Battle over Family First’s charitable status may head to Supreme Court

Radio NZ News 25 September 2020
The Attorney-General has applied for leave to appeal last month’s court decision on Family First’s charitable status.

The Court of Appeal last month set aside the Charities Registration Board’s 2017 decision to deregister the lobby group as a charity.

In a statement, the board said it did not have an active role in appeals.

“In this case, the Attorney-General was joined as a party, reflecting the Attorney’s role as the ‘protector of charities’.”

In a statement, Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said it had been notified of the intention to appeal the decision.

He said the move threatened freedom of speech, belief and open debate.

McCoskrie also said the board was inconsistent in with the way it treated other charities doing similar work.

“Family First has fought and will continue to fight this decision because of the threat it places on us and other charities and our collective freedom to speak on behalf of our supporters in a civil society.

“An overly restrictive or narrow view of what is in the public benefit is likely to be of concern to all charities, many of which have a certain emphasis or point of view.”

In its judgement last month, the court said the question of whether Family First qualified for charitable status had been subject to intense scrutiny for years, and there had been several decisions since then.

In 2018, the High Court upheld the board’s decision to remove the charity, because it said promoting traditional family values was not charitable work.

Family First charity decision headed to Supreme Court
Stuff 25 September 2020
The decision that Family First New Zealand is eligible to be registered as a charity is being taken to the Supreme Court.

The Attorney-General has asked the court to hear its appeal against a Court of Appeal decision that the “family values” advocacy and education group qualifies for charitable status.

Family First was among many groups affected in a review of charities. Registration as a charity can have benefits including tax advantages and eligibility for funding.

Update from Te Rātā Atawhai, the Charities Registration Board on the Family First Court of Appeal decision
Charities Services 25 September 2020
The Board has been advised that the Attorney-General has applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court about the Court of Appeal’s decision that Family First (the Society) qualifies for registration under the Charities Act 2005.

In 2017, the Board decided that the Society no longer qualified to be a registered charity.  The Society appealed that decision to the High Court.  In 2018, the High Court confirmed the Board’s decision that the Society no longer qualified to be a registered charity because its purposes are not exclusively charitable. The Society appealed to the Court of Appeal. On 27 August 2020, the Court of Appeal held, in a majority decision, that the Society qualifies for registration.  You can view the Court of Appeal judgment and the earlier Board’s statement on the decision here.

As the decision-maker, the Board does not have an active role in appeals. In this case, the Attorney-General was joined as a party, reflecting the Attorney’s role as the ‘protector of charities’.

The Board understands that the grounds for the Attorney-General’s application for leave to appeal include that the majority of the Court erred in its decision that the Society’s advocacy is charitable when applying the Supreme Court decision in Greenpeace of New Zealand Incorporated.

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