Secular Party of Australia

The Secular Party of Australia stands for separation between church and state.

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Subscribe

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 61 other followers

  • Follow us!

  • © The Secular Party of Australia Inc., 2011.

Posts Tagged ‘Australian charities’

Submission on Charities Bill 2013, draft, re Statutory Definition of Charity

Posted by Secular on May 8, 2013

by Dr John L Perkins

The Government has developed draft legislation which gives effect to the statutory definition: http://www.treasury.gov.au/ConsultationsandReviews/Submissions/2013/A-statutory-definition-of-charity. The following is the Secular Party’s submission to Treasury on the draft legislation.

3 May 2013

 

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: A statutory definition of charity: advancing religion, per se, is not a charitable purpose.

The definition of a charitable purpose must include only those activities that are unequivocally a public benefit. There is no doubt that relieving sickness and poverty and promoting education are unequivocally beneficial. The advancement of religion is not. To the extent that advancing religion advances the other charitable purposes, its inclusion is unnecessary. To the extent that it does otherwise, its inclusion is unwarranted.

The intention of the proposed Charities Bill 2013 is to provide a definition of charity for the 21st century. Yet this bill, as the Explanatory Notes acknowledge, entrenches an anachronistic definition of charity originating in the 17th century1. No justification for this is provided.

The fact that advancing religion is not, of itself, a public benefit is acknowledged in the Bill. It is because of “doubt” that a religious purpose could fulfil the public benefit test that such organisations are exempted from the test2. Why is it that the proposed definition of charity is specifically crafted to include a purpose that is implicitly recognised as not a public benefit? There is no explanation in the Notes.

The issue is more than that the advancement of religion is not necessarily beneficial. There is abundant evidence that it is not beneficial but harmful, corrupting, divisive and dangerous. It should not be necessary to refer to the crimes that paedophile priests have committed while engaged in their “charitable purpose”. The egregious nature of religious conflict around the world can be observed daily.

It should be noted that the charitable purpose provided by Islamic schools in Australia encompasses the teaching of an extreme style of Wahhabi Islam imported from Saudi Arabia. It is not unlikely that this particular form of the advancement of religion is now cultivating the minds of future home-grown Australian terrorists. Such effects have already been demonstrated by convictions in Australian courts.

That the definition of charity should be twisted to allow and encourage the promotion of such divisive activities is more than an anachronistic anomaly. It is an outrage.

The effect of the proposed definition does not only jeopardise the future harmony of Australian society: it comes at significant cost to the budget revenue and to the Australian taxpayer. This does not just include subsidies and tax concessions granted to religious organisations: we have calculated that when we include an estimate of tax forgone on the unreported revenue derived from the imputed financial and other assets of religions organisations, then the total annual cost of religions to governments in Australia exceeds $30 billion.

We therefore submit that the advancement of religion should be removed from the definition of charitable purpose. The exemption provided for religious groups from fulfilling the public benefit test should also be removed from the Bill. The Explanatory Notes provided for the Bill raise many anomalies with regard to the treatment of religion. We now comment on these in more detail.

The Notes state that to be a charity, an entity must be not-for-profit and generally have only charitable purposes that are for the public benefit. It incorporates and extends the previous 2004 definition and “modernises” the language and categories3. It is curious that the concept of modernity used still encompasses the 17th century definition. It is also curious that with the number of eligible charitable purposes being considerably extended, the religious purpose still fails to qualify under any of the other extended categories. No explanation is provided for this.

In defining the benefit of the purpose, it is stated that “there must be a benefit that is real and of value to the public” (1.46). This may include “social, psychological or emotional benefits” or “spiritual benefits derived from the activities of religious organisations” (1.48). What exactly are “spiritual benefits”? It is clear from the context that they do not include social, psychological or emotional benefits. We must infer from the religious context that “spiritual” does not refer to any mental capacity but to a supernatural entity, a spirit, soul or ghost. It is astounding that a Bill of Parliament in Australia in 2013 should be predicated on such superstition.

Furthermore, in defining a purpose for the public benefit, it is stated that the purpose should not cause harm. “Examples of detriment or harm include damage to mental or physical health, damage to the environment, encouraging violence or hatred towards others, damaging community harmony, or engaging in illegal activities such as vandalism or restricting personal freedom”(1.50).

The potential harm caused by the teaching of a hardline version of Islam in Islamic schools was cited above. It is not difficult to cite further instances where the advancement of religion has caused harm:

– Creationism is taught in some taxpayer-funded religious schools. There have even been instances of this happening in public schools in Queensland. The teaching of myths from the Bronze Age as though they were facts is not education.

