From Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the Charity Commission SIR — In last week's leading article ("Charity law is being used as a weapon against the Church") you asked your readers to be in no doubt as to the threat posed by the Charities Act 2006's requirement that all charities demonstrate they provide public benefit.
I'd like to reassure them. As I told the Catholic charity conference a few weeks ago, the Act wasn't created as a cunning ploy to cull religious charities from the register. What it did was remove the previous assumption that charities which promote religion or education or relieve poverty were automatically for the public benefit. The Charities Act creates a level playing field where all charities need to demonstrate they meet the public benefit requirement.
We've neither the desire nor the remit to change or "modernise" traditional, long-held religious beliefs and our consultation explicitly said so. As for taking into account what is relevant and appropriate for the modern social conditions of the day, church institutions have been doing this throughout their history — which is why their services remain so appropriate to the needs of beneficiaries today.
The public benefit test isn't about secularism though the back door, it's about demonstrating the good that every charity does. Charities benefit from so much more than just tax breaks; they occupy a unique position in the public trust.
The benefit brought by the 25,000 plus faith-based charities on the register is the very stuff of charity. No regulator in their right mind would want to undo this. And no charity — whatever its purposes — should feel reluctant to tell the world about the good it does.
Yours faithfully, SUZI LEATHER Liverpool