Is a gift "tainted" by its source?

Original question is "Should a church receive lottery money to support its community works?"

General case.

An organisation receives a gift in good faith and uses that money for its purposes.
Does the source, the means of generation and the morals further back along the chain of use compromise the organisation.

Example 1

The money received is a gift by a thief, and is the proceeds of a robbery.

In the first place the generation of the money is by illegal means, and there is an ownership question involved. This particular money rightfully belongs to another person. If we accept property rights of individuals then the money should be returned to the rightful owner.

Example 2

The money received is a gift from a person involved in (e.g.) drug dealing.

This money is raised by illegal and immoral means. No one in a decent society is going to justify a trade in substances that produce addiction, and destroy life. (except alcohol and tobacco !!)

There are no direct ownership rights on the money involved. Governments have the power to confiscate such money so that the criminal does not profit from his crime. It may therefore be argued that the government owns the money after a criminal is convicted.

It comes from human degradation and misery.

Very few organisations could cope with knowingly accepting money from such sources. Knowingly is important. Knowing receipt implies in this instance complicity in an illegal act. There is an element in which the recipient would be condoning the immoral and illegal act. (In this case not receiving stolen goods, but profiting from immoral earnings.)

Example 3

The money received is from a charitable lottery, set up to support good causes. (or bingo, or raffle etc.)

Several principle arguments are involved

Argument on using a tainted source.

If money is tainted by source and gambling is immoral - then no organisation holding these views could receive money from such a lottery.

Argument on increasing the general good.

Suppose that in a society a fixed percentage of that society gambles a given amount of their income. Suppose that the formation of a lottery for charitable purposes does not increase the amount of gambling, but rather diverts the profits of gambling from the private and personal wealth of companies and their owners to meet community needs and enhance the quality of community life overall. Is that good. And if that is good, should we not support that cause not by increasing our gambling but by providing good use the money thus diverted from selfish and indulgent purposes.

Argument concerning hypocrisy in applying for lottery money.

If a group oppose gambling on principal is it hypocritical to ask for money from that source?

Is there a difference between, receiving the gift from the owner of a casino (set up purely for personal profit), and the applying for money from the lottery board (setup specifically to support good causes)?


Since the money is not illegally obtained, the argument from example 1 do not apply.

The diversion of resources argument (about increasing general good) has something to offer.
If this is convincing then you can apply for the money and use it.

However if you believe that gambling is a immoral action, as opposed to simply stupid,
then the argument from example 2 applies, and you shouldn't use the money.


A.J.P.  8.11.02

Is a gift tainted.htm