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It is in the news that The Charity Commission has dropped its investigation into the Campaign Against Antisemitism after four years because of the issue of standing. This says:

Charity regulations state that “an organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are political”.

This seems a little strange to me, my first thought was that many charities advocate for reduction in green house gas emissions, which is a major political issue. Also there is currently in the news the story of the independent school and charity St. Paul's writing to parents about Labours plans, which seems both political and the sort of thing that these schools do all the time.

What exactly does does it mean for a purpose to be political such that charities are not allowed to do it?

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  • The link you provide appears to be from another independent school and is just asking if St Paul’s is planning to do the same. Maybe there is a better source, or you should name the school who wrote the letter instead. Commented May 28 at 17:00

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Advocating for or against a political issue is not political activity

Charities can campaign on political issues to advance their charitable purposes, including during election periods, ...

Four terms need to be understood:

  1. Charitable purpose is the reason for the charity's existence; the reason they are a charity. The charitable purpose of an independent school is children's education. The charitable purpose of Greenpeace is environmental protection. The charitable purpose of the Red Cross is human health. The charitable purpose of the National Trust is to preserve historic monuments. And so on.

  2. Activities are what the charity does. To maintain charitable status, they have to serve the charitable purpose. This can be direct—Greenpeace protesting a coal mine, for example—or indirect—fundraising, information dissemination on their cause, or advocacy.

  3. Advocacy or campaigning are "activities which are aimed at securing or opposing any change to a law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a state or territory, or another country. Such activities can include: involvement in the development of public policy, promotion of, or opposition to, particular laws, policies, practices or decisions of governments, and awareness-raising."

  4. Political means promoting or opposing a particular political party or candidate.

"A charity’s policy position on a matter of concern may be similar to, or align with that of, a particular political party. In such a situation it is okay for the charity to continue to campaign on that issue, provided that this does not amount to the charity having a purpose of promoting or opposing a particular political party or candidate."

As long as it supports their charitable purpose (and is allowed by their constitution), charities can engage in activities such as participating in public debate, promoting a change in law, policy, or practice of government, and providing analysis of party or candidate policy platforms.

What they can't do is "promote or oppose a political party or a candidate", "engage in or promote activities that are unlawful", or "engage in or promote activities that are contrary to public policy (which, in this context, includes the rule of law, our constitutional system, the safety of the public or national security)."

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