Reform charity laws

Reform charity laws

Page 10 of 42: All charities, religious or not, should be held to the same standards.

Many religious charities do fantastic work.

But many others fail to provide a public benefit and some cause harm.

It's time to end religious privilege in charity law.

Charity work carried out by people of all faiths and none should be recognised and celebrated. Much of the work of religious charities, such as helping the poor, is secular in nature and beneficial to society.

But there are religious organisations which exploit the privileged status of religion in charity law to conduct activities that do not fulfil a genuine public benefit, and only serve to further religious ideology.

In the worst cases, religious charities may harm society and individuals.

Registered charities must serve a purpose recognised as "charitable". Charity laws specify a list of "charitable purposes," one of which is "the advancement of religion".

Charities must also demonstrate that they provide a genuine public benefit. But guidelines are vague on what constitutes a public benefit, particular in relation to religious activities. There is still an assumption in the charity system that religion is inherently beneficial. This view is not supported by evidence and implies those without a religion are somehow less moral or charitable.

The inclusion of the advancement of religion within charitable purposes gives religion a privileged position in the charity sector. It enables religious organisations to acquire all the benefits of charitable status, including tax relief, gift aid and public respectability, simply by "advancing religion".

It also includes religious organisations that cause harm to society. This includes charities which facilitate religious genital cutting, support the non-stun slaughter industry, and promote extremism, hatred and intolerance of other people.

The NSS believes all charities, religious or not, should be held to equally high standards. That's why we campaign for "the advancement of religion" to be removed from the list of charitable purposes, and for religious charities to be held to the same equality laws as all other charities.

Take action!

1. Write to your MP

Tell your MP it's time for "the advancement of religion" to be removed as a charitable purpose. Enter your postcode below to find your MP and send a letter to them.

2. Share your story

Tell us why you support this campaign, and how you are personally affected by the issue. You can also let us know if you would like assistance with a particular issue.

3. Join us

Become a member of the National Secular Society today! Together, we can separate religion and state for greater freedom and fairness.

Latest updates

NI Christian charity trustee compares gay marriage to bestiality

NI Christian charity trustee compares gay marriage to bestiality

Posted: Wed, 5 Apr 2023 07:36

The National Secular Society has raised concerns about a new charity whose trustee compared gay marriage to bestiality.

David McLaughlin (pictured), minister and trustee of Carryduff Free Presbyterian Church, made the remarks in a 2015 sermon entitled 'the myth of gay marriage'.

He said same-sex marriage "opens the floodgates" and asked, "could a man get married to his dog or his donkey? Why not?"

The 38 minute sermon came ahead of a motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly to legalise same-sex marriage. It was legalised in 2020.

Charity trustee: Gay people "should not have children"

McLaughlin described homosexuality as "unnatural" and said it is "rooted in lust not love, it's nothing to do with love".

He said homosexuality is "the enemy of the family" and "destroys the family". He added that he agrees "homosexuals should not have children".

Carryduff Church is affiliated with the larger Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, also a registered charity. It calls lawmakers who approved same-sex marriage "legislators of evil". It describes same-sex marriage as "utterly abhorrent" and compares its proponents to "Sodom and its allies".

Carryduff Church is one of 61 Free Presbyterian Churches which registered as charities in February. All are registered under the charitable purpose of 'the advancement of religion'.

Another of these charities, Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church, says on its website that "Satan is endeavouring to catch the church" through progressive policies on gay rights and abortion, and that Gay Pride should be "more properly called Gay Shame".

NSS: "Preaching homophobic hate doesn't benefit the public – it harms the public"

The National Secular Society has raised concerns with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.

The commission's guidance specifies charities' purposes must "be beneficial, not harmful".

In 2021 the commission refused to take action against Core Issues Trust, a Christian charity accused of promoting 'gay conversion therapy'.

The NSS also called for similar reforms in Scotland earlier this month, after the Scottish charity regulator refused to intervene on religious charities promoting misogyny and homophobia.

