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Cancel charity registration requirement for churches and other places of worship

Comment 1st July 2010

Recent changes to Charity Commission regulations require, eventually, even small local churches to be registered individually as charities. The same rules apply to mosques, synagogues, temples and other worship groups.

One effect of this legislation is that those responsible for the leadership of a church- not just the minister- will individually be required to register as trustees, and be subject to the same rules applicable to any other charity. They will be required to disclose their full name and address details and other previously personal information which, with few exceptions, will be available on a publicly-accessible register.

I am a member of a Methodist Circuit Meeting, and have already seen the detrimental effect this new legislation is having.  Members of circuit meeting in good standing for many years are now pulling out of their role. Understandably, many of them resent having their privacy compromised in this way and have not been prepared to sign up as trustees- which carries certain legal responsibilities including, ultimately, liability for any financial disasters that may affect the church.

This legislation does little to promote community cohesion and the growth of the third sector. Indeed, it distinctly impedes it. Few church members were aware it was being introduced, and even less see the need for it, though there have been vague claims that it helps to prevent 'extremist' religious groups abusing their status.

A church is not a charity in the same way as any other organisation providing for a specific cause.  It may subscribe to groups that themselves are charities, but what does it add to safeguarding everybody's interests by making church leadership even more bureaucratic.

This is an un-necessary measure, and I call upon the government to repeal it.

Why does this matter?

Because the legislation as it stands will hinder growth of the excellent community work many churches are already involved in.  It will dissuade many excellent and able leaders from coming forward to serve in their local churches. It could even be said to be an insult to freedom of religion.

The safeguards and procedures often established already in many churches, particularly the major denominations, are more than adequate to prevent abuses.  The charity commission's measures are overly burdensome and should be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

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