The Christian Institute write : 'We do not believe that churches will face any difficulties complying with the law. The guidance is not legally binding but trustees of religious charities are required to have regard to' the Commission's analysis. The Commission says this means trustees should be able to show that they are aware of the guidance, have taken it into account where relevant and have good reasons if they choose not to follow it.
As a result of a consultation on draft guidance held last year, the Charity Commission has addressed several concerns raised by Christian groups. For example, the draft guidance suggested that the Commission was intending to regulate membership criteria of religious groups, including churches. This suggestion is absent from the final guidance. The final guidance also contains assurances that vexatious and unsubstantiated complaints to
the Commission about religious charities will be dismissed.
Despite the improvements, there are still some worrying parts of the guidance. We still have concerns about the Commission's approach to charities which have the sole purpose of seeking to convert people from one religion to another, though there is an encouraging recognition that evangelism is
regarded as a central part of the Christian religion.
The guidance also implies that the Commission can adjudicate on what is correct religious doctrine and practice. But these are matters the Commission is neither able nor supposed to determine.
Fundamentally, we believe that the Charity Commission is wrong in law to apply an 'activities test' assessing the benefits versus the detriments of a charity's activities. According to some leading experts in charity law the
Commission has misinterpreted the new Charities Act. These experts say that under the Act 'public benefit' should have the meaning developed by English case law, which does not include an activities test'.