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. Thomas

    The Liberals can moan, the Liberal media can attempt to tear down every possible GOP candidate, but the fact remains that Obama isn't getting Re Elected...

    Over 9% Unemployment, their Affirmative Action President is clueless about how to fix or even aid the economy.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Pyrrho

      I agree. George Bush left such a dire economic mess that Obama has not been able to clean it up in a timely manner. Maybe we should elect a Republican so they can try to clean up after themselves.

      June 13, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Not_Rick_Perry

      I bet you $90 he gets re-elected!

      June 13, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • DewyB

      Sadly its possible that idiots could rise up and vote Obama out... but it won't be for the hypocrite Perry, Frothy Santourm , Crazy Eye Bachmann, or "I wanna take us back to 1800 economics" Paul. Romney is unlikely to be accepted as a Mormon by the evangelicals, so same for Huntsman, Pawlenty is a joke and Cain is twice as funny.

      So apparently Repubs and the Tea party are just going to abolish the office of President to get rid of Obama... because they have not shown us a winning candidate.

      June 16, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  2. JasonB

    Please, no more Texan governors for President. They just destroy our country.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Bryce

      Amen to that!

      June 13, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Reagan80

      I was about to jump on you for this post but, I'm not so sure you're not right. First LBJ and his socialism. Then the Bushes and their open border to Mexico.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • LWW

      Half the jobs created in the last 2 years have been in Texas. I'd say he's doing a hell of a better job that the idiot in the White House.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • Observer

      LWW, does that mean all the reports on poverty in Texas are wrong? Because that was in the news just recently. If there are so many new jobs in Texas, how come the education system is in disarray and the general poverty level is high?

      Oh, oh, I get it: job creation, so the rich can still make more money of the day laborers and then keep telling them the rewards will come in the afterlife.

      June 16, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  3. Superchik

    Who cares? This is a private matter. If the man doesn't feel like donating thousands and thousands of dollars to his church then that's his choice. If he did donate thousands and thousands, then that would anger the people who aren't as religious. If people want him to donate money, let it go to a global cause like ending world hunger, clothing children, assisting under privilaged youth, women's shelters. I never heard Jesus tell his desciples, "Yeah you guys, we gotta do a certain percentage of our miracles at a Temple.'

    June 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • Sean Russell

      Perry has made it a public matter by talking, ad nauseum, about his so-called 'beliefs'. He has judged others and now it's time for him to be judged. Stop making excuses for this low-life.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  4. Steve T

    Oxymoron = hypocritical Republican

    June 13, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • Justin

      So, just to set this straight. . .are you insulting Republicans? If you are, then you are not properly using the definition of oxymoron. Or are you saying that the perception of Republicans are that they are so truthful, it's so much a fluke that one isn't truthful it cause you a contradiction?

      June 13, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  5. Greg

    Typical of most Republicans - total unabashed Hypocrites.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  6. Limbaugh is a liberal

    And this is surprising to anyone why?

    June 13, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  7. hank

    The conservatives, now have decided you don't have to contribute to their churches. How greedy and cheap can you get?

    June 13, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  8. Lulu

    Why does it matter if – or how much – he gave to a religious organization ??? We are not voting for preacher/pope/guru/fundraiser chair. The $$ you donate does not indicate your devotion to a deity, or the lack thereof. And the amount claimed on a tax form does not necessarily correlate to the actual amount given.

    FYI – I am NOT Republican and I am religious. But I think this is a stupid way to measure anyone's fitness for elected office.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • pithymcgee

      It matters because he pretends to be pious. He says lots of "good Christian" things, but doesn't actually do very much to support his statements. Another hypocrite.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Steve

      Perry will try to push through legislation that slashes government spending, by saying that "churches and other non-profit groups can provide this service with less regulation and overhead, funded through charity."

      HE is the one that will tie his government policies to religious groups. To have him personally not fund any of the groups that would be expected to take on an increased burden under his plans is hypocritical. (It's not like they are all rolling in funds now even alongside government programs.)

      June 13, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Superchik

      @Steve: Churches have plenty of funding. Haven't you seen the popes threads? Where do you think they get all that shiny stuffy from...or should I say "Who do you think they get all that shiny stuff from?"

