Religions are not charities by definition

According to Australia’s antiquated legal definition of charity, anything and everything that religious organisations do is deemed charitable and therefore qualifies for tax concessions. This ranges from their commercial operations to their “prayerful intervention”. Yet there are other aspects to the current definition of charity, such as relieving poverty, that would be sufficient to encompass the genuinely charitable activities of religious bodies.

In a submission to the Treasury Department’s consultation into “A Definition of Charity”, the Secular Party has said that it is high time the “advancement of religion” is removed from the definition of charity in Australia. The current definition causes numerous anomalies, due to the fact that religions’ activities are not always a public benefit, are not always charitable, and should not be treated as such.

A further issue is that, in order for the current legal definition to operate, a legal definition of religion is also required. This produces additional curiosities, such as the High Court’s definition of religion as something that encompasses a belief in a “supernatural principle”. Such a definition involves “the intersection of the undetectable and the immeasurable”, the submission says, and should not be the basis of Australian law.

The quest for truth, as can best be determined on the basis of reason and evidence, should be the basis of law. The legal definition of charity should be based on justice, not on outdated tradition or superstition.

Read the submission.

Nov 17, 2012

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