Researching for a project it became necessary to look at how the Charity Commission regulates faith groups as a civil body.
Specific aspects of faith are not always as liberal or forgiving as the moral standards imposed upon the Charity community.
21st Century Faith Groups
The first issue that was highlighted in the research linked to the appointment of Trustees. The Charity Commission requires that everyone involved in the financial and policy decision making of the charity are formally accountable. They should be the Trustees.
However in many churches the systems and management just do not comply, this immediately creates governance issues.
The second issue followed the route of understanding the role of the confessional support for members who have broken civil or criminal law but not left the faith. Some churches view all confession as confidential and sacred. Therefore those who hear the confession will not breach their agreement.
However the legal imperative is to report all offending behaviour to the authorities rather than work with the offender so that they turn themselves over, find rehabilitation through faith. This is a real challenge.
Another issue, child protection and safeguarding vulnerable persons. The Charity Commission understand the role of the leaders of many faith groups as policing the membership. This is not the case.
Their role is pastoral. When they become aware of issues affecting vulnerable adults or young people they encourage the members to take action or not as the member decides. This is breaking the law because these leaders are aware of a criminal offence against a minor or vulnerable adult. However it is only hearsay and if the alleged perpetrator denies the act then how do they offer care and support to both parties.
Are they Charitable?
The benchmarks are philanthropy and benevolence, whilst bible education and relief work do meet that criteria the mainstream liberal charity sector are moving further are moving further away from religious mandates.
These charities argue that the moral imperatives no longer apply. The Charity Commission is a secular body, its governance follows that agenda therefore many faith groups are afraid to speak out on moral issues, find themselves distracted by using time to prop up things they don’t believe in.
So the way forward
Well the 21st Century liberal charity sector has no room for religious imperatives or personal expressions of faith in public. certainly no room to criticize moral and lifestyle choices of others based on the holy books.
The logical conclusion has to be that religious groups are going to find themselves investigated more frequently by the Charity Commission. Many will opt to step outside the legislative framework and become not for profit associations.
Tragically much of the great work done by faith groups will be lost and as we become less tolerant with the development of liberal attitudes – no room for critique – religions will disappear.
Nationalism and self interest continue to replace these core spiritual values.
Just look at the Charity Commission investigations and see for yourselves how faith groups are investigated.
The Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse will use 21st Century standards to beat faith groups down for historical abuse.
We have to remember that things done in secret or without consent that damage, exploit or endanger children and vulnerable (that’s all of us) are unacceptable.