– Some mainstream churches, including the Catholic Church, oppose any realistic family planning, such as the use of condoms and contraceptives. In Third World countries the Vatican has actually spread the lie that condoms spread the HIV virus.

– The negative attitude of some religious organisations towards women has been well documented: in some religions this includes women being considered to be of lesser value than men, affecting their legal status, educational and employment opportunities, rights of inheritance and healthcare.

– Many churches denigrate the gay and lesbian community, claiming their desires and behaviour to be “lifestyle choices”, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. Religious families often shun homosexual children who “come out”. Religious schools are at liberty to expel homosexual students, or to sack homosexual employees. This denigration has real consequences: the suicide rate among young gays and lesbians is significantly higher than that of young heterosexuals.

– Certain Pentecostal churches have duped their followers into making substantial donations, which then fund luxurious lifestyles for church leaders and their families.

– Many cults and sects alienate followers from their families, requiring them to cease all contact with family members who are not members of the cult or sect.

– The vast majority of Australians support some form of voluntary euthanasia, with safeguards, for individuals who are suffering unbearably with little or no hope of improvement. Legislation on this matter, however, has repeatedly failed, thanks to the well-funded lobbying of Christian organisations. The rationale of such opposition is based on ideologies such as the “sanctity of life” and the notion that suffering (through Christ) leads to redemption.

– Improvements in medicine have been hampered by the lobbying of religious groups to outlaw stem cell research.

– Public hospitals run by religious organisations are at liberty to provide reduced services. For example, a rape victim admitted to such a hospital can not only be denied Emergency Contraceptives, but can also be refused a referral to the Rape Crisis Centre where such contraception can be provided.

– Some religions indoctrinate their followers to reject life-saving medical intervention, even for their children. In a recent case, the NSW Supreme Court intervened on behalf of a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness who was refusing a blood transfusion. The predicament was that the boy would either suffer psychological trauma from being forced to undergo the procedure, or else would die. As Supreme Court Justice Ian Gzell pointed out, this dilemma had come about simply because the patient had been “cocooned in faith”.

It can easily be seen that the advancement of religion has caused harm with respect to practically all of the examples quoted: damage to mental or physical health, damage to the environment, encouraging violence or hatred towards others, damaging community harmony, or engaging in illegal activities such as vandalism or restricting personal freedom”.(1.50) . In fact no other charitable purpose has such capacity to cause harm. It is inexplicable that with these harms being recognised, the religious purpose is nevertheless exempted from any responsibility for them in the Bill.

It is stated in the definition that a benefit must be available to the public. Limiting the benefits to “followers of a particular religion to which anyone can adhere” (1.53) is still considered a public benefit. However it is not the case that anyone can adhere to particular religions. Some are secretive and exclusive. Belief in another religion or none would also presumably prohibit adherence. This is another unwarranted exclusion of the religious purpose from reasonable criteria.

It is stated in the definition that a benefit should be a public benefit and not a private benefit. “Where there are private benefits, these must be incidental, that is, a necessary minor result or by-product, or conferred as a necessary means of carrying out the entity’s charitable purpose, and be genuine and reasonable (1.57)”. Many of the activities of certain evangelical churches, cults and sects thrive upon soliciting the donations of followers, the leaders acquiring a great deal of private wealth in the process. Again, the religious purpose can often be seen to fail the test specified, and yet remains exempt, without explanation.

The Bill is deliberately drafted to provide such exemption. While the ”presumption of public benefit will not continue to apply where there is evidence to the contrary” (1.66), there is no prospect under this Bill of the religious purpose ever being challenged in this regard, as no likely challenger would have legal standing to do so.

The public benefit test does not apply to religious groups4. The only explanation provided for this is that the religious purpose may not be a public benefit (1.75), or may not be a benefit (1.76). The proposed Bill provides for the quite unwarranted advancement of religion, and in that regard is itself detrimental to the public interest.

Finally, we would mention that the Notes explain that the Bill provides for a disqualifying purpose. The purpose should not run counter to such things as the rule of law, democracy and public safety5. It is known to those who care to take an interest in such things that at the core of certain religious ideologies are doctrines and beliefs that do seek to undermine these values. Not even this, however, would provide any reason under the Bill for the advancement of religion to be in any way inhibited or constrained.

