Charity Commission forces “environmental” charity to set up campaigning arm

August 06, 2014 | By: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Mark Blumberg
Topics: Canadian Charity Law, Political Activities and Canadian charities, Transparency

Here is an interesting article that appeared in the http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/ website.  It discusses a “climate change-sceptic charity” that is being forced to stop certain “educational” activities and to set up an affiliated but separate entity to propagate material that "lacked balance and promoted a particular line of opinion designed to elicit debate.”  Please note the similarity to Canada in that if a charity wants to engage in more than the allowable amount of political activities or wants to spread information that let us just say falls below the level of education as understood in the charitable sense, then they can set up a non-profit that is not a registered charity.  

Please note that unlike Canada, the Charity Commission is actually discussing with the public and media a specific charity and is not gagged by the confidentiality provisions of our Income Tax Act.   While there may or may not be a "chill" on political speech in Canada by charities, there is a deep freeze when allowing the Charities Directorate to discuss non-compliance of Canadian registered charities.  I don't want to come across as being too negative - after just spending two weeks in Israel and Turkey I can tell you that we are blessed with the best environment to run a non-profit in the world (ok may be some would say New Zealand is better).  

Here is the article from Civil Society:

“Lord Lawson charity to launch campaigning arm after breaching guidelines 16 Jul 2014

A climate change-sceptic charity is to launch a campaigning arm as a result of ongoing discussions with the Charity Commission over its charitable activities.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation, which was launched by former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson, is to launch a campaigning arm in September which will conduct campaigns and activities which “do not fall squarely within the educational remit of the charity”.

This follows a complaint made by Bob Ward, head of policy at Lord Stern’s Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE, to the Charity Commission last year. Ward accused the charity of being primarily political, not charitable, and of “continually disseminating inaccurate and misleading information”. 

A spokeswoman at the Charity Commission said that it began engaging with the charity after receiving a complaint relating to its statements and published material. 

She said: “The key issue for us was whether GWPF was a charity given that its purpose was the furtherance of education and we had questions about whether all of its material could be considered educational (by the meaning in charity law). It would be a secondary question as to whether those activities were political.

“We concluded that some of the activities breached what is expected of an educational charity, namely that the material lacked balance and promoted a particular line of opinion designed to elicit debate.”

The Commission told the Global Warming Policy Foundation that it needed to separate these activities from the charity and pursue them in an “entirely separate” organisation.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the charity said that its new arrangement reflected other organisations with dual structures, such as Amnesty International UK and Greenpeace UK. 

It said: “The Global Warming Policy Foundation will continue to advance its charitable objects by commissioning and publishing reports and papers and by organising lectures and debates on key matters relating to climate science and policy.”

The charity’s trustees will establish the new organisation under the name Global Warming Policy Forum. 

The Global Warming Policy Foundation was launched by Lord Lawson and Dr Benny Peiser in 2009 with the aim to “advance the public understanding of global warming and of its possible consequences, and also of the measures taken or proposed to be taken in response to it”.”

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