, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  20. Another Larry

    Perry is a hero to the same people who claim we don't need government social programs or safety nets because charities can help those who really need help. If that's true you're going to need an awful lot of multimillionaires at $90 a pop, especially in Texas, which has the highest percentage of people without health insurance in the country.

    June 15, 2011 at 6:49 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.