The Charity Commission has done a u-turn and will now allow a Brethren church to register for charitable status, after it turned the group down in 2012.
The volte-face came after months of intense scrutiny, including members of the Charity Commission being called on by the House of Commons Select Committee to demand answers as to why it refused to allow Preston Down Trust’s application.
In June 2012, the charity regulator had rejected the church on the grounds that the group did not meet the ‘public benefit’ requirement of the Charities Act 2006.
The regulator criticised the trust’s Holy Communion services, which are reserved for members only, and told the select committee later that the church did not have any evidence to show it had a ‘beneficial impact’ on the community.
However, following significant support from the Christian community and from members of parliament, including Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke, the regulator has allowed the trust to register as a charity, on the condition that its trust deed, a binding document, reflects clearer ‘doctrines and practices’.
Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, said, ‘This is a victory for religious freedom. Common sense has been restored and the decision reflects what we knew all along, that the Charity Commission never had the power to direct how a church administers Holy Communion’.