UK: Legal path set to deny charitable status to Church which exclude anyone from Communion, sacraments

Tales of the Bizarre.

This is from LifeNews:

UK Catholics might lose charitable status for not offering communion to everyone

BY HILARY WHITE

LONDON, November 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Conservative Party MP has accused the government’s Charity Commission of attempting to suppress Christianity after the group denied charitable status to the Plymouth Brethren, a small denomination of conservative evangelicals. MP Charlie Elphicke has said that the Charity Commission has stepped outside its mandate telling the Brethren that their religion is “not necessarily for the public good”.  [hmmm]

In a letter to the community, the Commission wrote of a tribunal decision that found “there is no presumption that religion generally, or at any more specific level, is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England”. [The official state church.]

The Plymouth Brethren, of which there are about 16,000 adherents in Britain, have said they intend to pursue their dispute to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary. They have been embroiled in the dispute with the Commission for seven years since the Commission refused charitable status to one of the group’s churches in Devon. The group engages in street preaching, distributing bibles and visits hospital patients. These activities, said Garth Christie, an Elder in the group, more than qualifies them for charitable status under the “advancement of religion” clauses.

[...]

[NB] The Charity Commission alleges that the group’s rule of only giving Holy Communion to full members means that their services are not open to all, [?!?] a charge which the Brethren deny. The Brethren say that their public services are offered to everyone regardless of religious affiliation. If it is upheld, the rule could be extended to the Catholic Church which also officially restricts Communion reception to members.

[...]

Get that?

Deny Communion to a non-Catholic or excommunicated Catholic, refuse to marry homosexuals….

Get it?

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46 Responses to UK: Legal path set to deny charitable status to Church which exclude anyone from Communion, sacraments

  1. raitchi2 says:

    No one has any intrinsic right to handouts from the state. If you want tax exempt status, charity status, you’re going to have to dance with Babylon.

  2. catholicmidwest says:

    Time to give up charitable status. The proper end of Christianity is salvation for those who choose Christ. The rest is means.

  3. chantgirl says:

    “there is no presumption that religion generally, or at any more specific level, is for the public benefit”
    Where have we heard that before? We are strangers in a strange land!

  4. BobP says:

    I hate to bring this up but in the U.S. it’s the “conservatives” who have proposed that in effect charitable contributions be taxed for the upper incomes, just so they can have lower tax rates. How is this going to help the Catholic Church in the U.S.?

  5. Johnno says:

    How ironic! Well, it’s not like the bishops are in the mood for excommunicating anyone anyway! But this all goes to show that they’re coming to take away the Church’s tax exempt status anyway… So the Church should consider making the first move.Throw off the muzzle and render Ceasar’s coins right in Ceasar’s face! Speak out now or forever hold your peace!

  6. wmeyer says:

    I hate to bring this up but in the U.S. it’s the “conservatives” who have proposed that in effect charitable contributions be taxed for the upper incomes, just so they can have lower tax rates.

    I am a conservative, and would never make such a proposal, nor am I aware of any conservatives who have proposed such nonsense.

  7. BobP says:

    “I am a conservative, and would never make such a proposal, nor am I aware of any conservatives who have proposed such nonsense.”

    It was discussed in the debates by both Ryan and Romney, although they were careful not to “specify” the deductions. However, anyone who can do math…

  8. wmeyer says:

    That would be an inference, not a statement. There are many other deductions which are of use to the very wealthy, and far more likely to be the subject of Romney and Ryan than any deductions which raise issues of religious freedom. However, that said, I’m not sure I would characterize any Republican politician as truly conservative.

  9. jhayes says:

    The law in England is dfferent from the law in the US. One articl,E points out that, since at least 1946, to qualify as a charity you must engage with the public:

    “The principle of public benefit as a necessary prerequisite of charitable status was established long before the Charities Act 2006: the modern authority is Gilmour v Coats [1949] AC 426, which determined that a bequest to an enclosed order of Carmelite nuns was not for the public benefit – and therefore not charitable – because the nuns did not engage with the public. What the Charities Act 2006 (consolidated into the 2011 Act) did was to give statutory effect to what was already in the common law.”

    And the Mormon Church was recently refused exemption from property taxes on a temple:

    ” The LDS lost in the domestic courts on the grounds that whatever Mormons do in their Temples it is not public worship. Not even all Mormons are allowed into a Temple – in order to be admitted they have to have a “Temple recommend” from the local bishop – and in no circumstances whatsoever are non-Mormons let in.”