The advancement of religion by government is the antithesis of the ideal of secularism. This Bill effectively terminates secularism in Australia and entrenches its demise. Secularism was devised as the solution to hundreds of years of religious warfare in Europe. This Bill ensures that in the future, Australian society will be characterised by religious division and conflict. We urge you to prevent this by amending the Bill.

Yours sincerely

John Perkins

President, Secular Party of Australia


1 See 1.8. The common law meaning has developed over 400 years, largely based on the Preamble to the Statute of Charitable Uses (known as the Statute of Elizabeth), enacted by the English Parliament in 1601.

2 1.76 There has been some doubt under the common law about whether a closed or contemplative religious order fulfils the public benefit test, and the Bill ensures that such an entity does not fail a public benefit test.

3 1.20 The categories of charitable purpose reflect purposes found by the courts to be charitable. In addition, the Bill incorporates purposes specified in the Extension of Charitable Purpose Act 2004, makes further minor extensions to charitable purposes, and modernises the language and categories.

4 1.74 The public benefit test does not apply in the case of open and non-discriminatory self-help groups and closed or contemplative religious orders that regularly undertake prayerful intervention at the request of members of the public.

5 1.78 The purpose of engaging in activities that are unlawful or contrary to public policy is not a charitable purpose under the common law and is a disqualifying purpose in the Bill. The Bill clarifies that the reference to public policy refers to matters such as the rule of law, the system of government of the Commonwealth, the safety of the general public and national security, and that activities are not contrary to public policy merely because they are contrary to government policy.

Posted in Government Submissions, Taxation | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Religions are not charities by definition

Posted by Secular on November 17, 2012

20 Dec 2011

Media Release

According to Australia’s antiquated legal definition of charity, anything and everything that religious organisations do is deemed charitable and therefore qualifies for tax concessions. This ranges from their commercial operations to their “prayerful intervention”. Yet there are other aspects to the current definition of charity, such as relieving poverty, that would be sufficient to encompass the genuinely charitable activities of religious bodies.

In a submission to the Treasury Department’s consultation into “A Definition of Charity”, the Secular Party has said that it is high time the “advancement of religion” is removed from the definition of charity in Australia. The current definition causes numerous anomalies, due to the fact that religions’ activities are not always a public benefit, are not always charitable, and should not be treated as such.

A further issue is that, in order for the current legal definition to operate, a legal definition of religion is also required. This produces additional curiosities, such as the High Court’s definition of religion as something that encompasses a belief in a “supernatural principle”. Such a definition involves “the intersection of the undetectable and the immeasurable”, the submission says, and should not be the basis of Australian law.

The quest for truth, as can best be determined on the basis of reason and evidence, should be the basis of law. The legal definition of charity should be based on justice, not on outdated tradition or superstition.

Read the submission.


© The Secular Party of Australia Inc., 2011. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author and from the Secular Party of Australia is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and to this blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Posted in Media Releases, Taxation | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Submission for the Inquiry into the Definition of Charity

Posted by Secular on December 6, 2011

by Dr John L Perkins

The Government has called for public comment on its Consultation Paper on the definition of charity, http://www.treasury.gov.au/contentitem.asp?NavId=&ContentID=2161. This is part of the process for the introduction of a statutory definition of charity that will become applicable across all Commonwealth laws from 1 July 2013. The following is the Secular Party’s contribution to this inquiry.

2 December 2011

 

Dear Sir or Madam,

 

We welcome the opportunity to participate in this consultation regarding the definition of charity. Our primary concern in this submission is to address the anomalous position of “the advancement of religion” as a “head of charity”, i.e. as an activity that is, of itself, deemed charitable by definition. We regard this as anachronistic, unwarranted and contradictory to the purpose of the definition.

 

While we recognise that this particular issue is relevant at Consultation Question 16, we would like to deal with it first, as it affects all our other considerations. We welcome the opportunity to express our views, and note that in times past, certainly throughout most of the time that the “advancement of religion” “head of charity” has been operable, we would not have been able to express the views that we now express, for fear of ostracism at best, or at worst, persecution.

 

We submit that “the advancement of religion” is neither ipso facto charitable, nor ipso facto a public benefit. We are not of course suggesting that religions cannot be charitable, merely that they are not necessarily so. We argue that the erroneous presumption that religions are automatically charitable introduces so many anomalies that it is far better administratively, equitably, and rationally, that other aspects of the heads of charity are relied on instead to provide an adequate definition.

