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Churches, Social Groups Call on Americans to Use Tax Rebate to Spread Relief

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Church leaders, political activists and social reformers are calling on Americans to “give back” when the awaited tax rebate check lands in mailboxes across the United States.

What would you do with an extra $300 to $600? This is the question many Americans are asking themselves.
With his oldest daughter starting college in the fall, another teen to start college next year and a wife on disability because of liver cancer, Fred Andrea has many worthy causes within his own family. But Andrea, pastor of First Baptist Church in Aiken, S.C., said he has decided to “put his money where his faith is.”
“An unexpected gift calls for an unexpected response–not to spend on passing whims and material desires,” he said, “but to invest … for the good of others and the cause of Christ.”
Andrea gave his entire $600 tax refund check to his church and encouraged members of his congregation to do the same. Several families have expressed their intent to follow his example, Andrea said.
The Christian Century called on its readers to “pledge your tax rebates to a specific nonprofit institution or program–a congregation, an environmental group, food pantry or refugee relief agency.” The result, they hoped, would be a “massive outpouring of funds to serve others.”
A July Christian Science Monitor poll found that 4 percent of those asked about their tax refund check planned to donate it to some charity.
With nearly 100 million checks expected to be delivered between now and September, the total refunds amount to $38 billion, according to Beliefnet.com.
The Presbyterian Church USA has asked all its 11,000 congregations to tithe 10 percent of their rebate to church work, estimating they could raise $50 million, Beliefnet.com reported.
Randy Wright, pastor of Fernwood Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., has asked his congregation to tithe on their tax rebate checks.
“I’m not a legalist and think that since the money hasn’t already been tithed it should be,” Wright said. “This money is unexpected and one way to express gratitude for it is to give some of it away.”
Wright hopes that his church could pay off their mortgage if every parishioner gave a portion of their refund.
The National Council of Churches has also asked people to donate their tax relief checks to help the poor and homeless. United Churches of Christ and Union of American Hebrew Congregations also issued statements asking people to consider donating some or all of their rebates to religious or social causes, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Peace Mennonite Church of Dallas even hosts a Web site called Rebate Redirect (http://web2.airmail.net/pmc/rebateredirect), where the call to act is: “Redirect Your Rebate–Where You Wish it Had Gone to Begin With!”
Religious organizations aren’t the only groups seeking charitable contributions. Many social activists hope to influence citizens to funnel their rebates into more politically charged organizations dealing with gay and lesbian rights, reproductive rights, science research and other issues.
Web sites like DonateRebate.org, TaxRebatePledge.org and RejecttheRebate.com offer a long list of nonprofit organizations that could use the extra cash.
Andrea hopes Christians will give “to God through the church” when their rebates arrive. “What a difference this money could make for the sake of the gospel.”
Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.