Monday, December 20, 2021

Funding Proposal and Grant Request: Zero Knowledge and Anonymous Donations for Lutheran Charities

The Saint Timothy Society uses a modified RFP (Request for Proposals) and Grants to determine and administer supported projects and efforts. For more information see our Projects web page. We list proposals to inform our donors and gauge their interest in funding. We also ask for comments and suggestions from donors, supporters, other churches, agencies and charitable organizations in order to improve and more clearly define proposals. Individuals and groups from the general public who are interested in the work of the society and supportive of our religious, doctrinal and theological prerequisites as described in our About web page are also invited to comment and make suggestions. The Contact link above has our mailing and email address.

Zero Knowledge and Anonymous Donations for Lutheran Charities: A Grant Proposal for the Saint Timothy Society

Theological and Biblical Considerations: The biblical exhortations to give to the work of Christ's Church also address the manner, attitude, and motivation of the faithful donor. The Widow's Mite recounted by Christ in Mark 12:41–44 and Luke 21:1–4 illustrates these exhortations by stressing both the poverty and the generosity of the widow who in faith has given "all her livelihood". In contrast to the widow are those who donate out of their "abundance", which requires little or no faith or trust on the part of the donor. In Matthew 6:1-4 Christ criticizes the "hypocrites" who make known their charitable deeds that they might be rewarded in the esteem of their fellow man. "They have their reward", Our Lord tells us, which presumably indicates a favorable judgement and esteem not from God, but in the eyes of the individuals and groups from whom they truly seek approval.

While it is tempting to see in Matthew 6 an ancient criticism of what is now termed "virtue signalling", it is best, for the purposes here, to note that the motivations and intentions of donors are often inscrutable to others, and may be complicated or virtuously simple. We can say that those who give in order to "enter the Kingdom of Heaven" are deceived in seeking something that can only come by faith in Christ, given by God in the Word and the Sacraments. But it is a step too far to conclude that the Gospels instruct us to condemn all acts of charity outside of those done by the purest and holiest of motives and will. The biblical and historical understanding of fallen sinful human nature tells us that the best of actions are still carried out by sinners. "Our lives are hidden in Christ", Colossians 3:3 tells us, and as Saint Paul reminds us, only God can distinguish between an outward act motivated by faith in Christ from those which are not. The world and our neighbors see only the outward act, and while they may assign various motives and reasons, what they see and understand is limited by what can be known in the "Kingdom of This World". And while Christians are citizens in both kingdoms, that other kingdom, the heavenly, is known by faith, and is understood or grasped in slight, minimal and imperfect ways by the world, if at all.

It would also be an error to fall into the orbit of an antinomian heresy and deny the validity of God's law as we know it in natural law and the created order. Donors may only know that giving is "the right thing to do" in the most basic ethical and moral sense. God directs and commands us to do good deeds here on earth not because He has need of them, neither on earth nor in heaven, nor in the work He has already accomplished in our salvation. God directs and commands good deeds, including charitable works, because our family, our neighbors, our society and world need them here on earth. God gives us our various vocations as a concrete expression of the good we may do in the earthly kingdom. The Ten Commandments make a universal claim on every person as an expression of God's eternal law. In contrast to what we call today virtue signalling, genuine virtues do not cancel out each other. Virtues are held and expressed in dynamic tension. The cardinal or moral virtues do not cancel or negate the heavenly or theological virtues; each virtue pulls, guides, and directs the others in concrete expression in the vocations God has given us.

Given these ancient, biblical and religious doctrines and beliefs, there are more than sufficient reasons for religious and charitable organizations to enable and promote anonymous giving. This has been, historically, a gift given and received without knowing, or having any knowldge of, the donor on the part of anyone other than the donor. This ancient and biblical practice might be called, in modern terms, "zero knowledge" giving.