    Although it is not clear in the article, my impression is that the issue is not that the Brethren do not allow people who are not members of their church to receve communion btu that they do not allow the general public free access to the church building, including during communion services.

    http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2012/07/27/charitable-status-public-benefit-and-closed-congregations/

  10. sawdustmick says:

    I am hoping that Our Bishops in England and Wales will not make any accommodation if this does come to pass, it would be tantamount to “taking the soup”.

    I have just watched the Curtis Bowers Video – AGENDA: Grinding America Down at
    http://vimeo.com/52009124

    This is quite frightening and in all humility is making me examine myself in order to stand up for Christ.

  11. Suburbanbanshee says:

    This is a rabbithole; but the thing debated was having a straight tax rate for everybody with various kinds of deductions (including charity contributions) also available to everybody, up to a specific deduction amount. (Whereas today, you can’t deduct a lot of stuff unless you go with the complicated form 1040, and all kinds of deductions work differently, and many people don’t donate enough to be able to deduct their charitable donations.)

    Moooooving along, the point is that the Plymouth Brethren are a fairly tightknit fundamentalist sort of UK religious group, and are therefore the butt of a lot of criticism and fearmongering. They’re not my kind of Christianity, but they’re not the devil, and they’ve been around since the early 19th century. They’re part of the fabric of UK life, but the UK government is kicking them to the curb.

    And why? Other than having the fun of persecuting somebody and whipping up rabid religion haters, I don’t really see a point here. It doesn’t save any great amount of money or produce any great amount of tax base. It’s just a feeler for going Henry VIII for no reason, as far as I can tell.

  12. jilly4ski says:

    You think England would have learned its lesson. It wasn’t that long ago when religious persecution in that country drove the Puritans out as well as many other protestants (not to mention the destruction and seizure of Catholic property). Those protestants were the leaders of a war that caused England to loss a colony. Those ignorant of history are bound to repeat it. Just saying…

    Hmm, I wonder about the large Muslim population in England that doesn’t let women pray with the men during Friday services…

  13. pmullane says:

    We must prepare for the coming persecution, firstly from zealous but cowardly secularists, then from zealous but deadly Muslims.

    May God give us the grace to endure and by our suffering give him glory.

  14. MarkJ says:

    I highly suggest reading the Roman Martyrology every day (it is part of the Traditional Breviary’s hour of Prime). A good place to find it is at the Divinum Officium website, which has the full Traditional Breviary online…

    The Martyrology shows us the courage of those who have gone before, and helps prepare us for what may lie ahead. All Traditional priests and religious read it. We lay people should do the same.

    May Jesus, King of Martyrs, and Mary, Queen of Martyrs,and all the Holy Martyrs, Confessors and Holy Virgins, strengthen us in our Faith and in our unyielding witness to the Truth.

  15. Mundabor says:

    I’d have thought every Christian congregation, even if Protestant, “restricts” communion to those they see as “members”?

    What if a Muslim pops in and asks communion for himself, his cat and his dog?

    Mundabor

  16. Random Friar says:

    This might not be the kind of ecumenism we envisioned at Vatican II, but it might just be that we shall hang together, or we shall hang separately.

  17. jhayes says:

    Mundabor wrote

    I’d have thought every Christian congregation, even if Protestant, “restricts” communion to those they see as “members”?

    From other articles I’ve read about this decision, the issue seems not to be whether others can receive communion but whether they can enter the church building and be present durng the service.

  18. Actually, Mundabor, nearly all American Protestants practice “open communion.” There are levels of this. The most restrictive require baptism. But it is very common to require only “faith in Christ” without any baptism or church membership at all. At the most “open,” simply coming up to receive is considered sufficient proof of “faith in Christ.” “Close communion” (often incorrectly, as on Wikipedia, called “closed communion”), may be the norm for Catholic, Orthodox, and a handful of conservative Lutheran and conservative Reformed congregations, but otherwise, “open communion” is the rule. If you want more on this look up “open communion” on Wiki.

    The Plymouth Brethren actually had a schism over this. Not even all PB congregations practice close communion. I think your average unchurched or nominal Christian in the street would be shocked and *offended* to hear that a church didn’t let everybody who wanted to take communion.

  19. robtbrown says:

    BobP says:

    “I am a conservative, and would never make such a proposal, nor am I aware of any conservatives who have proposed such nonsense.”

    It was discussed in the debates by both Ryan and Romney, although they were careful not to “specify” the deductions. However, anyone who can do math…

    Translation: The Dems said it, so you believe it.