NSS campaigns officer Alejandro Sanchez said: "It is shocking and disturbing that a church which compares same-sex marriage to bestiality can register as a charity and be exempt from tax.

"Charities should exist for the public benefit. Preaching homophobic hate doesn't benefit the public – it harms the public.

"These charities' views are rooted in the fundamentalist Christianity they exist to promote. The charitable purpose of 'the advancement of religion' needs urgent review. If it is creating a loophole which allows religious organisations to preach anti-gay intolerance while benefiting from charitable status, this is unacceptable and the law needs reform.

"No charity, whatever its ethos, should be allowed to stir up hatred."

Council reviews funding of Christian group accused of “hate speech”

Council reviews funding of Christian group accused of “hate speech”

Posted: Thu, 30 Mar 2023 10:03

A council is conducting an "urgent review" of its relationship with a Christian charity that the government criticised for "hate speech".

The National Secular Society raised concerns with Hampshire County Council about Zion Projects in Eastleigh after finding a video from 2020 in which the charity's chair called Islam "demonic".

Zion Projects received £19,750 from the council last year to "help to provide a range of projects including a community café".

In response, the council told the NSS it is "conducting an urgent review" of its relationship and funding of Zion Projects.

Charity chair calls Islam "demonic" and "spiritual wickedness"

In a now-removed video on Vimeo, Zion Projects chair and trustee Danny Stupple responded to a question about Islamic 'calls to prayer' being broadcast during the Covid-19 lockdown by saying "a very strong force of spiritual wickedness known as Islam is engaging in warfare against the Lord with its open air prayers".

He said that Islamic prayers are "one example" of "the enemy" trying to use the pandemic, adding that the Islamic system of belief "is truly demonic".

He advised that anyone who hears the call to prayers should "deny it power in Jesus' name", which is "more than able to deal with the spiritual forces of wickedness in those prayers".

Last year Zion Projects received £43,220 from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) as part of their 'Faith New Deal' fund. The NSS has criticised the scheme as "discriminatory". Several of the groups funded by the Faith New Deal require workers and volunteers to be Christians.

In February the NSS wrote to Baroness Scott of Bybrook, parliamentary under-secretary of state at DLUHC, to express concerns about Zion Projects.

A spokesperson for DLUHC responded: "These comments are abhorrent and we strongly condemn them. We take hate speech against any group or individual extremely seriously."

It added it is "urgently investigating this issue and the Department's relationship" with the charity, including funding.

In the same video, Stupple also suggests God is using the pandemic to "make the point of the value of life" because he anticipates "the same amount of babies being saved as the number of people who die" as a result of women being unable to get abortions during lockdown.

Stupple ran as an independent candidate in the Eastleigh 2013 by-election. He opposed same-sex marriage as part of his campaign, saying "real marriage is between a man and a woman" in a campaign video.

Council "conducting an urgent review"

A spokesperson from Hampshire County Council told the NSS the council is "now conducting an urgent review of the matter, including our relationship with Zion Project, and any funding awarded by Hampshire County Council."

They said that prior to any grant award, applicants are reviewed and "a variety of checks are undertaken".

They added that "all organisations are required to sign a grant agreement which requires recipients to comply with the Equality Act 2010, and not to discriminate against any person or persons, including on the basis of religion."

They said that following the review, "a decision will be taken as to whether Zion Projects will be barred from receiving further grants from Hampshire County Council."

NSS: Protections needed to ensure public money doesn't fund "divisive dogma"

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "This case demonstrates the pitfalls of funding faith groups without protections in place to ensure public money doesn't go to those who preach extremist or divisive dogma.

"While there are many religious organisations that do wonderful work for their local communities without promoting hate, there are unfortunately many other faith groups, including registered charities, whose ideology includes intolerant views that are corrosive to social cohesion.

"We welcome Hampshire County Council's investigation into Zion Projects. We hope that as a result, the council terminates its relationship with this charity, and applies greater scrutiny to any future groups it funds to make sure those groups benefit, rather than harm, community relations."

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