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By Peter Hoskin
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By
way of an addendum to Peter Bone’s
post
earlier,
it’s worth pointing out that Robert Halfon has organised a letter to the Daily
Telegraph today calling for an investigation into the Charity Commission’s
treatment of a church group in Devon. It has been signed by 53 MPs, including
45 Conservatives. I’ve pasted the text, as well as the list of Tory
signatories, below.

“SIR – The 1601 Charitable Uses Act
passed by Elizabeth I allowed for four kinds of charity: relief of poverty;
advancement of education; advancement of religion; and "other purposes
beneficial to the community". This definition worked for over 400 years,
until the Charities Act 2006. The 2006 Act replaced the old law with a
"public benefit" test. The Government should review this test,
because it is vague and has led to severe difficulties.

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
Christian Brethren were persecuted by the Nazis during the Second World War.
This makes it all the more important for Britain – which has a proud tradition
of religious tolerance – not to single out the Brethren.

We urge the new Chairman of the
Charity Commission to stop this tribunal, and to review this unjust decision.
If the 2006 Charities Act has now become a quagmire, trapping faith
communities, then clearly it needs a major overhaul.”

  • Robert Halfon MP
  • Priti Patel MP
  • Alun Cairns MP
  • Charlie Elphicke MP
  • Fiona Bruce MP
  • Graham Brady MP
  • Richard Harrington MP
  • Paul Maynard MP
  • John Glen MP
  • David Burrowes MP
  • Daniel Kawczynski MP
  • Andrew Bridgen MP
  • Andrew Percy MP
  • Andrew Rosindell MP
  • Brian Binley MP
  • Chris Heaton-Harris MP
  • Chris Skidmore MP
  • David Amess MP
  • David Nuttall MP
  • David Ruffley MP
  • Dominic Raab MP
  • Edward Leigh MP
  • Guto Bubb MP
  • Jack Le Presti MP
  • Jackie Doyle-Price MP
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg MP
  • James Morris MP
  • Karl McCartney MP
  • Mark Spencer MP
  • Martin Vickers MP
  • Nadhim Zahawi MP
  • Neil Carmichael MP
  • Nick De Bois MP
  • Nigel Mills MP
  • Peter Aldous MP
  • Philip Hollobone MP
  • Richard Bacon MP
  • Robert Buckland MP
  • Roger Gale MP
  • Dr Sarah Wollaston MP
  • Stephen McPartland MP
  • Stephen Metcalfe MP
  • Steve Baker MP
  • Steve Barclay MP
  • Stewart Jackson MP

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