— Pat Bagley (@Patbagley) July 17, 2014
Jon Huntsman Sr. has given away about $1.5 billion to worthy causes – about 80% of his total wealth. He is also spending $200 million building Huntsman Springs, a golf resort and nature reserve in Idaho that will donate all proceeds of real estate sold to his family’s charitable foundation. But neither of these totals include his strict tithing to the Mormon church of 10% of everything he has ever earned.
“My philanthropy is not borne out of my faith,” he says. “They require 10% tithing. I don’t consider that to be philanthropy and I don’t consider it to be part of my philanthropic giving. I consider it as club dues.
“People who put money in the church basket and people who go to church and pay the pastor: that isn’t real philanthropy, that’s just like you belong to a country club. You pay your dues to belong to that church so you pay your tithing or whatever it is. I’ve never added that into my philanthropy in any way because I just think it’s a part of a person’s life.”
Huntsman, 77, one of 19 people living who have donated more than $1 billion to charity, made his wealth through chemical products group Huntsman Corporation, which he founded in 1970. But he never waited until he was rich to donate. “I have always given money away,” he says. “I haven’t always been wealthy – the opposite in fact. But I have always felt that I wanted people to share it with me.”
The Washington Post recently reported that Utah ranked as one of the most generous states when it comes to charitable giving. However, much of that is the form of tithes to the LDS Church. Paying tithing is a good thing. However, if we view it as paying membership dues, as Huntsman does, rather than as charitable giving, we would mostly view that earlier Post report as more an indicator of the high percentage of active LDS Church members living in Utah than an indicator of generosity.
Of course, individuals like Huntsman do a lot on their own to boost those Utah donation statistics.
While tithing does count as a charitable deduction for tax purposes, I fully agree with Huntsman that tithing is more like membership dues than it is charitable giving. It is the financial cost of membership in the community. I pay tithing because I value my membership in that community, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.