ByÂ Gloria Goodale, Christian Science Monitor
As Republican candidateÂ Mitt Romneyâ€™s voluminous tax returns sink into the American psyche, some line items stand out for sheer size, most notably hisÂ contributions to the Mormon church.
TithingÂ at a 10 percentÂ level of income is required of observant Mormons. Church founderÂ Joseph Smithwrote that members of the faith â€œshall observe this law, or they shall not be found worthy to abide among you.â€
A slew of poll results over the past year, from Gallup and the Pew Center toÂ CNNÂ and ABC, have all shown that Americansâ€™ attitudes toward Mr. Romneyâ€™s Mormon faith may play a decisiveÂ roleÂ in his campaign.
Now that the strength of his religious conviction has aÂ dollar sign attached to it, the question arises: Will his tithing invigorate the uneasiness that many Americans, including evangelicals and some other Protestants, have toward the Mormon church and its adherents?
SomeÂ evangelicals who question the legitimacy ofÂ the religion,Â doubting its Christian credentials, may warm to Romneyâ€™s generosity, says Michele Dillon,Â sociology professor at theÂ University of New HampshireÂ inÂ Durham. Others, she adds by e-mail, â€œespecially some who are already highly skeptical of Mormonism, will probably use his generous tithing as further evidence that Mormons, in these voters’ minds,Â are too much in the clutches of their church, and who knows what he might do to advance some allegedÂ â€˜Mormon agendaâ€™ if elected?”
The eye-popping number may be just the push that the issue needsÂ to move to center stage in Romneyâ€™s campaign, says presidential historian Charles Dunn.
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