 

We submit that the removal of “the advancement of religion” would have many advantages and would not be to the detriment of any group or organisation that is bona fide charitable. Indeed it would be more equitable and thus assist them in their operation . While such a change would be a departure from the past, now is an appropriate time to make the change in Australia.

 

Historical context

 

The charitable definition of “the advancement of religion” (i.e. its inclusion in the definition) derives from an ancient time in our British heritage in which “religion” was universally presumed to mean the Christian religion, and when government welfare services as we know them today were unavailable. Society has undergone a mammoth transformation since then. We now have a multiplicity of religions, while the adherence to religion in general is declining. The charitable definition of religion is now outdated.

 

While other jurisdictions, with a similar British heritage to ours, may seek to persist with the charitable definition, there are good reasons why Australia, in particular, should not do so. Australia was founded on a secular ideal that was deliberately intended to break with the tradition of established religion, which was seen as providing an unwanted source of sectarian conflict.

 

It was for this reason that the Australian Constitution includes Section 116, which states that the “Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion …”. The other jurisdictions referred to in the Consultation Paper do not have this provision. We should therefore not follow them in this regard. Whether or not the “advancing” of a religion contributes to the “establishing” of one, this provision should not be disregarded.

 

Public benefit issues

 

With the growth in religious diversity, it is now the case that the advancement of religion pertains more to a select group of adherents of the religion, rather than the community as a whole. Thus whatever benefits religious activities may confer, they are more private benefits than public benefits. Where charitable activities of religious groups are publicly beneficial, they are capable of being recognised as such, with reference to other aspects of the definition of charity. The religious adherence of a group should not be relevant in determining whether something is charitable.

 

It is arguable that fostering the advancement of a multiplicity of mutually contradictory religious beliefs may increase division and disharmony in society. It therefore may be more of a cost than a benefit. We note that the advancement of religion may involve the advancement of Christianity, or of Judaism, or of Islam, or indeed any of sect, cult, superstition or religion, even Scientology. The coercive behaviour of cults can cause severe distress, psychological trauma, and can disrupt the lives of families. We do not need to refer to acts of violence in the name of religion or the activities of paedophile priests in order to indicate that the activities of religious people are not always benign. The inclusion of religion as a “head of charity” is thus quite anomalous.

 

The cost to the community of these activities is not merely a social cost. Given that inclusion in the definition of charity grants to religious groups a large range of subsidies and tax concessions, there is a significant financial cost as well. The removal of such benefits does not in any way compromise anyone’s freedom of religion.

 

A further highly anomalous situation regarding the seemingly muddled thinking with regard to religion and the public benefit has occurred with the Extension of Charitable Purpose Act 2004. The activities of “closed or contemplative religious orders that offer prayerful intervention for the public” were defined as charitable and being for the public benefit. People are perfectly entitled to engage in such activities if they wish, but there is no justification for regarding this as a charitable purpose for the public good.

 

Indeed, the available evidence on this matter suggests there is no benefit, even a cost. Clinical trials have been conducted in the United States in which groups suffering from serious illnesses were either prayed for or not. Prayerful intervention was found to make no difference, except in cases where a group knew that prayerful intervention was being undertaken on their behalf by others. The medical outcomes of this group were actually found to be significantly worse. The suggested explanation for this was that the intervention caused psychological damage that adversely affected their recovery.[1]  If “evidence-based policy” is the objective, then “prayerful intervention” is disqualified as being a charitable public benefit.

 

Evidentiary issues

 

If we are to continue with the presumption that the advancement of religion is of itself charitable, then we are obliged to come to terms with the issue of what constitutes a religion and on what basis particular organisations are eligible to qualify. It is not satisfactory that the incoming Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) be burdened with this responsibility.

 

As mentioned in the Appendices to the Consultation paper, in England and Wales, religion involves a belief in a god, “more than one god, or no god”. In Northern Ireland it may include “any analogous philosophical belief”. A similar wording obtains in Scotland. The reliance on such vague definitions in so important a matter cannot be justified. None of these definitions provides a degree of clarity that would appear to justify the inclusion of religion as a charitable motivation. In Ireland, religious privileges are protected, provided the religion does not employ “oppressive psychological manipulation”. Given that all the most popular religions employ a belief in eternal punishment in hell, we would wonder, perhaps, how they might still qualify.

 

In Australia, the High Court, in the 1983 Scientology case, offered that a religion should comprise a “belief in a Supernatural Being, Thing or Principle”. We can appreciate the generosity of this definition, in that it accommodates a wide range of possibilities. We wonder however, whether the High Court, in its wisdom, has offered a definition that is actually coherent or useful. “Principle” is an abstract noun, which of itself cannot be measured. “Supernatural” is beyond the natural and therefore beyond detection in the natural world. A “supernatural principle”, then, is the intersection of the immeasurable with the undetectable.

