Christian Institute - Charity Not Clarity

Following on from the inaccurate article in The Mail about Greenwood Junior School in Nottinghamshire NOT putting Eid before the Nativity, comes evidence that the story has done its job.

Apart from the odious BNP smear merchants, the misrepresentation of the school's position has made it to a website for residents of Qatar and has also made it onto the site of Daily Mail favourites The Christian Institute. Its head honcho, Colin Hart successfully challenged google over Pro-life adverts and spoke on behalf of the police officer sacked for sending emails relating to the 'curing' of homosexuals.

It's at this time of the year when we think of others and with charity giving set to drop during the recession, it's perhaps helpful to see what contributors to Mr Hart's outfit can expect for their direct debits. According to the Charity Commission, the Institute posted revenue receipts in excess of £1 million in 2007. Their ethos is described thus:

  • The Christian Institute exists for "the furtherance and promotion of the Christian religion in the United Kingdom" and "the advancement of education".
In 2001 the Charity Commissioners criticised the charity for its political lobbying over the proposed repeal of Clause 28. The Guardian reported,
  • "The Charity Commission has criticised the right-wing religious pressure group behind the (Lady Young's) campaign against the repeal of Clause 28 for breaching the terms of its charitable status. It has ordered the Christian Institute to change its subtitle, 'influencing public policy', and accused it of engaging in politics. The Newcastle-based charity, supported by hardline Christian evangelicals, lobbied hard to support Lady Young's campaign in the House of Lords to defeat government attempts to repeal Clause 28, intended to prevent 'promotion' of homosexuality in schools and by local authorities."
Then there was the Civil partnerships issue.
Conservative MP John Bercow also criticised the CI in the House of Commons debate on an amendment to the Civil Partnerships Bill. From Hansard:
  • Mr. Bercow: Given that the approximate £20,000 cost of that full-page advertisement on page 31 of The Times by the Christian Institute would have sufficed to feed approximately 5,000 people in Sudan for up to a month, does the hon. Gentleman share my astonishment that a supposedly charitable institution should choose to deploy its resources in that way?
This followed a full-page advert in The Times supporting the amendment to allow siblings living together to be included in the proposed Bill. His concern was shared across the chamber by Alistair Carmichael:
  • Mr. Carmichael: It is about tax benefits for charities. That is what concerns me, which is why the Government should look at the conduct of the Christian Institute.
The nativity story on the Institute's site is lifted from the Mail's story and indeed, the accompanying photo of the nativity is the same one.

[UPDATE: 18:40 - link no longer works and article appears to have been removed from the site. A start but of course the flock will have already digested the contaminated feed and have not had a correction]

Whilst there is nothing to stop charities from having a political aspect to their campaigning they are expected to be reasonable and balanced. Clearly, the CI's publications cast doubt on that premise.

The CI seem to be little more than another Migrationwatch or Taxpayers' Alliance - self-appointed pressure groups which (unlike Hart's brotherhood) do not have charitable status.

Now, obviously mistakes can be made. Now that it is apparent that the Mail's story was wide of the mark, and extremists like the BNP continue to use the lie to promote disharmony, one would have thought that a Christian group would be willing to put things right and clarify matters.

I emailed the organization last week but despite a follow up, I did not receive the courtesy of a reply or acknowledgement. Of course, they could be busy doing God's work, but I note that they did have time to post another 'topical' article today - on Christian words being dropped from the Oxford Dictionary - to compliment its publishing of the Oxford Lights Festival non-story.

Do we really need to give charitable status to a body that just regurgitates stories from the Mail and Telegraph? Next thing we'll be doing the same for BNP-list man, Albert Hurwood's National Vigilante crazies.