Concern as Government Proposes 'Public Benefit' Test for Christian Charities

The Lawyers' Christian Fellowship is urging churches and Christian organisations to register their concern over the latest Government attempt to review the "public benefit" of Christian charities.

Published 12 June 2007
The Lawyers' Christian Fellowship is urging churches and Christian organisations to register their concern over the latest Government attempt to review the "public benefit" of Christian charities.

As part of a wide-sweeping upgrade of charity registration and management of charities by the Charity Commissioners, the Commission published a consultation document looking at whether charities which did not appear to meet a "public benefit test" should lose their rights to Registered Charity status, including tax advantages through Gift Aid.

The LCF has submitted an online response on behalf of churches and Christian charities.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, barrister and public policy officer at LCF said: "The Charities Act 2006 removed the legal presumption that charities established for the advancement of religion have purposes that are for the public benefit.

"'Public benefit' is not defined in the Charities Act 2006 and it has specifically been left to the Charity Commission to consult on the matter. Christian charities will now have to prove their 'public benefit' to the Charity Commission.

"It is of concern that the Charity Commission has said it will interpret 'public benefit' in the light of 'modern conditions'. What this could mean for Christian charities that exist for evangelism or which promote traditional Christian teaching on family and life issues is unknown."

The Government proposal is that every charity will have to prove its "public benefit" on an annual basis. Those who fail to persuade Civil Servants could be de-registered and lose out on taxable advantages, such as claiming tax back on donations given via Gift Aid.

Although the Consultation period ended on June 6, the LCF is encouraging church leaders and trustees of Christian organisations to write to the Charity Commission to demonstrate to depth of concern amongst Christian charities.

The LCF online response can be found at: www.christianconcernforournation.co.uk/Latest/docs/Charities.pdf

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