Reform charity laws

Reform charity laws

Page 9 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

NSS urges Charity Commission to investigate CofE safeguarding

NSS urges Charity Commission to investigate CofE safeguarding

Posted: Thu, 29 Jun 2023 15:29

NSS letter comes amid mounting criticism of the decision to sack the Independent Safeguarding Board

Government terminates funding of “hate speech” Christian group

Government terminates funding of “hate speech” Christian group

Posted: Fri, 21 Apr 2023 10:48

The government has ended its funding agreement with a charity whose chair called Islam "demonic" after the National Secular Society raised concerns.

The NSS contacted Baroness Scott of Bybrook, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), after it found a video of Zion Projects chair and trustee Danny Stupple calling Islam "a very strong force of spiritual wickedness".

The DLUHC awarded Zion Projects £43,220 last year as part of the government's 'Faith New Deal' fund exclusively for religious groups to deliver public services. Sixteen organisations out of 351 applicants were awarded grants.

In a letter to the NSS yesterday, Baroness Scott said the comments made by Stupple were "abhorrent".

She said: "I strongly condemn them. The Government takes hate speech against any group or individual extremely seriously."

She said the DLUHC had investigated the issue, and the Faith New Deal Grant Funding Agreement with the charity has been terminated.

Zion Projects trustee: Islamic prayers are "the enemy" trying to use the Covid-10 pandemic

In a now-removed video (pictured) on Vimeo, which opened with the Zion Projects logo, Stupple responded to a question about Islamic 'calls to prayer' being broadcast during 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 Covid-19 pandemic, adding that the Islamic system of belief "is truly demonic".

In the same video, Stupple also suggested God used the pandemic to "make the point of the value of life" because he anticipated "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.

Last month Hampshire County Council told the NSS it was conducting an "urgent review" into its relationship with Zion Projects, which it gave £19,750 last year.

The 'Faith New Deal' fund

The government's Faith New Deal pilot scheme was launched in 2021 for faith-based organisations that provide community services to "tackle issues affecting the most vulnerable".

The NSS has criticised the scheme from the outset as discriminatory, because groups with no religious ethos were ineligible for funding. Several of the groups funded by the Faith New Deal require workers and volunteers to be Christians.

It has also raised concerns about groups proselytising to vulnerable people.

NSS: Government 'should never have launched discriminatory fund for faith groups in the first place'

The NSS has replied to Baroness Scott asking if the DLUHC will "review the viability of the 'faith new deal' and 'faith compact' schemes, and any other related projects, and ensure all future funding projects for community services are not based on faith affiliation".

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: "We welcome the government's decision to terminate its 'faith new deal' funding of Zion Projects. It is completely inappropriate for the government to fund an organisation whose chair makes such divisive and hostile comments.

"The whole sorry affair reveals why the government should never have launched a discriminatory fund exclusively for faith groups to deliver public services in the first place.

"The government should cease its 'faith new deal' project and instead award funds to community groups based on the quality of their provision and their commitment to the values of equality and human rights – not which gods, if any, they believe in."

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