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. Dom

    Thanks for the not so subtle bias CNN. Most Christians are familiar with the parable of the two rich men who made a scene by giving large amounts of money at the temple, while the old pauper woman gave a paltry amount in secret. Jesus said, "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." Perhaps Governor Perry does not put it on his tax return because he believes that giving to his church is a private affair between him and God, not one designed to garner tax benefits.

    June 13, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  2. The Veteran

    Conservatives align with Pharisees, not Christians.

    June 13, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
  3. southtcguy

    Perry's supporter a hate group church called the American Family Association. it is a registered hate group in the fbi database.

    June 13, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Person of Faith

      The American Family Association is not a hate group. It is simply a conservative group that attempts to influence people's opinions on specific issues of c oncern.

      June 19, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  4. minky

    Many folks do not record or report our contributions. It's no one's business how much a person gives to his/her church. That's private.

    June 13, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • The Veteran

      Most do report it on their taxes.

      June 13, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • mdblanche

      As opposed to what goes on in people's bedrooms, which any Christian will tell you is totally their business.

      June 13, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  5. Michael

    Texas has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Does it really matter where he gives his money? His time does count as giving. Look at what our current president has done for us. Obamacare was nothing more than a new tax. Those of you who have insurance look at your deductible. it doubled and your healthcare has diminished to not having any say as to the type of care you will get. America go ahead and sign your DNR now. JFK had the real answer, Ask not what our country can do for you, but what we can do for our country. Rick Perry may be a lot of things, but he has the state of Texas working and growing. Byrd I think you need a reminder, over 3000 people were killed in New York because of Radical Muslims. I'm glad your sleeping at night because our brave young men are getting killed by these Radical Muslims who would love nothing more than to rid you and me off the face of the earth because were just Americans not christians.

    June 13, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • The Veteran

      The reason for that is due to the housing industry not cooking off here in Texas. That is all. It has nothing to do with him. If our housing was as overinflated as California, we would be in the same boat.

      June 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Grant

      I am sure after he cuts 4 Billion dollars out of education and more out of higher ed those unemployment numbers will normalize. He ran on a platform of Texas is in great shape and days after his election he points out the $21 to $24 billion dollar shortfall. He lies like a rug. Also, work the numbers it’s less than $13,500 donation. He’s a cheapskate and a moron.

      June 14, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  6. Leo

    I want to make $2.6 million as gov of a state. where do I sign up?

    June 13, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  7. chris

    Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasp in prayer

    June 13, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  8. Bill

    I voted for Perry the last 2 election cycles and if he runs for President, he's got my vote

    June 13, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Dee

      I think Perry is a self serving idiot. He gives contracts to his close friends and his political contributors. He also supports his brother who is at the center of Texas laws. Perry and his brother makes it almost impossible for a person to get out of a seriously defective home. He also complained about Texas shortage of money to support unemployment, yet he turned down grant money from the government to prove a so call point. I have never voted for him and never will. He is a career politician who makes more than the people in congress. If there are enough idiots to vote for this man if he runs for president, Lord help this country. He cannot manage Texas much less a country.

      June 13, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  9. JS

    Ha...do as I say, not as I do...just another hypocrite politician...

    June 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  10. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Spoiled self serving brats like Perry only think of using religion as a convenience and then tossing it aside until they need it again. I'm retired and I give more than $90 out of my social security check alone.

    June 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  11. Paul Falduto

    To me this is irrelevant. What is relevant is he does not understand the separation of church and state. If anything defines the "American Exceptionalism" conservatives are always crowing about, it is this separation. But Perry and his fellow travelers seem clueless about this.

    June 13, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  12. Jim in Georgia

    The longest serving governor in Texas history... How sad. 🙁

    June 13, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  13. reality

    Hypocrisy is a way of life for this twit. Keep sending em texas, the anti american state

    June 13, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  14. Rlg

    One word applies here: CHEAPSKATE !!!

    June 13, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  15. EricP

    Claiming that he gave only $90 to his church based on tax records may very well be a meaningless metric. Speaking as a pastor, the son of a retired pastor, and the brother of another pastor I don't think I'm speaking out of turn here on my experience with this kind of giving. My wife and I do most of our charity "off the books." Many church members put cash rather than checks in the offering for one of two reasons: Many feel uncomfortable with their offering being anything other that completely anonymous and have some have qualms about claiming deductions for charity as well. Gov. Perry may be trying to apply his understanding of Jesus' admonition: from Matt 6:3, "But when you give..., do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing." The $90 that shows up may be a time he showed up and didn't have cash and dropped a check in the offering instead. I don't have opinions about Perry as a candidate one way or the other, but it is improper to attack anyone's supposed lack of generosity based on an argument from the silence of the tax records. It's simply unwarranted speculation.

