This Amicus Brief is No Friend of Mine

By Christina Taber-Kewene

Paying tithing has always been important to me. As Jesus teaches us, 

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. 

 What better reminder to put my money where my heart is than to religiously donate a set portion of my income as a share to the needy? How important it is to recall that all that I have is not earned but mostly unearned, that privilege factors more into wealth than effort, and that we have an enduring obligation to share of our wealth and surplus. Jesus underscores his point clearly on a different occasion to a young seeker:

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

But I’m starting to feel like what should be a donation to the poor has in fact become a tithing to the church’s outside counsel, Kirton McConkie. I think that if Jesus witnessed this, he would be throwing the money changers out of the temple. 

Although Kirton McConkie is independent of the corporation of the LDS church, it has acted as its outside counsel for decades. It also may be part of a plan to prevent reporting of sexual abuse claims made against the church under the shroud of legal privilege. VICE reported last year, based on information disclosed in legal proceedings against the church arising from alleged sexual abuse of minors, that calls to the LDS church’s hotline for sexual abuse surivors are routed through LDS family services and back to Kirton McConkie. Why aren’t such calls instead reported directly to legal authorities? Counsel for the claimants argues that the hotline is not a helpline to aid abuse survivors but instead a way to manage allegations before they reach legal authorities. Just the fact that my tithing dollars are going to fund Kirton McConkie as it defends the church against liability for sexual abuse claims is enough to turn my love for Jesus into disgust for lack of corporate accountability. Didn’t Jesus teach us to leave the ninety and nine and find the one? This appears to be the opposite approach, protecting the brethren at the expense of the victim.

The church has a separate but equally long history of using its counsel to push its agenda in the anti-gay marriage fights of the 1990s and 2000s. The battles were many and hard fought, with the church filing brief after brief in judicial cases and putting money behind legislative initiatives to fight gay marriage around the US in these decades.  Ultimately, the church lost those legal battles, but not without great harm to individuals with differing beliefs and LGBTQ members and allies, not to mention tremendous resources spent (wasted). And most recently, Kirton McConkie filed the amicus brief arguing against extending the equal rights protections of the 14th amendment to LGBTQ employees. The Supreme Court ruled just days ago against this argument and upheld reading the amendment as extending to cover the rights of our LGBTQ siblings against discrmination. 

Now the LDS church is once again using Kirton McConkie to work against our human rights, arguing in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court that it is constitutionally sound to allow organizations that present a moral or religious exemption to be free from providing birth control to covered employees. In a 7-2 ruling today, the justices found in favor of the Catholic church and against those who see this exemption as unconstitutional. I find it telling that although the LDS church filed the amicus brief in concert with several other organizations, it was submitted by Kirton McConkie. Those are the church’s fingerprints all over the deal. The brief is disturbing in multiple ways, including that it relies on faulty science to classify Plan B as an abortifacient (it is not), and, secondly, that it is arguing for a position not supported by LDS theology: we do not share the Catholic belief of life created at conception, nor do we officially legislate on birth control within the religion. Given that, I can’t imagine why our church (Is it our church, ladies?) is arguing against providing health coverage for the most fundamental of women’s health concerns. 

I have my own answer: Not with my money, not anymore. Not with your anti-sexual abuse survivor agenda, not with your anti-LGBTQ agenda, not with your anti-woman agenda.  I will always tithe to the poor, but I will not tithe to Kirton McConkie.

 

Christina Taber-Kewene is a writer, lawyer, and human with a womb who is cares about her reproductive rights. 

 

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11 Responses

  1. Bryan says:

    Great post. I couldn’t agree more, Christina. There are so many wonderful and worthy causes out there that are in so much more need of our support than the church with its billions upon billions in reserve. (Plus, these other organizations are usually much more willing to be transparent and accountable with how those donations are actually used to help the poor, which is an added bonus.)

  2. Clay Cook says:

    Well said thanks! This is why I pay my tithing to the Humanitarian Aid Fund rather to the tithing fund, of course I am assuming that these funds are earmarked only for aid, I hope I am right!