      June 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Justin Ramirez

      My first thought as well. The accounting (i.e. way of tracking $90) to the church is probably only based on his name being on a check; when was the last time anyone put their name on the cash they dropped in the collection plate? And is his church supposed to enforce some policy where even cash contributions must be put in those envelopes with all of the contributor's information? No.

      I don't know for a fact if he does indeed drop cash in, but come on, "He's a cheapskate/hypocrite" because he doesn't make a point of saying, "HEY LOOK AT ME, I'M PUTTING $$$ INTO THE COLLECTION PLATE. TAKE NOTE!" is a bit immature.

      Who cares how much he's contributed? "Too much" and he's a religious zealot, "too little" and he's a hypocrite. Did I miss the referendum on how much politial officials MUST contribute in order to save face? If you're basing your vote on how much they contribute, (because, we all know that church contributions are a true indicator of one's faith), then do the state and country a favor and just stay home on election day.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • hank

      Lulu you are making up excuses. Not stating facts. He may have done a lot of things. You have no basis for Maybe he gave cash and didn't report it. Come on-

      June 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  9. DKinTexas

    What's the percentage that our president gives to churches and religious organizations? If Dan Gilgoff was a real reporter, he would have put out a list of the charity donations from the top Democrats and Republicans in congress, Obama. and Biden for a real comparison, instead of just slamming Perry.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Pat

      More than $90.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Sean Russell

      Why would Obama give money to churches? Isn't he a secret Muslim born overseas? Perry constantly flaunts his religion in people's faces. That's why the focus is on him.
      Nice attempt to dodge the issue, though.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Guin

      It doesn't matter how much Obama gives because Obama isn't trying to legislate his beliefs. It's relevant to Perry because Perry has made it relevant. If you want to shout from the rooftops how pious you are and put your own beliefs into law, then you darn well better be following them yourself.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  10. hank

    I think church contribution Charles, go to pay the preacher, pay the staff, pay the utilities etc. I don't think church contributions go to dead beats. If he is not contributing others and paying for these things. Why should Perry if he is a REAL Christian be exempt.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  11. Pyrrho

    I think Governor Perry should keep his religious contamination of politics to the same percentage as his contributions. He is another right wing evangelical hypocrite but at least his contribution money isn't corrupting politics even though his mouth continues to do so.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  12. Chris Meece

    Playing Devil's advocate here ... maybe he simply hasn't reported all of his charitable givings on his taxes. I don't report any because quite simply, I don't keep up with it. I write a check a week and sometimes I give over the phone. I have never claimed a penny on my taxes.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • LWW

      I don't keep up with it either and I think that is a very plausible explanation....besides it's a well known fact that conservatives are more giving than liberals and we give from our own pockets, we don't steal from everyone else to give it away.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  13. Luis Araujo

    Have anyone done any research into how much Dems give to charity compared to Reps? Yes and conservatives give more than liberals.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • pithymcgee

      You're referencing a terribly flawed study that is in no way scientific. Cite garbage all you want, it won't fool anyone with half a brain.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Will

      What does that have to do with THIS PARTICULAR Conservative?

      June 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • The LORD

      Giving to a church or religious organization is NOT chartiy...it's simply a way to dupe simpletons and funnel money into the republican party...

      June 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  14. Robert Crites

    So let me get this straight, someone is saying Governor Perry may not be contributing enough to his church? That this may affect his campaign and future endeavors, because he isn't donating enough to his religion? I am a firm believer in separation of church and politics, but you cannot take the church out of the man. Governor Perry does a fine job separating the two on a daily basis. I am glad to see the media highlighting the fact that he didn't give a lot to the church. But at the same time, if he had given any more, would we deem him as the bible toting governor from Texas? Bottom of the line, Governor Rick Perry is a Christian. He does a lot of good for the many people of Texas, and serves his state and nation to best of his abilities everyday. Any successful governor is going to contribute to organizations and churches ever year. Let's not judge them now on how much they are contributing out of their vast fortune, but on what is happening with the money they are donating. As a young American student, I cannot personally contribute thousands dollars to anything except my education. However, I actively participate in community service activities and contribute to my community as much as possible. Thank God, Rick Perry is donating.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • pithymcgee

      You missed the point. He doesn't give even HALF as much as the average American, but has an immense income. He's constantly spouting pious drivel, but doesn;t practice what he preaches. Typical GOP hypocrite.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Greg

      Wow talk about being on both sides of the fence. Your nonsensical jiberish is complete.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Sean Russell

      Ha, what a joke. Are you a publicist working for the Governor? If not; he should hire you. Your 'comment' sounded like a press release written by Governor Hair himself.

