Peter Bone MP has just succeeded in his bid to introduce a bill to amend the Charities Act 2011. If this amendment is passed, a religious organisation will automatically be given charitable status, regardless of whether it actually performs any real service to society. Being religious, and preaching one’s beliefs, will be regarded as beneficial to society.
I know many religious people who are kind and compassionate, and who give generously of their time and money, but I also know judgemental religious people and organisations who are the absolute opposite of what any sane person would call charitable.
The cultish Plymouth Brethren’s failure to be recognised as a charity is what kicked off this retrograde amendment. Apparently, some of their number helped out locally during recent flooding. So did people of other, and of no, religion. Such an act, though laudable in itself, does not make its participants a charity.
It’s not that I think religious organisations cannot also be charities. It’s that, like everybody else, they should have to demonstrate real charity. It should not be a given that religion is good for society. I certainly don’t regard it so. In his speech when introducing his bill, Bone complained of a “creeping secularism”, as if it was a bad thing. Yet again, somebody religious fails to realise that secularism offers protection to all religions against the prominence of one, as well as protecting the non-religious.
I don’t withhold donations from genuine charities just because they happen to be religious. I will if this amendment is passed, as I won’t be able to tell that they really are charitable.