Charity Commission is picking on Brethren, say MPs
Wed, 19 Dec 2012
More than 50 MPs say a Plymouth Brethren group is being “singled out” for unfair treatment by the Charity Commission in a long running case about charitable status.
The Commission has refused to register the group because its Holy Communion services are for members only.
The Christian Institute is intervening in the case in a bid to protect religious liberty for all churches.
Now, in a letter to a national newspaper, MPs from across the political parties say other small religious groups such as the Druid Network “have had no problem in obtaining charitable status”.
“Why have the Christian Brethren been singled out in this way?”, they ask.
The MPs, from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and other parties, also raise questions about the 2006 Charities Act.
The Act includes a “public benefit” test for charities – which the MPs say should be reviewed by the Government as it is “vague and has led to severe difficulties”.
In the letter to The Daily Telegraph they write: “Currently, the 2006 Act is being used by officials in the Charity Commission to deny charitable status to a small Christian church hall.
“This hall is a community venue in Devon, used for worship by a Brethren congregation.
“Under the 2006 Act, the commission has forced the Brethren congregation to appeal their case at a formal tribunal, costing them hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees.
“Many other small religious groups – including the Druid Network, the World Zoroastrian Organisation, and the Lambeth Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses – have had no problem in obtaining charitable status.
“Why have the Christian Brethren been singled out in this way?
“There should be an urgent review into how this decision was made and whether there was a level playing field.”
The MPs urge the Chairman of the Charity Commission – William Shawcross – to “stop this tribunal, and to review this unjust decision”.
They conclude: “If the 2006 Charities Act has now become a quagmire, trapping faith communities, then clearly it needs a major overhaul.”