High Court upholds Family First’s charitable status

family first

A New Zealand organisation promoting the natural family has won a decision from the country’s High Court that its political activities do not necessarily disqualify it as a charity.

On 30 June Justice Collins ruled that Family First New Zealand’s  advocacy of the traditional family makes it similar to “organisations that have advocated for the ‘mental and moral improvement’ of society” – that is, one of the classic types of charitable activity.

Family First was granted charitable status by the then Charities Commission in May 2007.

It was served a notice of deregistration by the Charities Board, which replaced the commission during the run-up to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in April 2013.

The Charities Board confirmed its decision to deregister Family First two days before the gay marriage law was passed.

Family First believes the juxtaposition of events makes it clear that their public campaign to preserve traditional marriage was the deciding factor in the Board’s decision.

The decision from the High Court allows an appeal by Family First New Zealand against its deregistration, and orders the Charities Board to reconsider its move against the group.

It follows a similar appeal won by Greenpeace NZ last August after the Charities Board ruled its purposes, like those of the family advocates, primarily “political” rather than “charitable”.

However, a majority of the Supreme Court in the Greenpeace case ruled that an organisation with charitable purposes could also have political purposes, depending on the objectives being advocated and the means used to promote those objectives.

Family First New Zealand’s national director Bob McCoskrie says, “This decision is a victory for the many charitable groups – both registered, deregistered and wanting to be registered – who advocate for their causes, beliefs, and supporters and often have to engage in political activity, not always through choice but through necessity.”

“It is a victory for open robust debate on issues that affect families.”


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News category: New Zealand.

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