Faith-based schools, groups fear loss of charity status

Christian Porter (ABC News)

Faith-based organisations have warned their charitable status could be stripped under a “public benefit” test over traditional marriage and gender beliefs. Source: The Australian.

Ahead of an address to the National Press Club today, Attorney-General Christian Porter will stare down pressure from leading Christian and Jewish groups who are calling for a wider overhaul of the Charities Act to protect against legal challenges.

Mr Porter will outline the complexity in drafting the religious bills amid competing interests of faith-based, business and social groups in his speech and is expected to provide detail on his finalised package ahead of tabling the bills in parliament before December 5.

The updated religious discrimination bill will include protections for faith-based hospitals and aged care facilities.

Clause 4 of Mr Porter’s draft Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religion) Bill ensures supporting a traditional view of marriage will not be a “disqualifying purpose” that would preclude an organisation from remaining a charity under the Act.

While Mr Porter, who has declared he will not make wholesale changes to his religious freedoms package, has committed to amending the Charities Act, he is unlikely to expand changes to the public benefit test.

Gary Johns, Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, raised concern changes to the Charities Act, in relation to disqualification of organisations, could “set a precedent”. Dr Johns said groups attempting to seek clarity “around what does or does not constitute a disqualifying purpose may seek to have a subclause inserted into the Charities Act”.

The Australian Association of Christian Schools said other common law countries had removed the “tax exemption status of charities that advocated for a traditional view of marriage and sexuality arguing they did not meet the ‘public benefit’ requirement”.

In its submission, they warned charities who hold a “biological view on gender or other socially conservative views on other topics may be vulnerable”.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference also called for the Charities Act to be amended to ensure advocacy for marriage does “not contravene the public benefits test”.

FULL STORY

Faith-based schools and groups fear loss of charity status (The Australian)

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