Strip Buckfast Abbey of charity status over alcoholic drink 'linked to crime', demand secularists

Buckfast Tonic Wine, the controversial alcoholic drink produced at Buckfast Abbey in Devon.Wikimedia Commons

Monks at Buckfast Abbey in Devon have been targeted by secularists calling for the Abbey to be stripped of its charitable status because the monks make an alcoholic drink that has been linked to violent crime in Scotland.

Buckfast Tonic Wine, known commonly as 'Buckie' in Scotland, contains caffeine as well as 15 per cent alcohol and has been subject to growing controversy over its apparent links to criminal incidents.

Now the National Secular Society (NSS) has hit out at the Buckfast Abbey Trust for not paying tax on its income because of its charitable status, which the society claims is an 'abuse of the charitable system'.

The NSS has called on the Charity Commission to remove the Abbey trust's charitable status 'unless they change their activities'.

Its vice president Alistair McBay said: 'The monks should be setting an example as a religious organisation but the opposite is happening'.

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The Abbey has made about £88m since 2004 from royalties made on each bottle of Buckfast sold, according to the Charity Commission.

The trust justifies its existence as a charity in its annual report, stating that its aim is the 'advancement of the Roman Catholic religion'.

Last year, a Scottish sheriff said that there was a 'very definite association between Buckfast and violence'.

In 2007, the Scottish Prison Service found that 43.4 per cent of inmates had consumed Buckfast before their last offence, despite it accounting for less than one per cent of total alcohol sales nationally.

The Charity Commission said it took 'all complaints about registered charities seriously' and would 'assess the information about the Buckfast Abbey Trust to determine if there is a regulatory role for the Commission'.

Buckfast Abbey this morning did not return calls from Christian Today.

In its letter to the Charity Commission, the NSS described the Abbey as 'an organisation set up to advance religion operates as a religious community whose small number of members and the trustees derive significant personal benefit from the lavish property they reside in, financed by their trading activities, which are extensively interwoven with the operation of a commercial company'.

It concluded: 'To be granted charitable status is a secular reward; where a grateful public grants favourable tax treatment to an organisation due to the good works carried out for the benefit of all. Where harm outweighs the good or where the good is simply not good enough, public confidence in supporting charities risks being undermined. We therefore request that the Commission investigates the appropriateness of Buckfast Abbey Trust maintaining its charitable status.'

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