Q&A: Can a Church Require Employees to Tithe?

There is legal precedent for such a requirement.

Q: Is it legal for a church to have a policy that demands or mandatorily requires employees give a portion of their income as a requisite for employment?

Yes, with some caveats.

In Corporation of the Presiding Bishop v. Amos483 U.S. 387 (1987), the United States Supreme Court approved the firing of a church employee who failed to maintain a temple recommendation for his local congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The local temple could not recommend him for employment unless he was a member in good standing.

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To be in good standing, the local temple requires its members to prove that they have paid their tithes. Since the church employee failed to provide the temple recommendation, he was terminated.

Churches can impose religious requiremens on non-religious employees

The church may impose religious requirements on its employees, even those employees not involved in active practice of the faith.

In the Supreme Court case, the church employee was a janitor in a gymnasium owned and operated by a nonprofit organization associated with the church.

The church may not withhold the tithes from the employee’s pay without written permission from the employee.

Churches can withhold tithes from employee pay

If the employee refuses to consent to the withholding of the tithe, then the employee may be subject to discipline, including termination. Also, if the church withholds the tithes from the employee’s pay, it can only withhold the tithes after the withholding of payroll taxes.

If the church mandates that employees pay tithes, the church must pay the nonexempt employees for the time required to pay the tithes.

The US Department of Labor rules require employers to pay at least one-tenth of an hour for duty time and many state laws require payment of a minimum of two or more hours each time the employer requests the nonexempt employee to perform any task.

Churches can request verification of employee tithes to another church

If the employee is not a member of the employer church, then the church may require the employee to request that the employee’s church provide a certificate to prove that the employee paid tithes to his or her home church.

Frank Sommerville is a both a CPA and attorney, and a longtime Editorial Advisor for Church Law & Tax.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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