Family First, a New Zealand organization focused on researching and advocating conservative family issues, faces deregistration as a charity because of its views on gay marriage and the anti-smacking law.
Bob McCoskrie, the national director of Family First, says the Charities Commision’s move is political, given the recent passing of the Marriage Amendment Act of 2013.
The Charities Commission claims that Family First does not meet the standards of requirement under the Charities Act, which states that a registered charity may undertake political activities, but not as its main purpose.
McCoskrie argues that Family First exists primarily for research and education, regardless of any political party that benefits from its work.
The Green Party, the only party that voted unanimously to pass the Marriage Amendment Act, has spoken out for Family First, calling for a public debate about how charities should be defined.
"Advocacy in charities is where we also keep our democracy.” Denise Roche, a Green MP, said, “Not-for-profits and charitable organizations have a real role in advocating for a better society, and if they are unable to do that then we lose a voice."
Roche has proposed a bill defining advocacy as charitable after the Charities Commision ruled that Greenpeace, an organization aimed at protecting the environment and promoting peace, was not a charity because of its political advocacy.
"Charities have a Sword of Damocles hanging over them," Sue Barker, Wellington charity law specialist, said. "If they speak up, they might lose their charitable status."