    The Repubs have proposed ending certain deductions, but not charitable deductions.

  20. robtbrown says:

    BTW, it was Obama not the Repubs who wanted to cap charitable deductions.

    For the fourth year in a row, President Obama is proposing lower tax deductions for the wealthy on donations to churches and other nonprofit organizations. And for the fourth year in a row, nonprofit groups say the change would lead to a dramatic drop in charitable giving.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/nonprofit-groups-oppose-obamas-change-in-charitable-deductions/2012/02/17/gIQArKfOKR_story.html

  21. Kerry says:

    I suggest that if the Church is ‘forced’ to give communion to non-members, give them Wonder Bread circles, perhaps flattened with jelly glasses. They don’t believe it anyway, so whiskey-tango-foxtrot?

  22. Marie S. says:

    Lawsuits wouldn’t even have to be successful to damage the Church. There are enough Soros types out there (or even deluded Catholics such as Melinda Gates) who can bankroll enough lawsuits to cripple almost any organization financially. Green groups have been doing it to small businesses for years.

    Now that they know the Federal government will be aiding and abetting them for at least the next 4 years, the attacks will become more bold. First up is Catholic Charities in Maryland and Maine, who will have to follow that of Massachusetts in shutting down all adoption services, or leave the Church as in Illinois. Next is any other organization that ‘serves the public’ and therefore has to be ‘non-discriminatory’.

    For a little while, we can trust the courts to toss out the more egregious cases, though even the one the administration lost 9-0 in the Supreme Court on hiring practices for pastors had to go that far.

    We may not get to the point anytime soon where there’s much risk of losing our lives for our faith, but we’ve been so comfortable that even the thought of losing a job is difficult to bear. How many will stay under that threat, or when the parishes start shutting down as the government-imposed fines start piling up?

    For my sins of omission and commission that contributed to this horrible state: mea culpa, mea mulpa, mea maxima culpa. Thank you, Father Z. for reminding us to go to confession. I’m going today.

  23. Hidden One says:

    “Deny Communion to a non-Catholic or excommunicated Catholic, refuse to marry homosexuals….

    Get it?”

    Yes, Fr. Z., I think I do. Sooner or later the government of England will require the Catholic Church therein to ordain liberal Anglican women as bishops of the Catholic Church.

  24. William Tighe says:

    Actually, Fr. Thompson, from what I have read over the years “closed communion” is the original (and, IMO, more accurate) term, and “close communion” is an attempt, of Baptistic origin, to palliate the “offense” that the more blunt term may occasion in oversensitive souls.

  25. pelerin says:

    The comment by suburbanbanshee that the Plymouth Brethren are ‘part of the fabric of UK life’ has surprised me.’ I have never in 69 years knowingly come across a member of the Plymouth Brethren and have never seen any of their churches – I presume they do have churches? In fact I thought they no longer existed here in Britain. However, whatever the denomination, it is worrying if the State decides to override the rules.

  26. jacobi says:

    “the group’s rule of only giving Holy Communion to full members means that their services are not open to all”

    Secularist forces in UK and Europe intend to pursue persecution of the Christian church, in particular those parts of it that do not come into line with Secularist opinion, such as the Catholic Church.

    By being able to do so, Secularists are only filling a vacuum created by the loss of Faith, conviction and public witness by Christians over the past 50 years. (The post Vatican II period, as it so happens, but then I mustn’t get on my high horse!).

    A bit of persecution might not be a bad thing. After all compared with what our fellow Christians are suffering in parts of Africa and the Middle East, loss of charitable status is not all that severe.

    But I digress.

    The rationale behind this ruling by the Charity Commission, as far as Catholics are concerned, is that the main Catholic service is a communion service, a misconception shared by many ill-formed Catholics today.
    In this they are wrong. Our service is the Mass, the re-enactment of the Redemptive Sacrifice on the Cross of Christ, for Mankind. We Catholics are required to attend this Mass circa 56 times per year. We are required to attend Holy Communion only once a year and that at Easter or thereabouts.

    Anyone is free to attend the Catholic Mass, Catholics in, or not in, a State of Grace, Protestants, Secularists and anyone else interested. If they want to attend Communion, however, they should be or become Catholics, and be in a State of Grace.

  27. frjim4321 says:

    Anything on this from a fact-based news outlet?

  28. jhayes says:

    Frjim4321, see my post above for a link to what seems to me to be an objective dscussion of this. That post was held up for moderation so I don’t want to repeat the link here and risk this post being held up too.

