Political Greenpeace unhappy with charity win – wants more

Greenpeace is taking its fight against the now defunct-Charities Commission to the Supreme Court, despite winning its charity case in the Court of Appeal.

The environmental lobby group’s lawyer Davey Salmon is questioning two aspects of the Court of Appeal’s November ruling, including the extent to which political advocacy is allowed.

In November, Justices Rhys Harrison, Lyn Stevens and Doug White set aside the then-Charities Commission’s 2010 decision to decline the lobbyists’ charity status.

Greenpeace says whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court appeal, the bid for charity status will still need to be reconsidered.

The Court of Appeal judges referred the Greenpeace application back to the Charities Commission’s replacement – the Department of Internal Affairs and the Charities Registration Board for reconsideration.

In its finding, the Court of Appeal said the organisation’s political advocacy needs to be “truly ancillary” to its principal charitable objectives.

The lobby group’s political involvement was central to the then-Charities Commission’s refusal to grant the application.

Back in 2010, the commission found:

  • Two of Greenpeace’s objectives – promoting “peace” and “disarmament” – were political, not charitable.
  • Greenpeace was involved in illegal activities, such as trespassing; therefore it was not maintained exclusively for charitable purposes as illegal purposes are not charitable.

In its decision, the commission also referred to a number of mission statements on the Greenpeace website, including:

  • We are actively campaigning for international disarmament.
  • We believe greater peace, greater security, greater safety is possible. Reaching out across national boundaries Greenpeace is working with citizens and political leaders around the world to make this happen.

In order to be registered as a charity an organisation must be established and maintained exclusively for charitable purposes. Political purposes are not charitable purposes.

An organisation may, however, be registered as a charity if it has a political purpose so long as the political purpose is ancillary to the charitable purposes of the organisation and is not an independent purpose.

A date has yet to be set for the Supreme Court hearing.


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