      Governor Perry has never separated his religion from his public work. In fact, he and other conservatives are always crying that there isn't a separation of church and state in this country- they want no separaton.
      Serves the people of Texas and his country every day?
      What rock have you been living under? This guy serves himself and his cronies. That is all. The rest of us just get his lies, and hypocrisy.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  15. Lejaune

    Religion is always about "Do as I say, not as I do". It's about the believers giving money to leaders who enjoy the wealth.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  16. brooktrout2010

    After LBJ, Bush Sr and Bush Jr, why in the name of God would we want Texas politics back in the White House? In Texas, the law is a "recomendation" for the elected, not a legal code to be followed.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  17. John King

    His hair looks real to me.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Niall

      Well, you aren't exactly known to be perceptive, are you? "kingandpriest" "John" etc. are probably some of your other aliases.
      Am I right? A lack of perception and discernment are what those names are known for in my book.
      Look at his wrinkled face.
      Then look at his thick, youthful hair without any grey.
      Then look at his face again.
      He looks like an old woman wearing a toupee. If you can't see it, there's not much else I can do to help you.
      Or maybe you're just trying to "support" him because you are a Catholic Republican. That seems likely enough.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  18. oops mr perry

    He probably can't afford much since his mansion burned down and his monthly rent is $10,000+. Wait a minute, us Texans are paying his rent.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • TXniki

      Exactly...just another dubyah clone. My stomach turns just thinking of him in the WH. Charles Skinner and anyone else commenting here that actually WANTS Perry (spitting his name out of my mouth) as President or defends Perry's ridiculous actions, needs to have their head examined. Just to let ya know, there's a lot of folks here in TX that feel as I do.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  19. SurRy

    Typical Teabagger-Republican.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  20. Charles W. Skinner

    Why SHOULD Perry give when already the Federal Government is FORCING him to "give" money to others in the form of "Wealth Redistribution." People can start faulting Gov. Perry for not giving when those bottom 40% WHO PAY NO FEDERAL TAXES AND ACTUALLY GET MONEY BACK from the government start paying THEIR FAIR SHARE.

    June 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Tim


      June 13, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • stanley in queens

      Perhaps the reason why the bottom 40% don't pay any income taxes is because the Bush economy wiped out their jobs, their savings, their houses, and their ability to pay any income tax. You seem jealous that you're not in the bottom 40%. Go in and ask your boss to lay you off. Then you too can pay nothing in income taxes. There's another way though – find a way to make hundreds of millions of dollars. Those wealthy Republicans don't pay much in income taxes either.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Pat

      Charles, please stop your rant and check out what the Christian Science Monitor has to say about who is in that bottom 40%. Many are retired people on Social Security – are they living on your dime? Some are very wealthy individuals who have little taxable income because their money is invested in real estate, bonds, and stocks. The rest are families who earn less than 30K/year and individuals who earn less than 20k. They all contribute to our nation, just currently don't pay federal income taxes. Want to continue railing at them?

      June 13, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Pat

      By the way, I am in the top 2% income and I donate 10% of my GROSS income to charities. Perry is a cheapskate.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
    • Guin

      No sir, I can fault him when he wants to shove Christianity down our throats and not actually follow it himself. I can fault him when he wants to say that we must follow the Bible but he doesn't have to follow the verses he doesn't feel like following. Hypocrisy at its finest.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Sean Russell

      Because he never stops talking about how christian he is. You, see, the point of the article is that he talks about his religion constantly- but isn't showing too much in the way of acting like a Christian. If welfare programs count as giving to the poor- why do religions run charities to begin with? Also, seeing as he has approved a budget to slash education, health services and the like- that cancels out any 'giving' he was forced to give. Wake up join us here in the 21st century.

      June 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
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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.