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Bill to give religious institutions presumptive charitable status presented to Parliament: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2013 January 24, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Politics.
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A Conservative MP has put forward a bill in Parliament seeking to expand religious freedom in Britain.

On 19 Dec 2012 Peter Bone, the member for Wellingborough, presented a Ten Minute Rule Motion in the House of Commons seeking leave to bring a bill to amend the Charities Act 2011 to “treat all religious institutions as charities”.

Writing on the Conservative Home website, Mr. Bone said the bill would clarify the law to give religious institutions a presumptive status as institutions providing a “public benefit”, therefore eligible for charitable status. The Charities Act 2006 introduced the requirement that all charities, including those advancing religion, education and the relief of poverty, should demonstrate public benefit.

The National Council for Voluntary Organizations, however, said it opposed Mr. Bone’s motion. It “risks downgrading religious charities in the public mind,” Elizabeth Chamberlain of the NCVO said. “Public benefit is what makes a charity a charity, and most are keen to demonstrate the value of their work.”

Mr. Bone said his motion would “not mean an automatic renewal of charitable status, but an acknowledgement of the role religious institutions play in our society.”

“The liberal, secular elite of the Charity Commission are on a very dangerous path of restricting religious freedom,” wrote the Conservative backbencher. “If this government truly believes in religious freedoms then respecting the advancement of religion as a public benefit should be acknowledged, as before, and the Charities Act 2011 amended.”

Mr. Bone cited the case of Preston Down Trust, a Plymouth Brethren congregation, as an example of the Charity Commission’s restricting religious freedom, after it declined to give the congregation charitable status.  On 18 Dec he delivered a letter signed by 113 MPs to 10 Downing Street to “express their deep concern at the Charity Commission’s current posture on registering religious institutions as charities.”

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