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Remove "advancement of religion" from qualifying as a charitable purpose for tax-exemption

This petition had 4,696 supporters

In Australia there are 12 activities that are listed as a charitable purpose and which thus entitle an organisation to tax-exemption.

The advancement of religion is one of them.

The Charities Act (2013) recognises charitable purposes that benefit the public such as the protection of human rights, the promotion of reconciliation and tolerance, and advancing causes by preventing, educating, researching, and raising awareness.

The Act clarifies that to be recognised as a charity in Australia, an organisation must be “not-for-profit”. It must, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, have only charitable purposes that are for the public benefit, though it may have other purposes providing these serve to assist the charitable purpose. And finally, the organisation must not have a “disqualifying purpose”.

This petition requests that the advancement of religion, in and of itself, no longer be recognised as an approved charitable purpose. It acknowledges that while many religions do in fact engage in charitable activities that genuinely benefit the wider public, there are other religions that do not. As such, the advancement of religion should not be considered, in and of itself, a charitable activity that benefits the public.

This petition seeks to draw attention to those religious organisations whose primary activities are self-serving. It seeks to highlight those religious organisations that rather than benefit the public through the provision of support services and/or promotion of tolerance and reconciliation, in fact do the opposite and cause great harm to the broader public – which must then be dealt with by those charities whose primary focus really is to help society as a whole.

The following churches who list their sole charitable purposes as "the advancement of religion" and who are also known for doctrines and policies that encourage and even force members to disown family and cause mental and emotional harm: The Church of Scientology, The Jehovah's Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), The Exclusive/Plymouth Brethren, The Unification Church (Moonies)... and more.

A Specific Example: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka LDS/Mormons) 

The LDS church is a registered tax-exempt charity in Australia which raises tens of millions each year in Australia but which does not engage in any organised charitable services outside of its membership.

Their policy handbook formally instructs local lay leaders that those who are cohabiting in a same sex relationship should receive formal discipline, be considered “apostate”, and excommunicated. Furthermore, any child who is living with gay parents must be denied a name and a blessing at birth and denied baptism at the traditional age of 8 but wait until they are 18 but only upon leaving their family home and “specifically disavowing” their parent’s relationship. Such children are often forced to endure this painful experience due to custody arrangements which allow one parent to involve their child in regular weekly church activity at which time they are continually subjected to anti-gay rhetoric, a common term being that their families are "counterfeit" in the eyes of God.

Members of the LDS faith are strongly encouraged to avoid contact with any family member who challenges these and other doctrinal and policy issues in the faith. This often leads to homelessness and self harm for Mormon LGBT+ youth, and sometimes suicide.

As such we present this as evidence that the activities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are contrary to the notion that a charity should be benefiting the public. The activities of the LDS church should specifically disqualify it from charitable status based on the definition of “disqualifying purposes” as found in the Charities Act (2013), 11 (a); “the purpose of engaging in, or promoting, activities that are unlawful or contrary to public policy.”

Those signing this petition wish to send a strong message to our government that promoting the punishment of children for the sexual orientation of a parent, denying them the same opportunities and treatment as their peers, and requiring them to disavow their family and leave the family home at 18, is extremely harmful and cannot be considered supportive, charitable, tolerant, or in any way beneficial to the public. Rejecting a family member due to their orientation, forcing youth to leave home and seek refuge from real charities is also a great social harm.

The other churches mentioned above are also well known for their active discrimination, shunning, disconnecting and acts of aggressive mental and emotional abuse against those who reject the faith. As such, the benefit to the Australian people in the advancement of their beliefs requires serious scrutiny.

What We Are Seeking:

Public policy in Australia serves to protect children and families. The fact that these churches actively engage in promoting practices that are harmful to families, that contribute to family breakdowns, that impact negatively on the emotional and mental health and well-being of children and adults alike, that increases the rates of homelessness, and that demonstrably leads to increased rates of self-harm and suicide, should be enough to disqualify this church (and others who claim that advancing their religion is charitable) from its status as a “charitable” and tax-exempt organisation.

We do not recognise the advancement of religious teachings as charitable in and of itself. Ethically, such activity should not be supported by our government through tax-exemption, and we the tax payers request that “the advancement of religion” be struck from the Charities Act (2013) and is no longer recognised as a legal and acceptable charitable purpose.

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