Home Christian News Churchome’s Required Tithing Policy Leads to Class-Action Lawsuit by Employees

Churchome’s Required Tithing Policy Leads to Class-Action Lawsuit by Employees

Chelsea and Judah Smith. Screenshot from YouTube / @Churchome

Churchome, the Washington state megachurch led by Judah and Chelsea Smith, is at the center of a class-action lawsuit brought by more than 100 current and former employees. They allege that the church and its leaders, including the Smiths and CEO David Kroll, violated two state laws by requiring employees to tithe from their salaries.

According to the claim, previous church employees have been fired for not giving at least 10% of their earnings directly back to the ministry.

Lead plaintiff Rachel Kellogg, a current Churchome employee, described discussions of tithing mandates during staff meetings. She also provided communications from church officials warning that her job was in jeopardy if she failed to comply. Her attorney argues that Churchome is violating Washington state’s Wage Rebate Act as well as its Consumer Protection Act.

Tithing ‘More Important’ Than Communion

Kellogg, who began working for Churchome in late 2019, alleges that neither the job listing nor the orientation process addressed the giving requirement. Not until April 2020, in a virtual staff meeting, she claims, did leaders emphasize the importance of tithing.

During that meeting, the complaint alleges, Judah Smith told Churchome employees, “I’ll be very honest: People have already been transitioned and moved on and fired because they were not tithing.” Smith also reportedly told staff members that donating 10% of their paychecks back to the church was a “black-and-white” issue and “even more important than the religious rite of taking communion.”

The lawsuit claims Smith defended those beliefs by quoting a tithing-related Scripture verse he received from NFL quarterback Russell Wilson, who serves on Churchome’s board of directors. Smith also reportedly used the Bible to show that employees should “sell their ‘possessions and belongings’ rather than fail to rebate 10% of their paychecks back to Churchome,” according to the suit.

Despite Financial Strain, Plaintiff Was Warned to Resume Tithing

Fearful of losing her job, Kellogg said she set up automatic bank withdrawals to give 10% of her salary back to Churchome. Soon afterward, she was injured in a car accident that left her vehicle totaled. The resulting financial hardships, including the loss of her rental home, forced her to not tithe during 2021.

Included with the legal filing are messages from Churchome officials to Kellogg, the church’s post-production producer. Wes Halliburton, chief creative officer, wrote that she needed to resume her tithing “asap.”

Ben Sorte, Kellogg’s boss, wrote to her in a 2022 reprimand: “It is my expectation that you get in rhythm with our company policy on tithing. While I understand the complexities of finances, this is an expectation for all Churchome employees and you need to correct this pattern immediately.” Otherwise, Sorte wrote, Kellogg faced “more serious disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

In early 2023, when Kellogg reportedly told Churchome content director Joe Goods she couldn’t afford to tithe, he indicated he’d once sold his house instead of violating the church’s tithing requirement.