The Modern Context: While the ability of charities such as our own to receive donations is our initial concern, the more recent attacks on freedoms and garauntees once assumed to be sacrosanct in liberal democracies have revealed how fragile these have become. The long standing rationale that unpopular speech and opinions held by a minority as small as one must be protected as freedom of speech and conscience (a position shared historically by a vast range of liberals, conservatives, libertarians and others) has been increasingly jettisoned to silence even popular speech and opinions held by majorities. Freedoms of conscience, speech, assembly, association, informed consent, and the other pre-requisites for the functioning of individuals, businesses, and organizations are now assumed to be dispensable by many in government, business, media and society at large. The ability for society to engage in rational discourse made possible by what is termed the marketplace of ideas using the gifts of freedoms of speech and of the press has been attacked by those in favor of defunding and deplatforming of individuals, businesses and organizations who hold opinions they disfavor, and in some cases, disfavored by a very loud but energetic few. These efforts have, by design, denied and curtailed the freedoms of conscience and speech of the disfavored. The most successful of these efforts have denied them sources of funding by inflicting political and social pressure on their payment processors to deny them service. In addition to payment processors, banking and financial services, other services and vendors have also been pressured to boycott their clients who have become disfavored. Amazon's cloud service, for example, severely damaged their client Parler by removing them from Amazon's AWS servers. GoFundMe, PayPal, Visa and Mastercard networks have all engaged in punitive actions against their own clients intended to reduce or cut off entirely their sources of funding when their clients, customers and vendors have been targeted by those seeking to deny them constitutional garauntees of freedom of speech and conscience. These privacies and garauntees - centuries old in the United States, and long assumed in many if not most countries - were earlier curtailed by plausible excuses such as the efforts ("wars" in the common parlance of those who favored these erosions of liberty and privacy) against terrorism, drug trafficing and money laundering. Once assumed liberties and rights such as speech, conscience and privacy are now under further attack by those who propose spurious pretexts as varied as preventing "hate speech", "misinformation", and "vaccine hesitancy".

Other troubling examples exist of these phenomena which hit much closer to home for any organization and charity, religious or otherwise. In 2015 the California Registrar of Charitable Trusts publically revealed the donor lists of 1400 non profit organizations, something which the attorney general had promised earlier not to do. This was done following the attorney general's requirement that charities submit their unredacted federal form 990 B (the full list of donors included with the federal form 990). This was litigated in 2014 with a federal court ruling in favor of the state. The public disclosure of donor's names had an ominous precedent. In 2008 donors who contributed to California's Proposition 8 which defined marriage as between one man and one women (after the earlier successful Proposition 22 was struck down by a court) were publically exposed by same sex marriage advocates in order to punish, harrass, and damage them. Brendan Eich, the creator of java script, was forced out of his position at Mozilla after his donation in favor of Prop 8 was made public. While the IRS is required by law never to reveal the names of donors to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations (listed on form 990 Schedule B), state regulators often have this or similar information. California joins Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi, and New York in requiring unredacted donor lists on form 990 B. Those in favor of using donor lists to silence and punish those with whom they disagree seem unaware - or intentionally overlook - that these tactics were rejected by the Supreme Court in 1958 when it ruled against the demands of the State of Alabama's (and other pro-segregation states) for the member and donor lists of the NAACP.

Given the modern context, the scope of a grant such as this might broaden into an examination of much wider trends. Should that occur, it is possible that this grant could prove of some service or usefulness to the wider public and society. As the foregoing suggests, the threats to charitable organizations are also threats to any organization or individual that seeks to make a livelihood by accepting donations. The same applies to any organization, business, or individual pursuing their vocations and making a living if they fall afoul of some aspect of the governmental, media or social cause crusaders. Such attacks are intended to have what courts term a "chilling effect" on the exercise of the 1st Amendment. The example above involving the NAACP of Alabama was exactly such an effort at suppression. The corrosive effects of these attacks extend far beyond any one particular target. The purpose is to discourage all individuals who might dissent from a chosen ideology or narrative. To "discourage" is to spread and inflict cowardice in order to force acquiesence, compliance and silence. But courage is indispensible to a free society. It has been said that courage is the virtue that makes the other virtues possible, and that without virtue and self-discipline, freedom and liberty cannot be sustained. If so, then like the virtues, the freedoms and liberties we have are all connected and "hinge" upon each other. An attack on one is an attack on all. To defend one liberty is to defend all liberties. An attack on freedom of religion is also an attack on freedom of speech, and increasingly also an attack on freedom of conscience, the consent of the governed, and informed consent for medical treatments. To deny one is to deny them all. The distinctions between them are much like the supports which uphold a structure by the dynamic tension of oppossing and distributed columns and load bearing walls. Knocking down one column will weaken or collapse the others, and eventually the structure itself. The premises of human freedom and dignity have imperfectly flourished and grown over time, even in our fallen world, to increasingly apply to those once considered unworthy of their protection. The more recent fabrication of ficitious identities and rights stemming from identity politics and cultural marxism has sought to obfuscate this tremendous advancement in the recognition of the value of life of the individual. These genuine moral and ethical values have acted as a bedrock upon which the dignity of life has been expressed, further protected by the rule of law, due process, and in the United States, distributed government in co-equal branches and states, and limited powers restricted and specified by the constitution's principle of enumerated powers. The vital and pragmatic connection and preservation of these liberties and values has its corollary in the words attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "We must hang together or surely we will hang separately". The isolation of one virtue or freedom from the others has a similar effect as the isolation of individuals and groups by the practice of identity politics. Both seek to overwhelm the good, decent, healthy and normal aspects of society by stressing those things which divide individuals and groups in order to destroy those positive things which unite them.

