Peter Bone is the Member of Parliament for Wellingborough. Follow Peter on Twitter.
The issue of the state interfering with religion has raised its ugly head once more. It is not the redefinition of marriage or interfering with the ability of the Church of England to run its own affairs. No it is a much more dangerous issue that threatens not just the Christian Church but all recognised religious groups in this country, the dwindling recognition by the state that religious institutions are a public benefit and should be considered charities.
The Charity Commission has recently removed the charitable status of the Preston Down Trust, a member of the Plymouth Brethren, claiming that they are not a public benefit and therefore cannot have charitable status. A religious group that has been classed as a charity for decades, that has raised money for good causes and supported its local communities has had its status removed because the Charity Commission does not see access to worship and the advancement of religion as a public benefit anymore. This is another sign of a growing secular movement against religious groups in this country and another example of the state interfering with the church. The Charity Commission does not and should not have the power to decide what religion is good or bad, its role should be to assist religious groups in fulfilling their charitable roles not condemning them.
Today, Wednesday 19th December, I will be presenting a 10 Minute Rule Bill on the floor of the House to amend the Charities Act 2011. This will reintroduce the presumption that religious institutions are of a public benefit and therefore eligible for charitable status, as they have been considered for hundreds of years dating back to the Charitable Uses Act of 1601. The Charities Act 2006, which was consolidated into the Charities Act 2011, removed the presumption that religious institutions should be considered a public benefit.