Or they might as well be, if their members have to pay 33% tax on every penny they donate, and the church then has to hand over 20% of all donations to the state.
From the Daily Mail:
MPs are demanding an inquiry into the Charity Commission after the watchdog banned a Christian group from charitable status on the grounds that religion is not always for ‘public benefit’.
More than 50 MPs from all the main parties have signed a Commons motion calling on the charity regulator to think again, amid fears that hundreds of religious groups could be stripped of their tax-exempt status, threatening their very existence.
They accuse the Charity Commission of ‘politically correct bias’ against faith groups after it ruled that the Preston Down Trust of the Plymouth Brethren Church – which has 16,000 members across Britain – is not entitled to charitable status because it does not do enough good works in the community.
MPs say the ruling is ‘outrageous’ because it ignored the way the group, which has enjoyed charitable status for 50 years, runs soup kitchens for the poor and hospital visits for the sick.
Tory MP Robert Halfon said: ‘There is something rotten in the Charity Commission. I cannot understand why the Brethren, good people who do so much in their communities, have been singled out.
‘I believe an inquiry is needed into the role of the Charity Commission, to consider how it came to make the decision. What has happened is unjust and is creating fear in many churches across the country.’
In a ruling that sent shockwaves through even the established church, the Charity Commission ruled that its decision ‘makes it clear that there was no presumption that religion generally, or at any more specific level, is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England’.
It’s great news! Yes, the establishment has rediscovered the Test Act and the Act of Uniformity!!!!
I was so missing the days when the state decided which religions were “authorised” and “not authorised”. We got rid of that around 1850. Now, at last, once again we can sneer at people as “dissenters” and subject them to discriminatory taxes and legal penalties.
And that should show these dissenters which way their bread is buttered. After all, if they aren’t a charity, they will have to pay 20% corporation tax on all donations. David Cameron will take 20% of every church collection. And …. those donations won’t be eligible for gift aid either. So church members will have to pay 33% tax on every penny they donate, and then the church will have to pay 20% of whatever pennies they receive. That’s teach them not to conform, the vile dissenting creeps! Hang them! Burn them!
More seriously, this is evil news. It has been a long, long time since we have had state servants operating a system of “approved” and “unapproved” churches, with legal penalties and discrimination against the latter. Abolishing all that sort of thing in the mid-19th century allowed half of England back into public life.
This is, of course, a political case. The Charities Commission — whoever that is — made their decision based on political grounds. The political left has a deep hatred for Christianity. The Exclusive Brethren look like a small, powerless group, unlikely to have friends at London dinner parties. No doubt the inquisitors decided that they looked like suitably helpless victims.
The Charities Commission used to be an innocuous group. But there is very little practical difference between banning an organisation which relies on donations, and levying on it the brutal taxation to which small businesses in Britain (but not big ones like Vodaphone, Google, Starbucks, and so on) are subjected. Indeed that is rather the point; to persecute while disclaiming the name, to harass while claiming to be impartial.
I am not a member of the Brethren, about whom I know little. But I do know that they are a small and harmless group who cause no-one any trouble and who have been quietly doing their own thing for decades. Only a complete shit would decide to attack them.
Evil days indeed, these.
UPDATE: The New American also reports on this.
Two members of Parliament have defended the Brethren. The first is Charlie Elphicke, who called the attack on the church “anti-religion,” LifeSiteNews reported. Elphicke, a member of the committee that uncovered the letter from the commission, told members of the Brethren that the charity bureaucrats “are committed to the suppression of religion and you are the little guys being picked on to start off a whole series of other churches who will follow you there.”
Another member of parliament, conservative Bernard Jenkin, explained a larger purpose in the government’s attack on the Brethren, said LifeSite:
“The Commission seems to be using the group as a test case to establish the meaning of the public benefit requirement in charity law,” he said.
“Picking a relatively vulnerable organisation and putting you through huge time and expense is a rotten way to decide what charity law means,” Jenkin said.
There is a useful article at the Third Sector site here.