Timaru accountant fears charity ‘muzzling’

Timaru Herald 9 May 2013
A Timaru accountant is surprised Family First NZ may lose its charity status for its views, deemed by Charities Services as not having “public benefit”.

Chartered accountant Lawrence Rawstorn has a number of local charities as clients and the only rejections for charity registration he has seen were for poor presentation of financial records.

He understood that for organisations to qualify they “were not supposed to take a sideways shot at the Government”.

But he thought it would be a pity if charities that did good and influenced positive change were muzzled.

“Once they are registered most charities are home and hosed, but not this time. It could have huge implications for organisations.”

Family First states on its website that it “empowers and informs families” on relevant matters from a Christian perspective. It has actively promoted its opposition to same-sex marriage.

The lobby group was notified by Charities Services of its intention of deregistration on April 26. Family First is in the process of appealing the decision to the High Court.

Charities Services said Family First’s “points of view do not have a public benefit that is self-evident as a matter of law”.

Timaru Church of Christ preacher Graham Walker said he suspected the decision was politically influenced.

“It would be of concern as a church that the state might politicise our stance on family matters.”

Family First supporter and pastor Dawn Dalloway said the only thing that seemed to have changed during Family First’s time as a charity “is that its views on family have been highly publicised during the same-sex marriage debate, and are no longer seen as acceptable, or compatible with the current political view”.