Existing and Developing Methods of Anonymous and Zero Knowledge Giving: Previous practices of giving continue today, and some are age old. Placing cash in a donation box, using intermediaries to transfer currency and assets, and similar methods are still available today. What has changed drastically from antiquity, and even from the last decades, has been fiscal, monetary, and regulatory controls made possible by technological advancements in areas such as payment systems. Governments that formerly respected the rights of their citizens to speak, support and donate to causes have become increasingly willing to use their banking, payment, and monetary systems to punish their citizens by freezing their bank accounts. Canada, once a shining example of a western liberal democracy, has frozen the bank accounts of its citizens identified as supporting the recent truckers strike protesting vaccine mandates. [§45] A crowd funding service in the United States, GiveSendGo, was then hacked and the names of donors were exposed on social media, encouraging others to use same tactices cited above to intimidate, punish and silence supporters and donors of a disfavored cause. [§49] Many, if not most, of these donors had no direct involvement with the protests, were not Canadian citizens, and all of whom were garaunteed the freedoms and protections listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights. [§52]

These attacks on donors, and the organizations and causes they support, are not decreasing, but increasing, and are being adopted, endorsed, and used by agencies, institutions, media outlets, and now even governments.

This modern state of affairs is not entirely new to christianity, which has flourished in the most hostile of environments in antiquity, whose spread was frequently watered and made possible by the blood of the martyrs. We should not, by any means, despair or lose the "hope that is within us", because that hope is predicated upon the promises of the God of both heaven and earth. But we should exercise the virtue of prudence in planning for a future that may see the return of persecution, perhaps in new forms and variants, and instituted by new forms of tyrannical collectivism and intolerance, whether exercised by ideological and cultural phalanges in media, the academy, business, or their acolytes in government. It must also be noted that religious persecution remains rampant and far worse in large parts of the world for christians and other disfavored religions and ideologies, and the consequences for their adherents are far worse than most of us in the west have suffered.

Yet is possible that the "cult of the divine emperor" is being resurrected in our time, with a recreated caste of priests, acolytes and scribes. [§60] Should its object of worship be a collectivist, marxist, or similar all encompassing state it would further imperil the freedoms and liberties of conscience, religion and speech, and the principles of the consent of the governed and informed consent. The work of religious charities must include a vigorous defense of these endangered principles and freedoms on the part of those who give to their work.

Goals: This grant seeks to advance several goals:
  1. To aggregate and create a body of knowledge and materials that would be accessible to Lutheran charitable organizations and others intended to:
    1. encourage and promote donor giving, including anonymous and zero knowledge giving, especially for those most concerned about and vulnerable to attack for their religious and political speech, opinion and conscience
    2. make the case to the general public, society at large, and governmental units and others that supporters of and donors to causes and organizations must be free of coercion, punishment, exposure, and silencing by those who disagree with them and seek to deny them freedom of conscience, belief, speech, and opinion
    3. help donors and supporters and their causes and organizations resist political persecution or other pressure intended to deny them funding and financial resources
    4. protect their donors, supporters and potential sources of funding and grants from harrassment and punishment by ensuring their anonymity
    5. develop a working model of a "zero knowledge" contribution system that would allow donors and funders to have a record of their giving while not revealing their identity to the organization receiving the donation, or to others involved in charitable transactions.
    6. encourage all organizations, even those of widely divergent ideologies, politics, and public policy goals to advocate for freedom of conscience, speech and religion.
  2. Other possible outcomes might include:
    1. An evaluation of digital, crypto and other forms of currencies and payments for zero knowledge giving, including an assessment of blockchain technologies and their ability to enable anonymous donation.
    2. An evaluation of the current literature and guidance available to charities and donors on issues of compliance and regulation.
  3. The development of conferences, assocations, publications and ongoing activity related to the above.