 

We humbly submit that in our view a “supernatural principle” is a nebulous concept, and that it is most unsatisfactory that the laws of Australia should be predicated on such a concept. This is especially the case when billions of dollars in taxpayer funds are expended in the form of subsidies and tax concessions, contingent upon the advancement of such a concept. In our view this is a gross misallocation of scarce financial resources.

 

Apart from these issues, we feel compelled to point out that none of these definitions of religion in any way imposes the slightest requirement that there be a even a possibility that any of the esteemed beliefs could actually be true. Yet providing evidence regarding the truth of assertions is normally regarded as being an important part of the legal process. In the case of religion, however, this is a seems to be convenient oversight that allows for the presumption that any religion could be true, even though all religions are largely mutually contradictory, thereby precluding the possibility of truth in all but possibly one case.

 

The perverseness of this logic alone should be sufficient to disqualify religion from the definition of charity. It is time that reason and evidence, as applied to what is measurably beneficial and tangible, should form the basis of the definition of charity. We now turn to the Consultation Questions.

 

1. Are there any issues with amending the 2003 definition to replace the ‘dominant purpose’ requirement with the requirement that a charity have an exclusively charitable purpose?

 

We submit that it should be a requirement that a charity should have a purpose that is exclusively charitable. The demarcation difficulties in discriminating between dominant and non-dominant purposes make such a definition untenable. No doubt there are religious groups that express their difficulty in demonstrating a public benefit of their activities. The lack of a public benefit of what is currently deemed charitable will be largely overcome by removing “the advancement of religion” from the definition.

 

2. Does the decision by the New South Wales Administrative Tribunal provide sufficient clarification on the circumstances when a peak body can be a charity or is further clarification required?

 

Further clarification is required, in that the activities of the peak body should be in themselves charitable, otherwise there is no guarantee that this is the case. For example a group such as the Australian Christian Lobby may be considered a peak body, representing the views of groups deemed to be charities, but merely representing the views of sectional interests is not of itself charitable.

 

3. Are any changes required to the Charities Bill 2003 to clarify the meaning of ‘public’ or ‘sufficient section of the general community’?

 

Current proposals to clarify the meaning may be adequate, provided that religion is removed as a “head of charity”. This would resolve anomalies arising from the fact that even exclusive sects and cults are currently beneficiaries of the definition. “Prayerful intervention” should not be deemed charitable nor excluded from the public benefit test.

 

4. Are changes to the Charities Bill 2003 necessary to ensure beneficiaries with family ties (such as native title holders) can receive benefits from charities?

 

We endorse the suggestion that trusts or other entities be set up in these circumstances.

 

5. Could the term ‘for the public benefit’ be further clarified, for example, by including additional principles outlined in ruling TR 2011/D2 or as contained in the Scottish, Ireland and Northern Ireland definitions or in the guidance material of the Charities Commission of England and Wales?

 

The term ‘for the public benefit’ should be clarified to ensure that benefits have practical utility. A benefit should be tangible and measurable. Notions such as “spiritual benefit”, that come from a perceived realm of the supernatural, are immeasurable and undetectable, and are susceptible to subjective interpretation and manipulation. They should be excluded from the definition of benefit. Placebos may have a recognised medical benefit, but we do not include them in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

 

6. Would the approach taken by England and Wales of relying on the common law and providing guidance on the meaning of public benefit, be preferable on the grounds it provides greater flexibility?

 

A public benefit should be defined specifically to be of tangible practical utility. It should not be left to common law.

 

8. What role should the ACNC have in providing assistance to charities in demonstrating this test, and also in ensuring charities demonstrate their continued meeting of this test?

 

Organisations should be assisted with the provision of standard ACNC forms that that they should complete, showing what benefits of practical utility they provide. The form should include a list of eligible benefits. Organisations should be required to complete an annual statement indicating the extent to which they have provided the relevant benefits.

 

9. What are the issues for entities established for the advancement of religion or education if the presumption of benefit is overturned?

 

It is likely that religious entities may have difficulty in establishing that some of their activities provide a public benefit, due to the fact that they do not provide a public benefit. We should all seek to understand that in the 21st century, public expenditures need to be disbursed on a rational basis, and that religious charities must comply with the same requirements as all other charities.

