Family First loses charitable status but not ‘muzzled’

Family First has been removed fromn the charities register “because it does not advance exclusively charitable purposes”

Update on Family First New Zealand from the Independent Charities Registration Board

Published 21 August 2017

In its decision dated 21 August 2017 the independent Charities Registration Board has decided to remove Family First New Zealand from the Charities Register because it does not qualify for registration.

The role of the independent Charities Registration Board (“the Board”) is to maintain the integrity of the Charities Register by ensuring that entities on the Charities Register qualify for registration.

The Board can direct charities to be removed from the Charities Register when they do not advance a charitable purpose for the public benefit and it is in the public interest to remove them.

The Board’s decision is to remove Family First New Zealand (“Family First”) from the Charities Register because it does not advance exclusively charitable purposes.

The Board considers that Family First has a purpose to promote its own particular views about marriage and the traditional family that cannot be determined to be for the public benefit in a way previously accepted as charitable. Family First has the freedom to continue to communicate its views and influence policy and legislation but the Board has found that Family First’s pursuit of those activities do not qualify as being for the public benefit in a charitable sense.

In April 2013 the Board previously made the decision to remove Family First from the Charities Register because it did not advance exclusively charitable purposes. That decision was appealed to the High Court by Family First. In June 2015 the High Court directed the Board to reconsider its decision in light of the 2014 Supreme Court Greenpeace judgment and its own judgment.

This decision represents the Board’s reconsideration of Family First’s eligibility for registration.

Roger Holmes Miller
Chair, Charities Registration Board

View the decision here /

But Family First will fight the decision.

Stuff:  Charities Commission strips Family First of charitable status

But the group is not going down without a fight, saying it will argue the decision in the High Court.

The decision by the Charities Registration Board was made public on Monday. It is the second time the board has tried to deregister the group.

In 2013, the board made the decision to remove Family First from the Charities Register because it did not advance exclusively charitable purposes.

Family First appealed that decision to the High Court.

In June 2015, the High Court directed the board to reconsider its decision in light of the 2014 Supreme Court Greenpeace judgment and its own judgment.

The latest decision represented the board’s reconsideration of Family First’s eligibility for registration.

Family First have responded:

Family First To Charities Board – See You Back In Court

Family First NZ has instructed its lawyer to file an immediate Notice of Appeal in the Wellington High Court against the Charities Board’s formal decision to deregister Family First NZ.

Family First is going back to the same court to challenge again the belief of the Trust Board that our views about marriage and the traditional family “cannot be determined to be for the public benefit in a way previously accepted as charitable”.

“This is a less-than-satisfactory procedure of trudging back to the same court. It seems that the Charities Board are simply hoping for a different judge and a more favourable decision. It is a highly politicised and inconsistent decision by the Board and will have a chilling effect for many not-for-profit charitable groups – both registered, deregistered and wanting to be registered – who advocate for causes, beliefs, and on behalf of their supporters, and often have to engage in advocacy at a political level, not always through choice but through necessity,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

Justice Collins in the earlier decision in the Wellington High Court in 2015 recognised the strength of Family First’s argument that its advocacy for the concept “…of the traditional family is analogous to organisations that have advocated for the ‘mental and moral improvement’ of society.…” The Charities Board was also scolded by Justice Collins who said “…Members of the Charities Board may personally disagree with the views of Family First, but at the same time recognise there is a legitimate analogy between its role and those organisations that have been recognised as charities.”

It appears that certain views of marriage and family are now deemed out-of-bounds by the State. We’ll fight that political correctness and muzzling of free speech,” says Mr McCoskrie.

That’s nonsense. McCoskrie is not muzzled, he speaking out here unhindered.

“Family First will appeal this decision as far as we need to, not because we have to have charitable status to exist, but because of the threat it places on other charities and their freedom to speak and advocate on behalf of their supporters in a civil society.”

It doesn’t stop Family First from speaking and advocating, it just removes their charity status.

Family First losing charity status

NZ Herald reports: Exclusive: Family First to lose charitable status

Family First is set to lose its charitable status, the Herald has exclusively learned.

The group was first notified by the Charities Registration Board in 2013 that its charitable status was in danger.

That was because the group advocated a controversial point of view, that was seen as lobbying for a political purpose.

The decision was challenged in court, and in 2015 the High Court ordered the Board to reconsider its decision.

The High Court decision did not rule on whether or not Family First was a charity.

The Herald understands that decision has now been reconsidered, and that the formal notification process is underway to tell Family First it is being deregistered as a charity.

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said they’d be going straight to their legal team and instructing them to take the matter back to court.

“It may go as high as Supreme Court, because we’re not going to lie down on this one.

That may not be cheap, but neither will losing their charity status.

The Charities Registration Board has been more active over the last few years in reassessing the status of charities that also operate as political advocates or activists.