Seattle-area megachurch and pastor Judah Smith sued for allegedly forcing staff to donate
An employee of a Seattle-area megachurch is suing the church and its leadership for allegedly forcing her and others on staff to donate 10% of their wages or face losing their jobs.
Churchome has over 300,000 people watching sermons each week online, on the church's smartphone app or attending in person in Kirkland, Wash. It also holds monthly services at a branch in Beverly Hills, Calif.
The lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court by a video editor at the church. Rachel Kellogg alleges she was threatened with termination when she couldn’t afford to tithe as ordered.
The lawsuit includes the church's head pastor Judah Smith and his wife Chelsea Smith as defendants. Smith is one of America's most high-profile young pastors, often speaking of his friendships with celebrities like Justin Bieber and Broncos player Russell Wilson, who is on Churchome's board of directors. Last week, Lana Del Rey released an album that included nearly five minutes of Smith preaching.
Kellogg alleges Smith said in a staff meeting in April 2020 — shortly after the church suspended in-person services because of COVID-19 — that staff had been fired in the past for not giving at least 10% of their wages back to the church. It's a practice called tithing, and it's usually voluntary. The requirement wasn't included in the job posting, the lawsuit says.
Smith quoted the Bible "to imply that employees should sell their “possessions and belongings” rather than fail to rebate 10% of their paychecks back to Churchome," according to the lawsuit.
Later that year, the lawsuit says Kellogg was involved in a car accident and the next year, forced to move to a place with higher rent when her landlord didn't renew her lease. She didn't tithe in 2021 and sporadically tithed in 2022. Her supervisors reprimanded her and one told her he had sold his home rather than stop tithing.
The lawsuit claims Churchome's practice breaks several Washington laws. It was first reported by Christian journalist Julie Roys.
Churchome's lawyer Nathaniel Taylor sent a statement from the church in an email, saying that the First Amendment protects a church’s right to restrict employment to people who "abide by church teaching," and that the church's employee handbook has included a statement on tithing for "many years."
"Churchome believes the Bible teaches that all Christians should tithe," the statement said. "Churchome intends to vigorously defend the rights of all religious institutions to live, teach, and model their faith through their employees."
The full complaint is below.