Family First’s continued fight against attempts by the government’s Charities Registration Board to deregister them is set to continue in the Court of Appeal in Wellington next week (Tues & Wed 22-23 Oct).
In a significant development, the Charity Law Association of Australia and New Zealand has been granted leave to join in the case. And as a result, the Attorney-General has joined the Charities Registration Board as a party to the appeal “in order to take responsibility for advancing arguments in defence of the judgment under appeal and representing the interests of the public as the ultimate charitable beneficiaries”.
In the High Court in Wellington last year, the court held 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.”
Family First does not accept the High Court’s analysis or its conclusions and is now appealing to the Court of Appeal.
The attempt by the Charities Board to deregister Family First, if successful, would be a watershed, not just for Family First, but for the whole country. It is unlikely that Family First will ever find itself defending any issue of greater importance.
Family First will appeal this decision as far as we need to because of the threat it places on us and other charities and our collective freedom to speak and advocate on behalf of our supporters in a civil society.
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. The importance of freedom of expression and open debate in a civil society are ideals every New Zealander should be defending.
Family First is still on the Charities Register, pending the appeal.