Title: The Deregistration Game (Round II)? Credit: Craig Young Comment Thursday 14th April 2016 - 9:06am1460581560 Article: 18165 Rights
It looks as if the winding and circuitous debate about the charitable status of anti-LGBT/ New Zealand Christian Right pressure group Family First is still not yet over. The Charities Board wasn't satisfied with the High Court decision that quashed its regulatory decision to deprive the pressure group's charitable status under the Charities Act 2004 after it had opposed marriage equality. Family First is arguing that the new development sends a chilling message to other organisations that advocated for causes, beliefs and advocacy quite apart from anti-gay, anti-abortion and religious social conservative causes. Predictably, McCoskrie is crying victimisation once more, arguing that the "political elite' is trying to silence the pressure group through truncating its charitable status for 'ideological' reasons and that Family First has a resilient and robust record of good governance according to audits. I don't doubt the latter at all, given that McCoskrie has tertiary qualifications in taxation and accountancy, so it is logical that whatever one might think of its authoritarian sectarian religious ideology, good fiscal management is not a problem with that organisation. What's all this rhetoric about 'political elites,' though? Well, Family First is trying to play the populist, anti-urban, anti-intellectual, anti-professional, anti-expertise card once again. Too bad if you've worked continuously through self-discipline and the denial of self-gratification to try to attain professional expertise, practical skills and qualifications, Family First thinks that you belong to an urban, liberal metropolitan "elite' as opposed to rural or provincial small business people and farmers who go to fundamentalist churches and have tertiary diplomas at best in narrow fields of endeavour. It's almost as if it doubts the probity and competence of the pseudo-professional subcultural luminaries like the American College of Pediatricians (a US Christian Right breakaway group from the mainstream American Academy of Pediatrics) that it grinds out when attacking transgender rights in the current context. Family First wails that its hard done-by 'grassroots' supporters will have to fork over the money if the above event happens. Yeah, right. There's still the little matter of the World Congress of Families, a multinational coalition of international religious social conservative pressure groups which funded their "Forum on the Family" one year. To be sure, that was the only recorded time that the pressure group crossed over from acting as a conduit for US Christian Right propaganda, tactics and strategy to financial dependency for some of its operations. New Zealand's economy is still sluggish at best, and donors may balk at the continuing financing of Family First's futile political gambits. It also complains that it is being singled out, given that a variety of other charitable organisations still undertake political advocacy, such as commissioning research reports, making parliamentary and local government submissions, participating in protest marches, gathering petition signatures and other activities, and lists a number of other such "political advocacy" organisations that might be 'under threat', including children's advocacy, animal rights, feminist, humanist, Catholic, Muslim and LGBT organisations. It notes disapprovingly that organisations that 'opposed Family First" over banning parental corporal punishment of children and marriage equality still receive funding. There should be a test of proportionality involved here, one would think. What proportion of charitable activity is spent on practical research related to an organisation's core objectives, making representations on behalf of organisational charitable goals, and what proportion is spent on individual assistance to specific cases and service provision? Or, should there be a seperate legislative regime for lobby groups that might fit Family First better? Quite frankly, subtle threat-mongering is not going to impress people much either- LGBT youth organisations primarily design resources and act as social networks to improve LGBT youth mental health and encourage them to stay in school, and gain professional qualifications, skills and expertise, and lobbying central government for legislative objectives plays a minimal role in its overall activity. I am not particularly sympathetic to Family First's dreary negative anti-gay, anti-transgender, anti-abortion and anti-feminist authoritarian religious social conservative political agenda, but the Charities Board may need to relinquish this apparent quest against the pressure group. Some of its activities do fall under the definition of charitable activity, but some clearly do not. Again,though, a separate and independent legislative regime for lobby groups might resolve this matter. And then we should set up our own national LGBTI lobby group under the same new lobby group legislative regime to counter them. Oddly enough, I could find no record of verification of this alleged letter about Family First's deregistration on the Charities Board's own website, or on the general purpose news release aggregator website Scoop. Google's news search engine revealed that only Newstalk ZB had stated Family First's alleged threatened deregistration as a confirmed fact (April 7, 2016: 11.00 am). Family First then reproduced what seemed to be an excerpt from a letter on its website, alleged from Charitable Services at the Department of Internal Affairs: "We do not consider that Family First continues to qualify for registration as it has an independent purpose to 'promote and protect the traditional family,' and this is not charitable." Charities Services then provided an explanation of its adjusted guidelines about what it considered to be core attributes of legitimate charitable organisations after two previous court cases also quashed its deregistration of the National Council of Women and Greenpeace. It argues that the problem is not that given charities take particular political advocacy positions and lobby for specific legislative changes as a result of those positions. However, charities are still required to demonstrate that their activities benefit the general public, or a substantial segment thereof. However, such activity must be 'ancillary" or subsidiary to the main objectives of that organisation, and must not advance specific interests 'to the exclusion of others', such as vulnerable children, the LGBT communities and other groups that are subjected to continued lobbying for their discriminatory social exclusion by certain pressure groups. Of course, Family First views its activities as defensive of a 'general public', but one that excludes its version of 'special interest' groups, and the crux of forthcoming renewed legal activity will probably centre on whether or not Family First fits the new definitions of 'charitable purpose' and 'public interest' that the Charities Registration Board and Charities Services now mandate. Or, indeed, whether the courts find that Charities Services and the Charities Registration Board's amended interpretation of these two contentious clauses does not itself confer undue and discriminatory burdens on Family First and related pressure groups. Only time, and litigation, will tell. Recommended: "Charities Board still gunning for Family First" Family First: 07.04.2016:https://www. charities-board -still-gunning-for-family- first/ "Charities that should be concerned about Family First's possible deregistration" Family First: 07.04.2016:https://www. charities-that-should-be- concerned-about-family-firsts- possible-deregistration/ "Tolerance- but only if we agree with you" Family First: 07.04.2016:https://www. tolerance-but- only-if-we-agree-with-you/ "Family First vows to fight move to deregister it as a charity" Newstalk ZB: 07.04.2016:http://www. tional/family-first-vows-to- fight-move-to-de-register-it- as-charity/ Charities Services New Zealand (Department of Internal Affairs): Charities Services New Zealand: "Public Benefit":https://www. registration/charitable- purpose/public-benefit-test- guidance-for-charities/ Craig Young - 14th April 2016    
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