It isn't often that I get worked up about politics, but the behaviour of the Charity Commission over Catholic Care really gets my goat. For those who don't know ,the Charity Commission for England and Wales announced on Thursday that it had refused the application of Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds) to amend its charitable objects to permit the charity to continue its adoption work in accordance with the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church.
Earlier this year the High Court agreed with the Charity that the law did permit Catholic Care to take this approach. The Court considered that weighty reasons supported the use of the exemption allowed under the sexual orientation discrimination laws. The Charity Commission held that the reasons put forward by the charity did not meet their threshold, and refused to allow it to continue with its adoption work. The "threshhold" used by the Charity Commission has never been defined and is basically whatever what they want it to be.
Now I am not a Roman Catholic, but neither am I a child psychologist so I do not consider myself able to comment on many of the arguments of the charity, the Church or those who oppose them, but it is plain that the Charity Commission have actually reduced the amount of charitable work that will be done.
We should not forget that the broad "purposes" of the charity are to find homes for the children needing adoption. It was not set up to satisfy the parenting urges of sections of the population. Consequently, if the charity decides that one or more category of parent is unsuitable but the child is placed with other suitable parents then the charity's objecticves are achieved. Equally, if the parents passed over by this charity are able to adopt children through other agencies, nobody has lost out.
But, the detractors say, the Catholics discriminate and that's against the law. Actually, it doesn't have to be, because the law (The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007) says:
18.—(1) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for a person to provide benefits only to persons of a particular sexual orientation, if—
(a)he acts in pursuance of a charitable instrument, and
(b)the restriction of benefits to persons of that sexual orientation is imposed by reason of or on the grounds of the provisions of the charitable instrument.
(2) Nothing in these Regulations shall make it unlawful for the Charity Commission for England and Wales or the holder of the office of the Scottish Charity Regulator to exercise a function in relation to a charity in a manner which appears to the Commission or to the holder to be expedient in the interests of the charity, having regard to the provisions of the charitable instrument.
So the Charity Commissioners could very easily allow acting in accordance with Roman Catholic beliefs to be part of the purposes of the charity if they thought it expedient. There is no other test. Given that Catholic Care predated the legislation and had acted as an adoption agency, staffed by volunteers who we presume were inspired by selfless Catholic zeal, then it would appear to be "expedient" to allow the charity to state its purposes accordingly.
Instead by applying their political dogma to the consequences of the charities actions and not to its purposes, the Charity Commission has made us all worse off.