Haven't decided what to do with that tax rebate check?

Across the country, religious organizations, charities, civil rights groups, nonprofits and special interest groups are pushing for people to donate their tax rebates and earmark them for everything from gay rights to proselytizing.

"It's a way of passing along something good that comes our way unexpectedly," said Kathy McAdams, assistant rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, which is asking its members to donate the money to a Palo Alto ministry that feeds the needy and shelters the homeless.

McAdams plans to give her tax rebate to the church's remodeling effort.

In late May, the president won approval from Congress for his $1.35 trillion cut in taxes. Recent polls indicate most people plan to use the money to pay bills, followed by those who plan to save or invest it and those who plan to spend it. A Christian Science Monitor poll last month found that 4 percent planned to donate it.

Checks ranging from $300 to $600 began arriving in mailboxes last week. Nearly 100 million are expected to be delivered between now and September, totaling $38 billion.

Many of the charity campaigns have an anti-tax-cut or anti-Bush theme. But others suggest that since the rebate is money people hadn't budgeted, they should donate it to a cause they've always wanted to support but could never afford to.

Letting Bush Know
All Our Families Coalition, which provides advocacy for gay and lesbian parents and their children, is asking people to make a donation to their group and then send a postcard to President Bush stating the bucks are going to further gay rights.

"It seemed like Bush was using this as a marketing tool," said Cheryl Deaner, executive director of the San Francisco-based coalition. "We figured as long as the government is sending the money, we ought to encourage people to use it for a totally irrefutable need that he will never fund. It seemed like a very American thing to do."

Presbyterian Church USA has asked each of its 11,000 members to tithe 10 percent of their rebate to church work, estimating they could raise $50 million.

Tony Adams, a Dallas-based Web designer, was angered when Bush decided to deny funding for international groups providing advice about abortion overseas.

"At that point, I promised any money I got from the tax cut, I would contribute to an organization to counteract his policies," Adams said.

He started a Web site, www.TaxRebatePledge.org, which has gathered pledges from 957 taxpayers who have promised to contribute $318,591 in tax rebates to a variety of charities.

Large religious organizations such as the National Council of Churches also have asked people to donate their tax relief checks to help the poor or homeless. San Francisco-based telecommunications company Working Assets has pledged to match donations up to $1 million.

Week of Meals
The Red Cross emphasized the $300 rebate going to single people could buy five days' worth of meals and motel stays for one homeless disaster victim, while the $600 check for couples could buy food and clothing for a family of four.

Maria de los Angeles Corral, spokeswoman for the Bay Area Red Cross, says the housing shortage in the region hinders the agency's ability to provide temporary and permanent shelter to disaster victims.

"If someone is looking at getting an appliance vs. making a charitable contribution, it's their call," said Harold Brooks, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of the Bay Area. "We'll say without question that making that contribution to the Red Cross will do a lot of good."

Robin Ridenour, a nurse anesthetist from San Francisco, opposed the rebate because she believes the wealthy benefit most. She plans to donate her $300 to three organizations--two supporting battered women and one providing shelter for homeless gay youth.

"I don't need it myself," Ridenour said. "The root of all this is that I believe God gives to us, and I'd like to give back first. These organizations do good work and could put this to good use."

Even though the president stated he wanted the rebate to fuel the lagging economy, Trent Duffy, spokesman for the Republic National Committee, said individuals should decide for themselves what to do.

"They know how to spend it better than the government," Duffy said. "That's always been his (Bush's) message. Whether they're supportive of the president's policies or not, it's their money."

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