One thing that has occurred to me recently is how much money the Society makes from being registered as a charity in certain countries. In the UK, the government contributes 28 pence for every pound that is donated (referred to as "gift aid"), effectively increasing the value of each contribution from £1 to £1.28. Not surprisingly, the Society in the UK are doing very well out of this arrangement, and last year according to the Charity Commission's website they made a turnover of £25.7 million, with profits of 7.8 million. I calculate that approximately £5 million of this must have been generated by gift aid.
The thing is, to my knowledge recent laws that have been passed by parliament stipulating that a charity must be in the "public benefit". Here is a guidance PDF explaining what "public benefit" means in relation to charities.
In the opening remarks, it says this:
"Charities are more than 'a good thing' and, as their supporters recognise, are special. Not all organisations can be charities. To be a charity is a mixture of what you are, what you do and how you do it. The core characteristic is public benefit. Whilst the charitable sector is enormous and very diverse, the aims of each and every charity, whatever their size, must be for public benefit. Public benefit is therefore central to the work of all charities."
It goes on to say, "Being a charity is not the same as being an organisation that does 'good things'. Charity has an outward, inclusive nature: it is not inward-looking, for private benefit."
Here is a news release from BEFORE the laws were introduced, claiming that they may threaten the charitable status of Jehovah's Witnesses in the UK.
I notice this issue was raised on this forum by "Paddington Bear" 3 years ago, when he/she drew attention to a UK government memorandum that specifically drew attention to Jehovah's Witnesses as being a religion that, among others, may have its charitable status revoked.
Here is what it said:
17. There may indeed be a case for the removal from the register of some existing charities for the advancement of religion. The beliefs of Christian Scientists and Jehovah's Witnesses, both of which are recognised by the Charity Commission, include a rooted objection to the use of blood transfusions, even for children who are unable to give or refuse consent. The Charity Commission may wish to review the charitable status of those churches and other institutions. The beliefs and practices of the controversial Unification Church should also warrant further investigation. So too should those of the Taylorite sect of the Exclusive Brethren, whose belief in the doctrine of Separation from Evil may also be seen as deleterious to society in that it prevents adherents from associating with those who do not share their beliefs, eg precluding them from joining Trades Unions or professional bodies and sometimes, it is said, causing children to be excluded from the family home.
Does anybody remember this development 2/3 years ago? At the time Paddington Bear was encouraging people to get involved in a public consultation, but it appears that the consultation has now lapsed. Obviously, the IBSA is still a charity in Britain (and making huge sums of money from their status as such) so whatever consultation there was must have had little impact.
Does anybody feel it's worth pursuing this, i.e. getting it investigated by the papers etc? In the light of the ongoing economic downturn in the UK and spending cuts etc, it seems obscene that government money is being used to prop up an organisation that encourages people to refuse lifesaving medical treatment and abandon their teenage children if they are disfellowshipped. It certainly doesn't fit in with David Cameron's "big society"! How can all of that be claimed as being for "public benefit"?