    June 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • LouAz

      WOW, Pastor, you are certainly the authoritative person to explain "unwarrented speculation".

      June 13, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Not_Rick_Perry

      'The $90 that shows up may be a time he showed up and didn't have cash and dropped a check in the offering instead.'

      Please! You can do better than that. He reports his contirbution, dropping a check instead of cash doesn't automatically get reported to the IRS. Perry has to report it for it to show up. The IRS is failry lenient for small contributions and understand that not everyone uses credit cards and checks. It's when the big numbers are claimed that they want proof.

      So your premise is he gave much more of himself and this one time dropped a $90 check in the till?

      $90 is an odd number for a contribution, why not an even $100.? As we both know the $90 is in fact ALL he gave for the entire year – the total of probably numerous small contributions. Good for him but; he's still a skinflint miser.

      If Perry had put out some pretty outstanding numbers he would have reported it. His accountant, his wife and the Tea Party would have demanded.

      Oh and your son of a son of a son of a son... doesn't make you an expert.

      June 13, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  16. Robin Bray

    It's not gifts' It's moral blackmail from cults.

    June 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  17. LouAz

    No, no, no. Good christian leadership takes IN money . . . they don't give it out ! What would be the point ?

    June 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  18. martin2176

    He believe in receiving and not giving; whats wrong in that.? usually people write 100$ in tax return if they actually donated 20$.so if he wrote 90$ he might have actually donated 5$ or less.

    June 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  19. Ken from FL

    Being a former resident of old San Antone, I can tell you papers don't get much more liberal than the Express News. You think they might be misrepresenting the facts just a little? You think they might be out to sink Perry, who's a fiscal hawk and a champion of secure borders? You think???

    June 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Jim

      and a murderer

      June 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • nolapearl

      That's what he reported on his tax returns. Read the article.

      June 13, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  20. cmc

    I live in Texas. This man is a total hypocrite. Do not vote for him. We need ACTION to deal with crisis situations, not prayer. If the U.S. wants to move one step closer to erasing the separation of church and state and strengthening the Christian Taliban in America, Perry is your man. He professes religion as being the key to overcoming problems and then gave $90 bucks out of $1 million to his church? If he thinks churches should help the poor families that will suffer from his severe budget cuts, he clearly isn't putting his money where his mouth is. BTW, look up the Gardasil controversy for more examples of his hypocrisy. Ugh.

    June 13, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Ken from FL

      Let me guess; you voted for Ann Richards?

      June 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Jim

      I also live in Texas. I also implore people NOT to vote for Rick Perry. This man, who claims to be Christian, who seems to be getting ready to make it a central focus of his Presidential candidacy, allowed a man to be executed, even though more than 5 hours before the execution, his office received an exculpatory report from an independent arson expert. This report indicated that Cameron Todd Willingham did NOT set the fire that killed his 3 little girls. Perry IGNORED the report, DID NOTHING, and MURDERED Cameron Todd Willingham, in cold blood, and in the name of the Citizens of Texas. He is a hypocrite, a liar, and a murderer. He has no integrity. I am ashamed that he is the Governor of my home state. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not allow him to be President.

      June 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      I live in Texas and I implore people to vote for Perry. Texas is doing well, and you're not.

      Don't listen to the atheist cmc or Jim who is taking up his personal beliefs for a criminal.

      June 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Ruth

      Big hair Rick, will not get elected, Id rather have Bush than Perry. Hes a cheapskate and FOS.

      June 13, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Mike

      Perry is certainly a hypocrite,but what is worse is that he wishes to use religion soley for the purpose of furthering his politcal ambitions. Perry would just be a rerun of the disastrous Bush years.

      June 13, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • LouAz

      This Gov. Perry is why I DO NOT LIVE IN TEXAS.
      Out here in the real west, we have our own Country, the United State of Aridzona, and our own Queen Jan Brewer who is going to France to make a deal for really good cheap wine, soon as this little Bar-B-Q mishap cools off some. She is leaving just as soon as our own State Department figures out how to print an Aridzona Passport that doesn't look like a Library Card (we have lots of blanks for those) You betcha !

      June 13, 2011 at 8:09 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.