Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Faith, Hope & Charity

The law regarding charities is antique, dating as it does to the 17th Century. As such it has been significantly re-interpreted by the courts and a broad consensus now exists as to its provenance and provisions. One of the most important elements of a charity, apart of course from being non-profitable is that it cannot be a political organisation. This is why Amnesty International has never attained charitable status for its activities are explicitly political.

It has thus remained a matter of significant bafflement as to the shenanigans concerning Britain's two most prominent charities, the RSPCA and the NSPCC. The RSPCA has, effectively, ceased to be anything other than a pressure group designed to alter the law regarding animals. This has been seen most prominently in its ampaign to ban hunting. The attempt to ban hunting is, and cannot ever be anything but, a political campaign. For an organisation to retain its charitable status, it cannot become openly involved in politics. The RSPCA is therefore in breach of its duties and must, according to the law, lose its charitable status.

The NSPCC, while perhaps a less obviously open and shut case, is also vigorously engaged in political campaigning - most notably over its attempts to criminalise smacking. I'm open to debate on this point, but how a campaign to alter the criminal law can be anything other than a political one leaves me unconvinced.

Any bets as to whether this is addressed in the forthcoming re-appraisal of the Charities Act? Or will the focus still be Public Schools? Answers on a postcard please.

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