From governance to children in Meeting for Worship
There are rumblings of discontent with our new system of governance, but let’s not blame charitable status. In UK law, the Society has always been a charity, and charities are exempt from much taxation because they are doing the work of the state in benefitting the community. Gift Aid is not a state handout. Basically, when a person gives a regular donation to a charity by law they also give the tax related to that donation. The charity can claim repayment of that tax and, following the streamlining of the system, it is now called Gift Aid.
What has changed is that at the behest of the Charity Commission the Society, nationally and at Area Meeting level, now appoints, from its membership, trustees to be fully responsible for the Society. At national level, besides trustees, it has formed a Management Meeting of five senior employees at Friends House to facilitate the exercise of that responsibility.
It is, perhaps, an open question which body exercises the most influence over the Society.
This has been a dramatic change. The continuing evolution of Meeting for Sufferings as the governing body, when Yearly Meeting is not sitting, has been curtailed. At Area Meeting level a sort of creeping paralysis in governance appears to be setting in. I think that what the Society needs is not a resource-consuming revision of Quaker faith & practice, but a representative body to examine method and transparency in the national and local governance of the Society.
The Lobbying Act
Kay Murphy (1 September) asked whether the Lobbying Act (‘the gagging law’) restricted charities. Unfortunately this is a common misunderstanding about the Lobbying Act. The Act applies to any individual or group, regardless of charitable status. Over half of those registered under the Lobbying Act are companies.
Furthermore, Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) has not let the Act stop important Quaker work, and we continue to speak out. BYM doesn’t engage in party political campaigning, although many individual Friends are members of political parties.
Parliamentary engagement officer for BYM
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