"I've had home owners who face foreclosure sitting in front of me saying, 'I'll do anything, anything to keep my home," said Ozell Brooklin, director of Acorn Housing in Atlanta, a nonprofit which offers foreclosure counseling.
"But after we've gone through their monthly expenses and the only thing left to cut is their tithe, they say 'I guess this home is not for me' and they walk away," he said.
Milton Sharp, a home ownership specialist at NeighborWorks, an umbrella group of 230 nonprofits, said for many borrowers tithing is "mandatory and not a discretionary item that can be cut."
Debt counselors said the borrowers most likely to face a dilemma over tithing are people in lower income brackets.
"Often it's the folks who can least afford it who tithe," said Regina Grant of the Atlanta Cooperative Development Corp.
Linda Ingram of St Louis, Missouri-based nonprofit Beyond Housing said, "Tithing is a very sensitive subject and you have to be careful as to how you approach it."
"I made an agreement with the Lord 30 years ago and I have tithed ever since," said the woman, who declined to give her name in an interview. "Nothing could persuade me to give that up. My relationship with God comes first."
Asked why she would not be named, the woman said, "I don't want people to think I'm crazy."
The Barna Group, a California-based research firm, estimated in an April 2008 study that 5 percent of all American adults tithed in 2007. Evangelicals had the highest percentage (24 percent), and the study estimated that 12 percent of conservatives and 10 percent of registered Republicans tithed.