NOTE: Family First appealed the decision of the Board, and the appeal was dismissed by the High Court.(external link) Family First has appealed to the Court of Appeal. Further updates will be included as this appeal progresses.
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. A purpose is charitable if it advances public benefit in a way that is analogous to cases that have previously been held to be charitable.
The Board has decided Family First New Zealand (“Family First”) does not meet the legal requirements to be registered as a charity and has directed that it be removed from the Charities Register.
In 2015 the High Court directed the Board to reconsider its 2013 decision to deregister Family First in light of the Supreme Court’s Re Greenpeace of New Zealand Incorporated judgment. In particular, the Court directed the Board to assess whether Family First’s purposes advance moral and mental improvement and advance education consistent with the previous court decisions.
The Board considers Family First has a purpose to promote its own views about marriage and the traditional family that is not for the benefit of the public in a way previously accepted as charitable. Although the Supreme Court in Greenpeace held advocacy may be charitable, it also indicated that the advancement of causes will often be non-charitable. This is because it is not possible to say whether the views promoted are for the public benefit in the way the law recognises as charitable.
Previous cases established a public benefit in promoting moral and mental improvement but found that promoting specific points of view based on moral and mental improvement was not charitable. Family First’s advocacy involves the advancement of causes that involve social, medical, legal, religious and philosophical issues. Family First has the freedom to continue to communicate its views and to influence policy and legislation but the Board has found that Family First’s pursuit of these activities do not qualify as being for the public benefit in a charitable sense.
The Board does not consider that Family First has a purpose to advance education. For research to qualify as educational, it must be sufficiently structured to provide a public benefit, not seek to persuade rather than educate, and reach a minimum standard.
While a report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research commissioned by Family First is capable of advancing education, the Board did not consider one report is sufficient to qualify Family First as having a purpose to advance education. The Board considers that Family First’s other reports sought to persuade the reader to a particular point of view, rather than educate.
The Board’s full decision can be read at the link below.
The Chair of the Charities Registration Board's statement regarding the decision can be found here.