Through the years I have heard reports of pastors demanding people to tithe on the food stamp/assistance money they receive from the government. This came up in one of our support groups again yesterday and I decided to blog about it.
Many churches demand that people tithe if they wish to be a member. Some demand it whether or not you officially join a church. Many claim one is robbing God if they do not pay the church or the pastor 10% of their income. (Some pastors claim the tithe all belongs to them and separate offerings go to the church.) The church tithe today is nothing like the biblical tithe and isn’t given to the same people, but I will stop at that since it is not the subject of this writing.
Those who are eligible for food stamps/assistance are on limited incomes. No one should be requesting these people to tithe on their food stamps. Is a pastor taking food out of your mouth, and the mouths of your family members? It is ILLEGAL. Did you get that pastors and church members? Depending on the amount of money involved, it is either a misdemeanor or a FELONY to use the food stamp money belonging to someone else. It was not issued to you, Pastor. You were not approved to receive the funds or the food which those funds purchase. Asking or demanding people to tithe on food stamps is encouraging people to help you commit a crime. You are jeopardizing their benefits. Demanding such, under penalty of the loss of salvation or a curse from God is despicable.
This has happened in Oneness Pentecostal and other type churches. A man named David has alleged that the late L.E. Westberg, a United Pentecostal Church minister and pastor, required it. (“Church members on government assistance was required to pay tithes on food stamps Darlene would prepare a list of food she liked and the members would have to pick it up.”)
If the pastor of your church has demanded such from you, DO NOT use those funds for the pastor by purchasing food items for him/her. If you have been doing this, STOP IMMEDIATELY. Do not allow the pastor to use your food stamps or card. Do not accept a list of items that the pastor or their spouse demands you to purchase for them with those funds. You do not owe the pastor or church one penny of that money.
Report any such pastor to the appropriate Office of Inspector General (OIG), USDA, as they investigate criminal violations of the Food Stamp Act. This PDF file will give you the proper address to send a complaint. Please do not give any pastor a pass on this. Even if you did not give in to the demand, others probably have. If a pastor is that bad off, then he/she should apply for their own food assistance.
A religious group is currently in trouble for taking food stamp money from its members. If your pastor requires this of you and others, he/she could be next and should be. It is not a matter of religious freedom- it is called breaking the law and greed.
Edited later to add: Thank you to Suzanne Calulu at Patheos.com and all those on Facebook, Google and Twitter for helping to spread the word!