    The article compares the situation to two other cases, both of which involve churches who would not let non-members enter the church building to be present at services. Here is one which also involved the Exclusive Brethren:

    For an Australian case on very similar facts, also involving the Exclusive Brethren, see Jensen & Ors v Brisbane City Council [2005] QCA 469 (14 December 2005), in which the Supreme Court of Queensland decided as follows:

    “Private worship by a congregation is not ‘public worship’, at least insofar as that term is to be understood in the context of rating exemptions, and it does not become public worship because the congregation may decide to permit particular members of the public to attend that worship. ‘Public worship’ in the present rating context requires that the worship is in a place open to all properly disposed persons who wish to be present without vetting by a gatekeeper” (at para 49).

    Refusing to let non-members attend services is different from refusing to allow them to take communion after they are there. I have a feeling that the the legal issue is the exclusion from the building rather than, as the religious-oriented websites have characterized it, exclusion from receiving communion.

    In any case. This is an issue of British Law, which is different from US law.

  29. Jack Hughes says:

    I’m not sure if this is a sin or not but these sorts of actions along with the so called “Freedom from Religon” posse, homofacists etc etc really fires the anger in my soul, I’m starting to think that its either us or them on the business end of the sword and quite frankly I’d rather it was them, I want to force them to bend the knee to Christ and to acknowledge his Kingship and Dominion and if they refuse then for the salvation of souls to eliminate them from the face of the earth ( I believe that St Thomas was of a similar opinion).

    I know that this sounds drastic but believe me I think it may be necessary, the hatred of the ringleaders (not the great mass of followers who are as much victims as anyone) for the Catholic Church boarders on the demonic and they are so mired in sin that you cannot reason with them.

  30. frjim4321 says:

    JHanes that was excellent. My dear Sis has Exclusive Brethren on her street. The drive up to Cleveland twice a month for there seance. Very strange. We knew about the Autralian connection. Their gathering buildings are gated. All females including prepubescents in dresses only. They sold candy up and down my sisters street. They all got sick

    Think u r right this was not about communion but about limiting access to the services.

    Very interesting because all Mormon and some Jews restrict access

    So the question is about no tax on property to which nonadhearents are excluded? I am intrigued.

  31. frjim4321 says:

    My apologies to everyone. I am transitioning from BlackBerry to an iPhone five. My thumbs are way too fat for this keyboard. In my eyesight is not that great either. Trust me that I do know how to spell. And on a real keyboard I’m very very fast

  32. Andy Lucy says:

    Hmmmmmm. I wonder if Masonic Lodges in Britain are tax exempt (I know many here in the States are due to their charitable work)… because I KNOW they will not admit non-members into Lodge while work is going on. Might get to be interesting.

  33. frjim4321 says:

    This is a very fascinating question. The Catholic Church never denies access to anyone. I think this is not a matter of intercommunion. Rather this is about access to the church for worship space. I think I agree that tax-free status Should not be Accorded Two buildings of which access is limited Two members only.

    I apologize I am letting Siri type my answers

  34. Norah says:

    Are non Moslems permitted in a mosque when the service is in progress?

    I think our cathedral in Australia restricts tourists when Mass at the main altar is in progress.

  35. jhayes says:

    Frjim4321, Mormon Temples are closed to non-Mormons except for a short time after the building is first completed. I was able to go through the Temple in Belmont MA (Mitt Romney’s home) when it was completed a few years ago. However, ward meetinghouses where Mormons hold their weekly sacrament meetings are equivalent to Catholic parish churches and welcome anyone who just walks in and wants to look around or attend a service.

    At Jewish Temples, seating for High Holydays is often reserved for people who have contributed at certain levels, but I wasn’t aware that, apart from that limited time, there were Temples from which non-members were excluded

  36. jhayes says:

    Are non Moslems permitted in a mosque when the service is in progress?

    They are in the Boston Mosque. I haven’t been there myself but there was a lot of discussion in the newspapers when a public high school which had a comparative religion course took a class to the mosque and some non-Muslim students joined in the prayers on their own initiative. Some parents complained and the school then required teachers taking students to churches, temples or mosques to instruct them to observe but not participate.

  37. jhayes says:

    Schhedule a tour of the Boston Mosque

    http://isbcc.org/schedule-a-tour/

    Didn’t see anything about whether you can just walk in unannounced

  38. frjim4321 says:

    jhayes, thanks for clarifying this.

    Big difference between instructing the assembly re: who is able to receive communion vs. who can actually step foot inside the building.

