Claims UK religious charities are fracturing society prompts Australian discussion
18 March 2019 at 4:05 pm
A UK report calling into question religious charities that promote beliefs that don’t align with British values and opinion, has sparked discussion among Australian charity experts over the role and position of such organisations.
The report, due to be released on Monday by the National Secular Society, found that over 12,000 British charities exist with the sole purpose of promoting religion.
It claimed some were using their charity status to push controversial views, such as Christian ministries that promoted “gay conversion therapy”.
As reported in the Guardian, the society said that such activities could negatively impact British society, and called on the UK Charities Commission to re-think whether such organisations should qualify for charitable status.
In an Australian context, CEO of Community Council Australia David Crosbie, told Pro Bono News, there was no changing the fact that the “promotion of religion” was seen as a charitable purpose.
“And therefore is a public benefit in Australia – whether we agree with the religion and what it is promoting or not,” Crosbie said.
But he said because of the complex nature of the issue, dilemmas were raised.
“Allowing the promotion of religion as a charitable purpose does create a few dilemmas around what is religion, what is promoting religion, and what happens if the religion promotes activities that are illegal or considered highly inappropriate within Australia,” he said.
“I know the ACNC has had some interesting cases where people claimed to be promoting religion, but it appeared more like they were promoting money raising for their family.”
Matt Darvas, campaign manager of Micah, told Pro Bono News that as a Christian organisation, its purpose, derived from a Bible verse, was to protect the world’s vulnerable, poor and oppressed.
“Micah Australia derives its vision and mission from the bible verse, Micah Chapter 6.8 which says, what does the Lord require of you but to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God,” Darvas said.
“I don’t think any Australian minds when Christians are heading those words and speaking up for the world’s most poor, vulnerable and oppressed.”
He said church, and faith-based groups were at their best when working on and speaking on issues that helped other people, and didn’t just promote their own agenda.
“It shouldn’t be about forcing their views on others, and trying to proselytize people to their faith in the public square necessarily but acting and speaking out for those that the Bible calls us to,” he said.
Crosbie added that what he would really like to see, was more consistent rules about the transparency of religious organisations and how they earn and distribute their money.
Darvas said he wasn’t able to comment on financial matters, as Micah represented a number of other Christian humanitarian organisations and didn’t want to speak for them.