In an article published in The Times on 6 May 2015,
which is now the subject of a legal complaint, it was alleged that
the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church had "been
leafleting for Conservative candidates in key marginal seats and
offering prayers for a Tory victory" in the lead up on
the recent UK general election. Such actions were said to have
taken place in the constituencies of Yeovile, Chippenham and
Montgomeryshire. The UK Charity Commission is currently
investigating the allegations, as such actions would contravene a
charity's duty not to "undertake party-political
This is not the first time controversy has engulfed the Plymouth
Brethren Christian Church. The Times have previously
alleged that the Church, which operates 34 schools, engaged in
'an "extraordinary lobbying campaign" to
pressurise the Charity Commission into granting ...charitable
status' to the Preston Down Trust where members of the
Church meet. Allegedly, such lobbying included handing out leaflets
for Conservative candidates during the 2010 general election.
As Frank Cranmer explains, "it is a basic principle of
charity law that charities may not undertake party-political
campaigns". As the UK Charity Commission sets out,
"To be a charity an organisation must be established for
charitable purposes only, which are for the public benefit. An
organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are
political". Furthermore, the Commission makes explicit
the obligation not to "give support or funding to a
political party, nor to a candidate or politician".
However, the Commission does permit charities giving
"support to specific policies advocated by political
parties if it would help achieve its charitable
The position is similar in Australia, although the Australian
Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission note that "while
a charity can support a political party or candidate, this support
must be a way of achieving its purposes rather than a goal in
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