Bankruptcy, Tithing, and the Pocket-Picking Paradigm of Free Exercise
Daniel Keating   |   1996 U. Ill. L. Rev.

Writing from the perspective of both a bankruptcy professor and a tithing Christian, Professor Keating makes several astute observations about the intersection of bankruptcy law, tithing, and the Free Exercise Clause. First, he argues that allowing debtors to continue tithing in bankruptcy essentially "picks the pockets" of their creditors, constituting a more significant infringement on the rights of third parties than the Supreme Court has permitted in any other context. Second, Professor Keating challenges the argument that disallowing tithing by bankrupt debtors is a form of religious discrimination, tackling the sticky question of why the law allows bankrupt parties to gamble away their money but not to give it to their churches. Finally, Professor Keating takes exception to scripturally based arguments in favor of tithing made by some bankrupt debtors, pointing out that the Bible also condemns failure to repay one's debts as a significant sin.

* Associate Dean and Professor of Law, Washington University. B.A. 1983, Monmouth College; J.D. 1986, University of Chicago. I would like to thank the following individuals for comments on an earlier draft of this essay: Michael Alderson, Susan Appleton, Greg Barton, Stuart Banner, Douglass Boshkoff, Dorsey D. Ellis, Jr., Christopher Frost, Jules Gerard, Margaret Howard, David Lander, Douglas Laycock, Steve Legomsky, Peter Letsou, Ronald Levin, Lynn LoPucki, Ronald Mann, Curtis Milhaupt, Nancy Rapoport, Robert Rasmussen, Charles Tabb, Robert B. Thompson, George Triantis, Jay Westbrook, and James J. White.