Charity Commission refuses charitable status to religious organisation

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The Charity Commission has refused to register The Preston Down Trust as a charity on the grounds that it does not provide public benefit.

The Trust is part of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, a highly conservative, Evangelical Christian movement based in Devon.  Exclusive Brethren organisations usually have limited contact with the outside world.

The Charity Commission’s reasons took into account the nature of Christian religion embraced by the Trust and the means through which this was promoted, including the public access to its services and the potential for its beneficial impact on the wider community.

The Trust has now appealed alongside the Horsforth Gospel Hall Trust, a Leeds-based Exclusive Brethren group which was granted charitable status in 1988.

The result of the appeal may have wider implications for groups registered as charities before the Charities Act 2006 removed the presumption of public benefit in the case of religious charities.

The Commission’s decision follows its letter written two years ago to the Attorney General questioning whether charitable status could be granted to groups whose members “have limited engagement with the public in their daily lives … where there are closed communities or exclusive groups” potentially including “Bruderhof, Amish, Mennonite; Messianic and Chasidic Jews; and possibly some Buddhist organisations.”

The Trust has applied to stay the proceedings in order to pursue further discussions with the Commission.

If you have any questions about this issue, please contact Hugh Welch on 0191 211 7903.