UK: Brethren church refused charitable status

A group of Exclusive Brethren churches in the UK have been refused charitable status.  From here:

A Brethren church has been denied charitable status, in a move which  some claim could lead other Christian groups into difficulties….

This is the first time that charitable status has been refused to a religious group, since changes were made, requiring applicants to demonstrate the ‘public benefit’ of their work.

The introduction of the Charities Act 2006, means that the advancement of religion alone is not enough to make an organisation eligible for charitable status.

Because of the relatively closed and exclusive nature of the Brethren churches, it may be difficult to demonstrate this. …

Preston Downs is not alone in the struggle, it’s appeal has been lodged alongside one by the trustees of the Horsforth Gospel Hall Trust, a Leeds-based Brethren group that was granted charitable status in 1988.

The Commission spokeswoman explained: … “The 2006 Act removed the presumption of public benefit from certain classes of charity including religious charities.

All of this arises from a piece of spite by the then government.  The charities legislation was amended, and a new chairperson installed at the Charities Commission.  The object was nothing to do with benefiting the public, but as a means to attack the public schools, such as Eton and Harrow, which are all charities.  It is expensive to educate your children privately; the idea was to make it even more expensive by levying tax on them, thereby forcing many to close and restricting access only to the very wealthy, or, at the very least, subjecting them to endless harassment under pretext of “investigation”.  The law was made very complex, which of course placed power in the hands of the Charities Commission to allow or withhold at a whim.   Instead of some simple categories of activity, a body disfavoured by the establishment might find itself obliged to “prove” that it did things that the establishment agreed with.

It was always clear to me that this tool would be used, sooner or later, against the churches.  It looks as if some minor bureaucrat has initiated the purge.  Forcing these tiny churches to pay 20% tax on everything they collect would force them to cease to exist.  The churches could not own their own buildings; would be forced to disincorporate, to find ways and loopholes simply to exist.  Just imagine the “inspections” by tax officials, to “make sure the correct amount of tax is being paid”, etc!  Just imagine the council officials, “questioning” the use of the building, whether it conforms to planning laws since it can’t be a church, yet worship is going on!

We’re squarely in religious persecution territory here.  Some may feel this is exaggerated language.  No-one is being killed.

But I would suggest that anyone so inclined read into descriptions of what it was like to be a Christian in the old USSR.  The creation of an environment deliberately designed to harass believers at every turn is exactly what Stalin did.  If that works, by itself, you don’t need to apply the harsher methods of arrests, beatings and executions.

Every persecutor, from Julian the Apostate down, has adopted this method.  It’s much harder to battle against, and it allows the persecutor to claim that no persecution is going on.  This in turn makes it harder for confessors to rally against the attack.  The seeming vagueness is itself a designed technique for persecution.

In this case matters will probably work out.  There is no longer a Labour government in power, determined to attack those it hates by any means possible.  The current government has no views on this; the Charities Commission has gone very quiet since the fall of the Labour government; and no-one has any special interest in these particular churches.  There will be an “appeal” — no doubt this will cost the churches in lawyers’ fees — and a ruling permitting, in this case, the churches to register will be given.

But the principle has been set; that churches may be slapped with a tax of 20%, depending on the favour of officials.  Such a situation has not prevailed in Britain since the middle of the 19th century, when the laws creating religious discrimination were abolished.

It is an evil day.  Shame on Britain, for allowing this.

3 Responses to “UK: Brethren church refused charitable status”


  1. British Government to take 20% of church collections in tax at Roger Pearse

    […] Thoughts on Antiquity, Patristics, putting things online, freedom of speech, information access, and more « UK: Brethren church refused charitable status […]

  2. anthony alcock

    If the Charities Commission is a body independent of the government, then it cannot be the government that is taking this money away. It is the Inland Revenue, which also operates independently of the government acting in accordance with the decision of the CC. The ‘Church’ of Scientology is in a similar position, as far as I can tell. The UK designated it as a business some time ago, so it pays taxes, except for VAT. Germany has still not, as far as I know, decided about the religious status of the CoS.

  3. Roger Pearse

    The Charities Commission is a quango, tho; its head is appointed by the government and its remit is decided by the government. And the government gets the money. So …



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