MP seeks to reestablish 'public benefit' of churches

A Bill was presented before Parliament last week seeking to reestablish the presumption that religious institutions provide a public benefit.

The Bill was introduced by Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, who warned that the work of religious institutions like The Salvation Army and the Church of England could be put at risk if they lose their charitable status.

Mr Bone challenged the recent position of the Charity Commission on a Plymouth Brethren congregation which was refused charitable status.

In a letter to the congregation explaining its decision, the Charity Commission said that there was no presumption that religion was for public benefit.

There are concerns that other religious institutions will now also be refused charitable status.

"Does this mean that the Plymouth Brethren are but the first to feel the wrath of the secular-biased Charity Commission?" said Mr Bone.

"Is Judaism, the Catholic Church or indeed the Church of England itself going to come under pressure by the Commission to prove their public benefit?"

Mr Bone said he feared that unless the presumption for public benefit were reinstated, the consequences would be "detrimental not only to the charitable sector but to the very fabric of our society".