[§45] Canada's extrordinary actions in this matter deserve much greater attention and study. The nation has achieved one of the rare "Trifectas" of state violation of citizen rights which heretofore was a feature of tyrannical regimes such as single party communist states. Canada began by violating the basic human right of informed consent for medical procedures by making the vaccines mandatory. It then denied the protestors due process by invoking for the first time the 1988 Emergencies Act. It then went even further by revoking the banking facilities of those who donated to their cause by freezing their bank accounts. Yet another violation of the rights of their own citizens was that all of this could be done (and often was) without due process, or court orders, or any evidence or specific charge by law enforcement of the individuals targeted. With the Emergencies Act as pretext, the Canadian Federal Goverment used federal government powers to (in the words of their statement):
  1. broaden... the scope of Canada’s anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules so that they cover crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers they use. These changes cover all forms of transactions, including digital assets such as cryptocurrencies.
  2. issu[e] an order with immediate effect, under the Emergencies Act, authorizing Canadian financial institutions to temporarily cease providing financial services where the institution suspects that an account is being used to further the illegal blockades and occupations. This order covers both personal and corporate accounts.
  3. direct... Canadian financial institutions to review their relationships with anyone involved in the illegal blockades and report to the RCMP or CSIS.
The Department of Finance of Canada press release further detailed that crowdfunding and payment services, and donors to the protestors will be sanctioned for funding "terrorism and criminal activity". Canadian banks and financial institutions were compelled to carry out the new diktats, but discovered that A small donation wouldn’t have been caught by our normal risk-based approach. But the banks, as directed by the government, did not let the lack of a court order or the absence of due process deter them. So they froze accounts beyond those listed by the federal police (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or "Mounties"). As one bank explained, The financial aspects of the powers were the most unusual. The regulations approved by cabinet allowed banks to freeze personal and business accounts without obtaining a court order and without fear of being sued. Ms. Mason said the law compelled the banks to freeze accounts subject to the federal orders.


[§49] Coverage of the event in a large segment of the media appears to follow a pattern established for some years now. The Washington Post follows the typical template narrative in their story. The targets and exposed donors are likened to others with disfavored views, which are described as extremist. Other segments of the media and commentors are quoted to applaud the felonious activity and exposure of donor information:

“GiveSendGo has a history of providing a platform for individuals and organized groups to fund hate groups, promote disinformation and insurrection disguised as ‘protests,’” the video text read, an apparent reference to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “Most of their larger campaigns are, in some way, a continuing threat to democracy.”

Notable here is the attempt to exclude those with disfavored opinions and speech (and those who refuse to ostracize them) from the basic protections of the law and due process which were once considered universal for all individuals and citizens. It is also remarkable that a "continuing threat to democracy" is cited (without irony) to punish the exercise of freedom of speech, association, press and conscience, things which are vital to any real democracy.


[§52] The Emergencies Act explicitly states that when it is invoked government action is still subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights. Given recent events, it appears that Canada joins communist China, the United Nations, the old Soviet Union, and organizations such as Amnesty International and Freedom House by redefining human rights in order to praise their appearance while rejecting their substance. This practice has become prevalent among those inclined toward leftward and utopian tendencies. The convoy protestors, their donors and supporters were foolishly unaware that human rights only apply to some humans with the correct thought, speech and opinions, but not others, and certainly not to them.

[§60] This is, of course, not inevitable, and we may all hope that this is proven hyperbolic. But troubling signs already exist, and some analogies appear to be compelling. If there is such a new digital religion, the tech and social media giants would be the priestly class. The role played by their modern acolytes and fellow travellers in the press, media, and social networks appears obvious without using too much imagination.

Updates and Revisions:

2022 MAR 10: This proposal has been heavily revised and updated to reflect current events. Further updates and revisions are expected. This web page will occassionally be taken offline and reposted as revised in future.

2021 DEC 11: This proposal was listed in the Agenda for the Annual Meeting under New Business, Item 7.1.3.

2021 JUN 09: This proposal was included in the Projects page at: