18 Bankr. Dev. J. 399 (2001-2002)
Tithing: A Fraudulent Transfer or a Moral Obligation

handle is hein.journals/bnkd18 and id is 405 raw text is: TITHING: A FRAUDULENT TRANSFER OR A
MORAL OBLIGATION?
INTRODUCTION
Tithing is generally defined as a religious practice of giving ten
percent of one's income to a religious institution.1 Although many
churches do not require their members to tithe, some members feel
compelled to do so, yet feel no moral obligation to pay back their
debts. Should debtors be allowed to continue tithing to religious
organizations while their unsecured creditors walk away empty-
handed?
Many debtors contend that because tithing is a religious
practice, their    contributions    are  protected    under    the  First
Amendment Free Exercise Clause. Therefore, a bankruptcy trustee
who recovers or avoids a debtor's charitable contribution would
violate her First Amendment right to freely exercise her religion.
Trustees, however, argue that the Bankruptcy Code (the Code)
permits them to avoid or recover such contributions because
debtors are merely evading their financial obligations to creditors.3
Even though these same arguments have been made in many
bankruptcy courts, some courts have forced unsecured creditors to
I BLACK'SLAWDIGrIONARY1492 (7th ed. 1999).
See In reIvy, Bankr. No. 387-02293-H13, 1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2325, at *2 (D. Or. Mar.
11, 1988) (Debtors argued that failure to confirm their reorganization plan was an
unconstitutional infringement upon their first amendment right to freely exercise their
chosen religion.) af'd, No. 88-3769, 1990 U.S. App. LEXIS 21538 (9th Cir. Dec. 10, 1990); In
re Reynolds, 83 B.R. 684, 684 (Bankr. W.D. Mo. 1988); In re Green, 73 B.RI 893, 893 (Bankr.
W.D. Mich. 1987). See generally Cedar Bayou Baptist Church v. Gregory-Edwards, Inc., 987
S.W.2d 156 (Tex. App. 1999) (church argues that recovering contributions given to it is
unconstitutional); Christian v. Crystal Evangelical Free Church (In re Young), 141 F.3d 854
(8th Cir. 1998) (recovering contributions violated debtors' free exercise of religion).
3 See generally In re Buxton, 228 B.R. 606, 611 (Bankr. W.D. La. 1999) (explaining that
increasing debtor's charitable contributions burdens unsecured creditors); In reBien, 95 B.R.
281, 281 (Bankr. D. Conn. 1989) (rejecting trustee's argument that not all disposable income
was included in chapter 13 plan to pay creditors because of charitable contribution to
church).
399

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