    Fershure a building to which admission is barred by non-adherents cannot be tax exempt.

  39. frjim4321 says:

    by = to

  40. eulogos says:

    fr jim 3241, whatever the taxing entity says is tax exempt is tax exempt. This country doesn’t have a law requiring a religious group to allow everyone to attend its services in order to be tax exempt. It appears Australia and perhaps Great Britain, does.

    We Christians used to have all but baptized Christians leave before the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom still has “The doors, The doors” in it, and some still say “Let all the catechumens depart” also. I am not sure, though, that even those who still say this, actually expect the catechumens to depart. The prayer before communion still says “I will not reveal your mystery to your enemies. ” There was a sense that the sacraments, and especially the eucharist, ought not to be witnessed by unbelievers or even by the unbaptized. There might be a time when we wanted to do things that way again.

    I think this country thought religion was of benefit to the polis because it tended to produce citizens with a moral sense, and quite sensibly it didn’t think of religion as something which had to be dispensed in such a way that anyone who wandered in could soak up a bit of it.

    But in any case, I agree with those who say we ought to give up our tax exemption ASAP. Once strings start to be attached to it, it is time to say, here, take your money, Caesar.

    The American Episcopalians liked to say that the African Anglicans would have to adjust to their ordaining “partnered” homosexuals, and even making one a bishop, etc etc, because “they need our money. ” I heard some of them say it myself. Then the African dioceses, the really poor African dioceses, sent back their checks.

    We can do it too.

    Susan Peterson

  41. Scott W. says:

    What eulogos said only adding that the Church ought to have plans in place for when it is forced to give up tax-exemption. In the meantime we should remember that these bars to churches directly engaging political candidates and legislation are IRS regulations, not laws in a moral sense–and ones that could in theory be ruled unconstitutional. This is why I always say the pull-the-tax-exemption trolls should be careful what they wish for–it may turn out we can stump for anyone/anything we want AND keep the money. :)

  42. Gail F says:

    I do not understand this obsession with tax-exempt status. Every time something like this comes up on a forum, someone immediately chimes in with “churches need to surrender their tax-exempt status to preserve their autonomy!” and someone else says, “play by the rules or lose your tax exemption, you nasty rotten people.” Surely the question of tax exemption is SECONDARY to the issue of freedom of religion. If, tomorrow, tax exemption for churches and religious organizations were assured for the rest of time or prohibited forever, none of these questions of whether people should be allowed to profess and follow the teachings of their religion would be changed at all. I wish people would stick to the point.

  43. robtbrown says:

    Frjim4321 says:
    jhayes, thanks for clarifying this.

    Big difference between instructing the assembly re: who is able to receive communion vs. who can actually step foot inside the building.

    Fershure a building to which admission is barred by non-adherents cannot be tax exempt.

    Where did you get that idea? There are thousands of private organizations in the US that restrict access but still have tax exempt status.

    IRS tax exempt status is a function of being a non profit organization. One type of non profit is charitable, another religious, but there are others not in those two categories. Even if the organization shows a profit, that money has to stay within the organization.

    The matter of taxing property is a local question.

  44. jhayes says:

    Robtbrown, the Exclusive Brethren congregation in the LifeNews article is in England where the law about charities is different and the principle was estabished by a case decided in 1949

    The principle of public benefit as a necessary prerequisite of charitable status was established long before the Charities Act 2006: the modern authority is Gilmour v Coats [1949] AC 426, which determined that a bequest to an enclosed order of Carmelite nuns was not for the public benefit – and therefore not charitable – because the nuns did not engage with the public. What the Charities Act 2006 (consolidated into the 2011 Act) did was to give statutory effect to what was already in the common law.

    In the United States the enclosed Carmelites would be recognized as a charity and the Exclusive Brethren would too.

    In England, the LDS Church has lost a case seeking tax exemption for a temple:

    The LDS lost in the domestic courts on the grounds that whatever Mormons do in their Temples it is not public worship. Not even all Mormons are allowed into a Temple – in order to be admitted they have to have a “Temple recommend” from the local bishop – and in no circumstances whatsoever are non-Mormons let in.

    Again, the issue is not whether non-members can receive communion but whether they can attend services.

    For a link to those citations, see my earlier post.

  45. jhayes says:

    Robtbrown, the Exclusive Brethren congregation in the LifeNews article is in England where the law about charities is different and the principle was estabished by a case decided in 1949

    See my post of 10 november at 11:36 am for details.

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