 

10. Are there any issues with the requirement that the activities of a charity be in furtherance or in aid of its charitable purpose?

 

There should be a requirement that the activities of a charity be in furtherance or in aid of its charitable purpose. Anomalies in this regard will be largely overcome by removing “the advancement of religion” from the definition of charity.

 

11. Should the role of activities in determining an entity’s status as a charity be further clarified in the definition?

 

The role of activities in determining an entity’s status as a charity should be further clarified in the definition. Anomalies in this regard will be largely overcome by removing “the advancement of religion” from the definition of charity.

 

12. Are there any issues with the suggested changes to the Charities Bill 2003 as outlined above to allow charities to engage in political activities?

 

It is again the case that removing “the advancement of religion” from the definition of charity will overcome an anomaly in this regard. Political lobbying with regard to education or the alleviation of poverty may be regarded as being consistent with a charitable activity, but political lobbying to further the advancement of religion should not be. We refer to the example of the Australian Christian Lobby, already cited.

 

13. Are there any issues with prohibiting charities from advocating a political party, or supporting or opposing a candidate for political office?

 

Political activity undertaken by charities should not be prohibited, provided it is consistent with their charitable purpose. Religious entities are able to participate in any political activity, however such activity should not be regarded as charitable.

 

14. Is any further clarification required in the definition on the types of legal entity which can be used to operate a charity?

 

The definition of the types of legal entity that can be used to operate a charity appears adequate, although partnerships could be included.

 

15. In the light of the Central Bayside decision is the existing definition of ‘government body’ in the Charities Bill 2003 adequate?

 

It could be clarified that a government body includes local government.

 

16. Is the list of charitable purposes in the Charities Bill 2003 and the Extension of Charitable Purposes Act 2004 an appropriate list of charitable purposes?

 

The list is not appropriate, primarily because it includes “the advancement of religion”. The inclusion of this item is anachronistic, it describes an activity that may be, but is not inherently charitable, and its inclusion causes numerous anomalies, such as we have highlighted throughout this submission. The genuinely charitable activities of religious entities are adequately accounted for under other items in the list.

 

We also oppose the inclusion of “the advancement of culture” in this list, as it would introduce another range of definitional and public benefit anomalies similar to those caused by “the advancement of religion”. While we may sympathise with the aim, there are a range of intractable issues, such as what constitutes culture, which cultures are eligible, who benefits, and how benefits are measured.

 

17. If not, what other charitable purposes have strong public recognition as charitable which would improve clarity if listed?

 

We do not see an advantage in significantly broadening the definition of charity. We consider “any other purpose that is beneficial to the community” is a sufficient “catch all” item. Some guidance could be provided by the ACNC. It should be up to the entity to demonstrate a community benefit.

 

18. What changes are required to the Charities Bill 2003 and other Commonwealth, State and Territory laws to achieve a harmonised definition of charity?

A statutory definition of charity for Commonwealth purposes should provide the basis of a harmonised definition for all levels of government.

 

19. What are the current problems and limitations with ADRFs?

 

Anomalies regarding the timely disbursement of funds from Australian Disaster Relief Funds may be assisted by clarifying disaster relief as a charitable purpose.

 

20. Are there any other transitional issues with enacting a statutory definition of charity?

 

The removal of “the advancement of religion” from the definition of charity will cause some transitional issues for existing entities that are not bona fide charities, and we propose that they be given sufficient time to adjust and reorganise their affairs.

 

We understand that what we propose in this submission will not be welcomed by those whose role and privileges in society may be questioned by it. However what we propose is forward looking, in the public interest and for the public benefit. Ethical principles such as compassion, honesty, freedom and justice are independent of any religion. The tradition of granting undue status to “the advancement of religion” is one that is hallowed by time but not by reason.

 

We appreciate the opportunity to forward our views and trust that they will be evaluated on their merits, and will not be in any way discounted on the basis of the type of organisation that we represent.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

John L Perkins

 

President

Secular Party of Australia.

The Secular Party of Australia Inc is an incorporated association, Victorian registration No. A0047890Z


[1] See H. Benson, J. Dusek, J. Sherwood, P. Lam , C. Bethea, W. Carpenter, S. Levitsky, P. Hill, D. Clem, Jr. , M. Jain, “Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in cardiac bypass patients: A multicentre randomised trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer”, American Heart Journal , Volume 151 , Issue 4 , Pages 934 – 942. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0002870305006496

Posted in Government Submissions, Secular | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »