Tithing Lawsuites

I have an off the wall question that I was pondering.

I’m only using the LDS Church in my example because I’m more familar with it, but this can be related to any denomination that require 10% of your gross pay in tithe.

In the LDS Church, in order to get into the highest degree of their heaven you are required to hold a temple recommend (endowment, sealings etc… all require a temple recommend). One the the prerequisites to get a temple recommend is to be a full tithe payer (10% gross income.) So basically you are paying your way to heaven (in my opinion).

Lets say there is a Mormon member, who has always paid their 10%; however now they no longer believe in the Mormon Doctrine and has studied their way out of the church.

What do you think are the chances they could sue the Mormon church for the 10% tithing that they have paid over the years. I understand you can sue anyone for anything now a days, but would someone have a good enough case to win? They church tracks how much you tithe, so they have record and since the tithing is technically NOT a donation, because according to their doctrine it is needed to get a temple recommend can someone sue and win?

I think that based on the fact that in order to get into their heaven they have to pay tithing and since they no longer believe in their heaven, their tithing should be returned.

I would think they would have to prove they were coerced against their will in paying the tithe. As a faithful Mormon, they not only had to pay their tithe but affirm and sustain the General Authorities.

I don’t think they’d have a leg to stand on.

Ask a mormon.


It wouldn’t hold up in court at all. That person chose to be part of that religion and they can’t sue that church for taking a tithe from them. Tithing is the general suggestion for all Christianity anyway. It’s just not required and it’s not suggested that you won’t be saved if you don’t pay it.

If this were a case of theft by deception, then indeed. Would you be able to prove that the individual(s) receiving your tithes were willfully deceiving you so as to gain access to your money or property or other valuable items? If the answer is a resounding yes, then you would be able to proceed to the more complex questions you’d need to ask with regard to such things.

Beyond this, you run into a serious problem. What you are asking, in essence, is: can I legally be absolved from all losses and consequences if I, in retrospect, feel that I made a bad choice or series of choices? If such a question could be answered affirmatively, then law would be unable to impose any penalties upon the breaching of its content. Such anarchy would not be welcome in civilized society. :slight_smile:

I think that unless the money were given under duress, there is no recourse.

You would have to prove that there WAS duress, AND prove how much you were “FORCED” to give.

In my estimation, a ‘tithing lawsuit’ is a fool’s errand.

Wasn’t there a case of someone in Italy launching a similar lawsuit against the Catholic Church a few years back? They argued that the Church had used deception to get people to donate money to them?

Not sure how it turned out, but since you never hear about it now I’m guessing it was thrown out.

Were I an attorney representing the LDS Church in such a suit, I would ask whether you took the “charitable donation” tax deduction each year for the tithe you paid. The answer would undoubtedly be “yes”. That is very good evidence that, at the time you paid the tithe, you understood it to be a voluntary charitable donation.

I think that would be the end of it.

However, if you were to somehow get the money back, you would need to revise your tax return for each year you paid the tithe, and would have to pay a hefty tax penalty for underpayment of taxes and perhaps another penalty for fraudulently taking a charitable deduction that you did not truly believe to be one.

Better to let it alone.

Paul (former LDS tithe-payer)

Thank you for the answers. This was just a curious scenerio, I don’t know anyone or if this has ever happened. I was just wondering.

That is why I used the LDS church in my example. It is my understanding that in order to enter the Celestial Kingdom you have to be sealed in the temple, have a temple recommend and in order to enter the Temple you have be a full Tithe payer.

That makes sense and I didn’t think about the IRS, I had totally forgot about that. I was just curious if there was a chance that someone could fight based on it being more a requirement and not a donation to pay a tithe. But I didn’t think about tax returns.

I think it doesn’t hold up because it is still voluntary. That person chose to belong to that religious group. If they were holding guns to people’s head, there might be a case.

We have 2,000 year of Christian church history and in that time, the requirement to tithe has been hard sold at many particular times and locations. My point is, there is no precedence that tithing was coerced and thus was recoverable.

Legally, how does the LDS scenario compare with a Catholic reducing time in pergatory, for large donations?

Legally, I think you would have a stronger argument if the Church did not use the money as promised. This falls more on the televangelists than the more established churches.

If someone gives a gift that’s dedicated for some particular purpose, then the giver usually has a right to a return of the gift if its not used for that purpose (can’t speak for every jurisdiction, that’s the general rule). For example, donations earmarked to a building fund where the building is never built. That goes for churches, hospitals, etc.

The Mormon in the original scenario is out of luck.

As for the Catholic who donates for the purpose of reducing purgatory time – the right to recover the funds doesn’t accrue until and if he discovers that he’s not getting out of purgatory early. General contract law, again.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.