Conservative critics of Ted Cruz are going after his tithing practices. According to recently released tax records, the Texas senator contributed less than 1 percent of his income to charity between 2006 and 2010. But many Christians believe that the Bible commands a charitable offering, or tithe, equal to 10 percent of one’s annual earnings.
This discrepancy could end up making a difference less than two weeks before the caucuses in Iowa, a state where a Republican politician’s faith matters. And this is exactly what a newly formed political group, Americans United for Values, is hoping for. Today, the group is launching a 60-second radio advertisement on news, talk, and Christian stations across Iowa that raises the tithing question and labels Cruz a “phony”: “He doesn’t tithe?” a female voice asks in the ad. “Isn’t he a millionaire? His wife worked for a big Wall Street bank, right?”
While a candidate’s charitable giving might seem petty or irrelevant to nonreligious Americans, it likely matters to the conservative Christians who Cruz has worked diligently to court. A 2011 study by Pew Research Center found that 61 percent of American evangelical leaders deemed tithing essential to being a “good evangelical.” And an additional 34 percent said it is “important” though not “essential.” If religious voters see Cruz’s meager tithing as an indication that he isn’t as faithful as he presents himself to be, he could lose their support. And since Cruz and Trump are in a dead heat in Iowa, even a small shift could be devastating.