Family First charity status hangs in the balance

3News 14 August 2014
Family First is urging Charities Services to drop its High Court case against it following a decision from the Supreme Court that political advocacy can be considered charitable.

The case has been on hold for around a year, after Charities Services sought to deregister Family First following the same-sex marriage debate.

Both parties wanted to wait for the outcome of a Greenpeace case, which focused on a decision to decline the organisation’s application for charity status because its main purpose was political.

Last year, Charity Services general manager Brendon Ward said the independent Charities Registration Board believed Family First’s main purpose is to “promote particular points of view about family life”.

“Under the Act, promotion of a controversial point of view is a political purpose.”

But a landmark decision by the Supreme Court last week clarified the definition of a charity, saying political advocacy should not exclude an organisation from getting charity status.

The decision was a long time in the making, with the initial High Court case in 2010 around the organisation’s application become a charity declined.

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie says the decision set a precedent, and means organisations focused on social justice issues which need to engage on a political level shouldn’t be disqualified from being a charity.

“It certainly means the claim we’re too political can’t be used against us because, unfortunately, when you’re dealing with social and family issues, politicians get involved and therefore we shouldn’t be muzzled because of that,” he says.

Mr McCoskrie says the organisation’s lawyers will now be writing to the Charities Service to ask them to withdraw the case or have it heard as soon as possible.

“We suggest they save taxpayers money and legal costs and quickly discard it.”

While waiting for the Greenpeace decision, Family First has continued to operate as a charity.

The Charities Service says it is yet to fully go through the 54-page Greenpeace judgement and a decision has not yet been made regarding Family First.

The service believes the charity does not further religion or education or promote a benefit to all New Zealanders.
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