  3. Elisa says:

    Yes. The amicus garbage + 100B have me thinking hard about what to do about tithing this year. If the Church were just a nonprofit there’s zero chance I’d give them money.

  4. Christina says:

    I’ve had to come to my own compromise with my spouse, and I do what feels right each month. My husband pays tithing on his earnings, which I find troubling, but he has his own agency as well.

  5. BJH says:

    Several years ago, after a great deal of thought, observation and prayer, I decided to direct my charitable contributions to entities and causes other than the CofJCofLDS. Among the more pressing concerns I had were the lack of financial accountability/transparency and undisclosed administrative overhead. The first few times I drove to Catholic Community Services in Ogden to donate in person, I sat in my car afterwards and sobbed. It felt so good, so profound, so right to see my modest contribution used to feed and clothe my brothers and sisters in need. After donating in person for several months, the director at CCS in Ogden asked if I would like a tour of the facility. She showed me a room where baby clothes are available for new mothers. She told me that a sizable number of children born in the Ogden area don’t have a layette or other basic clothing needs when they go home from the hospital. Another round of sitting in my car and sobbing ensued as I thought of my children and the privileged life my spouse and I have been able to give them thanks to God’s great blessings.

    Fast forward to today. A few years ago we relocated to our home state and now live in Boise (hooray!). I came across a broken down little church that serves a meal once a week, rain or shine, every week of the year to anyone who wants to come. Some of the participants are homeless, some are food insecure, some are just looking for a bit of human contact in an unfeeling world. Other than a blessing on the food, there is zero — and I mean zero — proselytizing. The only goal is to help those in need by offering food and clothing. The first time I went, there were homeless children in the line. Again, another round of sitting in my car afterward and crying tears of joy, mingled with some frustration about why the world has to be such a hard place.

    My wife and I have become regulars at the weekly meal. I have grown to love, genuinely love, those who allow us to help serve them dinner each week. Some of these brothers and sisters don’t smell very good. Some are angry. Some have substance abuse issues. Some made bad choices that caused them to fall to the edges of our society. But they are so easy to love. I used to think that I was doing them a favor by making sure they got something to eat. How big of me! What a righteous person I am! My white shirt is laundered and pressed, my tie is silk, I’m the best dressed person in the room! I have come to realize that I am the one being served. As a result, I cannot serve quietly and unobtrusively enough. Sometimes I wish I were invisible. The quieter and less visible the service, the greater the peace and contentment. Every week I feel like I’m among Christ’s chosen and am honored to have the privilege of being in their company.

    Last year the weekly dinner fell on Christmas Eve. My children and their spouses were home for the holidays. I told them my one gift request — other than a donation to the Idaho Food Bank — was to come serve with their mom and I on Christmas Eve. The room was packed. The food was delicious. The music glorious. One of my daughters played her flute — it was perfect. The gifts well received (mostly gift cards for local grocery stores). I felt Christ’s presence as I’ve rarely felt it before. Best Christmas present ever.

    I don’t know what sort of peace and comfort 124 billion dollars can buy — or whatever the amount is that Mormondom is sitting on these days. But I’m certain nothing can top looking into the faces of the hungry and being able to give them a bit of food and a bit of human kindness every single week at a small, under-funded church with limited resources in Boise, Idaho. That, to me, is the gospel come to life. If my decision to tithe elsewhere was a mistake, I’ll be happy to explain my reasons to God. In my view, the dirty, smelly, frustrating souls I’ve come to know and love the past couple of years will be there and listening intently.

    • M says:

      Yes yes yes. I tithe elsewhere with a clear conscience also. I love your story. Boise is my hometown and I’ve just moved back after years away. My parents serve in a similar way and have let me tag along a few times. It’s a holy opportunity.

  6. Why does Kirton McConkie need PPP loan money? says:

    Fun fact…Kirton McConkie got a handsome chunk of the PPP loan money, between $2-5 million

    https://www.ksl.com/article/50000064/who-got-ppp-money-in-utah-and-how-much-did-they-get-heres-what-we-know

    At the bottom of the article is a searchable list of Utah businesses who received loans.

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