The Australian government has accepted a recommendation from the Ruddock review into religious freedom to amend their Charities Act to ensure that groups who say marriage is between a man and a woman are not stripped of their charitable status.
This is in stark contrast to what is happening in New Zealand where the Charities Board is attempting to deregister Family First in part because of our views on marriage.
The High Court recently upheld the Charities Board’s decision, stating that Family First’s “…core purpose of promoting the traditional family unit cannot be shown to be in the public benefit in the charitable sense under the Act.” That decision is now being appealed to the Court of Appeal.
The Ruddock Review just released says: “The Commonwealth should amend section 11 of the Charities Act 2013 to clarify that advocacy of a ‘traditional’ view of marriage would not, of itself, amount to a ‘disqualifying purpose’. In response, the Government said:
“Mere advocacy of a position contrary to Australian Government policy (even if a policy is reflected in specific legislative provisions) does not meet the threshold of a disqualifying purpose. Indeed, advocating a change to law or policy in furtherance of another charitable purpose may itself be a charitable purpose. For the avoidance of all doubt, the Australian Government will introduce legislative amendments to section 11 of the Charities Act to clarify that engaging in, or promoting, activities that support marriage as previously defined in the Marriage Act 1961 will not, of itself, amount to a ‘disqualifying purpose’ under the Charities Act.
This amendment should be introduced in New Zealand also. Marriage between one man and one woman remains a perfectly legitimate and reasonable point of view, as indeed it has been for millennia. Freedom of expression and belief, breadth of views and reasoned debate can themselves be educational and in the public benefit in the charitable sense.
An overly restrictive or narrow view of what is in the public benefit is likely to be of concern to all charities, many of which have a certain emphasis or point of view.
Family First is appealing their deregistration to the Court of Appeal because the importance of freedom of expression and open debate in a civil society are ideals every New Zealander should be defending.