Can churches be political?

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Are churches (as charities) allowed to get involved politically. Charity Commission guidance says 'Yes'.  Care is needed (e.g. don't get party political) and it has to further your aims.  For more detailed guidance see Charity Commission document CC9.  The following is an extract ...

CC9 - Speaking Out - Guidance on Campaigning and Political Activity by Charities

(Version - March 2008)

A: Forward

...  The experience of charities means that it is right that they should have a strong and assertive voice. Often they speak for those who are powerless, and cannot make their case themselves. Sometimes charities confront extreme social injustice, which they will want to tackle head-on. The work that charities do, and the major role they play in public life, is something they should be proud of.

The law makes a distinction between charitable purposes, and charitable activities. A charity must be established for a charitable purpose, and as a general principle, charities may undertake campaigning and political activity as a positive way of furthering or supporting their purposes. Charities have considerable freedom to do so, subject to the law and the terms of their governing documents. In doing so, charities must be mindful of their independence. Charities, of course, can never engage in any form of party political activity...

D: Key Questions

D1: Can a charity carry out campaigning and political activity?

The short answer: Yes – any charity can become involved in campaigning and in political activity which further or support its charitable purposes, unless its governing document prohibits it.

In more detail

Engagement in campaigning is a means by which many charities work to further their purposes, and many charities also engage in political activity in support of those purposes.

So long as a charity is engaging in campaigning or political activity solely in order to further or support its charitable purposes, and there is a reasonable likelihood of it being effective, it may carry out campaigning and political activity, as set out in this guidance. The activities it undertakes must be a legitimate and reasonable way for the trustees to further those purposes, and must never be party political.

A charity can make public comment on social, economic and political issues if these relate to its purpose, or the way in which the charity is able to carry out its work.

These principles lie behind all of this guidance. Whilst there is no limit on the extent to which charities can engage in campaigning in furtherance of their charitable purposes, political activity can only be a means of supporting or contributing to the achievement of those purposes, although it may be a significant contribution. Hence, political activity cannot be the only way in which a charity pursues its charitable purposes.

There may be some charities which cannot campaign because of restrictions in their governing document.

back to the top

Politics Weblinks

Sites which engage on the political front: 
Care http://www.care.org.uk/;  Evangelical Alliance: http://www.eauk.org/  
‘Christians in Politics’ where there is lots of useful information: http://www.christiansinpolitics.org.uk/

back to the top