charitable giving

Does deductibility really influence church giving? Salt Lake Tribune skirts the question, sort of

Does deductibility really influence church giving? Salt Lake Tribune skirts the question, sort of

The fact that Americans who itemize their income tax deductions can also deduct their donations to the church, mosque, synagogue or (recognized) religious outpost of their choice is a cherished part of American taxation, something that's not true in all nations of the world.

Now, the latest tax reform proposal knocking around Congress may -- or may not -- put a dent in such deducting. If the "standard deduction" of $5,500 for individuals and $11,000 for married couples is doubled, as proponents want, the thinking goes, more folks will skip itemizing and just go with the higher number. No itemizing means less in the collection plate, they theorize.

But here's the journalistic question: Does a mere assertion mean something's a fact? Logic would say no, but sometimes a media outlet will seem to glide around logic for a compelling story. At the least, that's how it could look to a reader.

The Salt Lake Tribune, serving a state where returning tithe is mandatory for Mormons, dives right in to the charitable deduction issue, leading with a dramatic point:

A Republican tax plan being debated on Capitol Hill maintains the deduction for charitable giving but still may have an unintended consequence that could hurt donations to churches and nonprofit groups.
The impact of the tax bill — if passed and signed into law — could mean less revenue for the LDS Church and other denominations and faith-based organizations as well as groups like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and humanitarian operations.

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Who really helps the needy? Pew study shows us, and so does the Orlando Sentinel

Who really helps the needy? Pew study shows us, and so does the Orlando Sentinel

Religious people donate and volunteer more than their nonreligious neighbors. This has been established for years (yes, I'll show that in a moment), but professionals in the mainstream media don’t often pick up on it.

So it's a pleasure to read a news feature in The Orlando Sentinel -- which not only reports a new Pew Research Center study on the fact, but takes the reporting down to the level of real people and groups in its own circulation area.

Starting with a minister who pastors a church and serves dinner at a rescue mission, the article broadens into a trend story:

Echoing a new Pew Research Center study that found religious people are more apt to volunteer and make charitable donations than others, the Rescue Mission and other Central Florida charities say the faith community provides critical support in providing food, shelter and clothing for the needy.
In survey results released last month, 45 percent of highly religious people — those who said they pray daily and attend weekly services – reported they had volunteered in the past week. By comparison, only 28 percent of others indicated they'd volunteered over that time frame.
Sixty-five percent of the highly religious individuals said they had donated money, time or goods to the poor in the past week, compared with 41 percent of people who were defined as being less religious.

You could use the story in a journalism clinic on showing how national studies shed light on local trends.

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Newspaper reporter critiqued by GetReligion fires back

.@TipsForJesus still leaves $$$, so for #Easter, we asked ethicists – is it moral? http://t.co/Nmvb0cyEoF pic.twitter.com/nhAZPrBsF2 — Megan Finnerty (@MeganMFinnerty) April 17, 2014

Megan Finnerty, a Page 1 reporter for the Arizona Republic, didn’t really fire back at my recent negative review of her pre-Easter story on “Tips for Jesus.”

In fact, the thoughtful email that she sent me with the subject line “Read your critique of my story” was kinder than my snarky critique, titled “What would Jesus tip? Be sure to ask … secular ethicists!?”

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What would Jesus tip? Be sure to ask ... secular ethicists!?

.@TipsForJesus still leaves $$$, so for #Easter, we asked ethicists – is it moral? http://t.co/Nmvb0cyEoF pic.twitter.com/nhAZPrBsF2 — Megan Finnerty (@MeganMFinnerty) April 17, 2014

  Just in time for Easter, The Arizona Republic decided to write about #TipsforJesus.

As the Page 1 reporter who wrote the story put it on Twitter, “@TipsforJesus still leaves $$$, so for #Easter, we asked ethicists — is it moral?”

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