Stuff co.nz 16 May 2017
Conservative Christian lobby group Family First is expected to lose its charitable status, according to NZME.
The group was told by the Charities Registration Board in 2013 that its status was questionable.
Family First, in a statement, said the organisation was told by media that the board still wanted to deregister the lobby group.
“Family First has contacted the Charities Board who would neither confirm nor deny this information,” the statement said.
It is still listed as a charity on the national register.
Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said the organisation’s traditional view of marriage “as one man and one woman” was one of the reasons for the earlier attempts at deregistration.
“It should be disturbing to all [New Zealanders] that a charity that researches, educates and speaks up on issues which are deemed incorrect by the political elite is in danger of being penalised.
“An easy way for opponents of a point of view is for them to use the Charities Board to muzzle them.
“If the media’s sources are correct, this latest development will have a chilling effect for many charitable groups … who advocate for causes, beliefs, and on behalf of their supporters, and often have to engage in political activity, not always through choice but through necessity.”
McCoskrie said there were some people who opposed Family First and believed the group should be censored.
“The Charities Board may hope that Family First will fold its tent and quietly retreat. We won’t be. We’ll fight this all the way.
“But once again, supporters of Family First will have to dig deep to legally defend the existence of an organisation that benefits them. And taxpayers will have to underwrite the Charities Board’s repeated attempts to muzzle us.”
Family First was instructing its legal team to “vigorously fight any attempts to deregister,” the statement said.
Comment has been sought from the Charities Services.
Exclusive: Family First to lose charitable status
NZ Herald 16 May 2017
Family First is set to lose its charitable status, the Herald has exclusively learned.
The group was first notified by the Charities Registration Board in 2013 that its charitable status was in danger.
That was because the group advocated a controversial point of view, that was seen as lobbying for a political purpose.
The decision was challenged in court, and in 2015 the High Court ordered the Board to reconsider its decision.
The High Court decision did not rule on whether or not Family First was a charity.
The Herald understands that decision has now been reconsidered, and that the formal notification process is underway to tell Family First it is being deregistered as a charity.
Deregistration means that they cannot claim tax exemptions for their donations, and usually means the Inland Revenue Department will no longer allow donors to claim tax rebates for donating money to them.
A Department of Internal Affairs spokesperson said the department couldn’t confirm or deny the deregistration before speaking with Family First.
However, in a statement, the spokesperson said Family First would remain a registered charity while any court action was underway.
“We can’t make any comment while this process is underway but a final decision will be made by the independent Charities Registration Board.
“The Board’s reasons for its final decision will be publically available.”
Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said they’d be going straight to their legal team and instructing them to take the matter back to court.
“It may go as high as Supreme Court, because we’re not going to lie down on this one.
“It should be disturbing to all New Zealanders that a charity that researches and speaks up on an issue, which is deemed incorrect by the political elite, is in danger of being penalised.
“I’m sure there’ll be some people celebrating the fact that Family First is going to be deregistered.
“My warning to them is that one day a Government that disagrees with their view may come gunning for them.”
McCoskrie said lobbying was part of their work, and didn’t stop them from also being a charity.
“We’re charitable because we don’t make a profit. We rely purely on donations.
“The problem is the Charities Board is not being consistent, because if it was, there’d be a whole lot of other groups that should be panicking.”
McCoskrie said they were fighting the decision on principle, as being deregistered as a charity wouldn’t stop their work.
He said people who donated wouldn’t stop donating purely because the tax rebate was cancelled.
The 2015 High Court Family First judgment is online here.
Greenpeace has previously fought through the courts to remain a registered charity.
The Supreme Court decided in 2014 that they were allowed charitable status, after the organisation was previously dismissed for being too political and staging protests that were illegal.
Family First set to lose tax-free status
Radio NZ News 16 May 2017
Family First is expected to be stripped of its tax-free charitable status, with its director vowing to fight any such decision “right to the top”.
The move would echo a preliminary ruling by the Department of Internal Affairs last year and the Charities Board’s initial decision in 2013.
The independent board has been reassessing the Christian lobby group’s eligibility after being directed to do so by the High Court in 2015.
RNZ understands Family First is soon to be notified that the board still intends to de-register it.
It would have another opportunity to respond before the final decision.
Charities Services has previously argued the lobby group was primarily “political” and did not advance religion or education, nor promote a benefit to all New Zealanders.
Family First would fight decision ‘on principle’
Family First’s director Bob McCoskrie said he would take the matter back to court and “fight this right to the top”.
“We’ll go to the Supreme Court ultimately if we have to, because we’re fighting it on principle,” he said.
“I think it’s dangerous when the government determines what people can say publicly and go after some groups and not others.”
The former radio talk-back host said the response was “inconsistent” and created a dangerous precedent.
“There’ll be some people celebrating who oppose Family First and believe we should be censored, but our warning is – just watch out.
“One day there might be a government who disagrees with their view and will come gunning for them.”
Mr McCoskrie said he believed Charities Services had targeted Family First due to the group’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
“They’ve told us our purpose to promote and protect the traditional family is not charitable. I would just put that before New Zealanders… does that mean we should be effectively muzzled?”
A spokesperson for the Department of Internal Affairs said it could not comment while Family First’s status was being reconsidered.
Family First was set up in 2006 to be “a voice of the family” with an emphasis on Judeo-Christian values.
It was a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and anti-smacking legislation, and has more recently led campaigns against transgender bathrooms and pornography.
The non-profit organisation does not receive any taxpayer funding. In the last financial year, about $342,000 came into its coffers, mostly from donations and fund-raising.
The Charities Board first decided to de-register Family First in 2013, but put that on hold after the group appealed to the High Court.
In June 2015, the High Court directed the board to reconsider its decision, taking into account a Supreme Court ruling that recognised Greenpeace’s political advocacy as a charitable act.
Organisations with charitable status do not pay income tax and can apply for various grants; their donors are also eligible for tax rebates.
Family First to challenge courts if charitable status is revoked
NewsTalk ZB 17 May 2017
Conservative group Family First is promising to challenge through the courts any decision to revoke its charitable status.
NZME understands the the Charities Registration Board is preparing to notify the organisation that it’s being de-registered as a charity.
The board has previously notified the group its charitable status was in danger in 2013, but the High Court ordered the board to reconsider its decision in 2015.
Family First executive director Bob McCoskrie said if NZME’s reports are true, Family First will head back to the courts.
“I’m sure there’ll be some people celebrating the fact that Family First is going to be de-registered. My warning to them is that one day a Government who disagrees with any of you may come gunning for them.”
McCoskrie said the organisation will continue regardless of its charity status.