Family First New Zealand Fights to Regain Charity Status
13 September 2018 at 4:36 pm
A New Zealand advocacy group strongly opposed to same-sex marriage is appealing a High Court ruling which upheld a decision to strip its charity status.
Family First New Zealand was stripped of its charity status last year, after the Charities Registration Board said it did “not advance exclusively charitable purposes”.
This decision was recently upheld by the High Court, which concluded Family First’s agenda was not charitable or in the public interest.
The organisation said on its website, it “seeks to promote strong families, [traditional] marriage, and the value of life, based on principles that have benefited New Zealand for generations”.
It has also strongly advocated against abortion and euthanasia.
Justice Simon France said he was not convinced the board erred in its decision.
“Its core purpose of promoting the traditional family unit cannot be shown to be in the public benefit in the charitable sense under the [Charities] Act,” France said.
“Further, it has other purposes, some of which have previously been held to be non-charitable, and the rest of which present a weaker public benefit argument than the core purpose.”
France also said Family First’s advocacy for a law change favouring the traditional family unit “would on its face run counter to human rights law which prohibits discrimination on such bases”.
“Unless able to be shown to be a reasonable limit, the position advocated for would be unlawful, an obstacle to charitable status,” he said.
Family First said it would be appealing the decision.
Founder Bob McCoskrie said: “The importance of freedom of expression and open debate in a civil society are ideals every New Zealander should be defending.”
McCoskrie said Family First’s core purposes were different and wider than what the High Court described, and said its objects were in the public interest in the charitable sense.
“An overly restrictive or narrow view of what is in the public benefit is likely to be of concern to all charities, many of which have a certain emphasis or point of view,” he said.
“If the state argues that Family First should be deregistered because of their views on family and marriage, who will be next?”
In Australia earlier this year, The Salvation Army expressed concerns their charitable status was at risk due to the legalisation of same-sex marriage – and used the case of Family First New Zealand, as an example.
In it’s submission to the government’s Religious Freedom Review it said: “The New Zealand Charities Registration Board’s decision was based on the common law of charities and as such, it is reasonable to anticipate that a similar decision could be reached with regard to Australian charities.”