Charities Board Still Gunning to Deregister Family First

Media Release 25 September 2020
Family First New Zealand has been notified that the Charities Board intend to appeal the recent decision in the Wellington Court of Appeal which opposed deregistration of Family First New Zealand from the Charities Register.

“This decision is a threat for the freedom of speech and belief in New Zealand. The attempt by the Charities Board to deregister Family First is significant, not just for Family First, but for the whole country. In our view, it also reveals an approach that doesn’t appear to apply consistently to other charities who do similar style work,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Family First has fought and will continue to fight this decision because of the threat it places on us and other charities and our collective freedom to speak on behalf of our supporters in a civil society.”

“An overly restrictive or narrow view of what is in the public benefit is likely to be of concern to all charities, many of which have a certain emphasis or point of view. The importance of freedom of expression and open debate in a civil society are ideals every New Zealander should be defending.”

Key statements from the Court of Appeal judgement, which is being appealed by the Charities Board:

Para 73: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other similar instruments, affirm a right to family life. That provides considerable support for the proposition that Family First’s support of, education about, and advocacy for, the family and its related institution of marriage may, other things being equal, be charitable.”

Para 92: “[As] Paul Rishworth QC has observed: “Our political systems depend upon our deliberating as a community. Our understanding of the world comes by seeking information and transmitting it to others.”

Para 109: “An examination of this material, set in the context of advancement of education and research, shows Family First’s clear purpose of stimulating a public debate and participating in public discourse on important social issues relevant to families.”

Para 122: “Such research is valuable in promoting public knowledge about marriage and families and the many issues that affect the family. Public discussion and debate about such important issues is desirable to encourage the development of related policies and laws.”

Para 136: “The end promoted by Family First is the support of marriage and family or core family values. This is an abstraction not dissimilar to the examples given in Greenpeace of world peace or nuclear disarmament. As already analysed, Family First seeks to educate and conduct research.”

Para 147/148: “It would be curious if promotion of what the Board called the “traditional family” would cease to be of public benefit because there is a growing acceptance of other forms of stable family life, including within whānau and hapū relationships. And to be fair, Family First recognised the contribution non-traditional forms of family life can make.”

Para 164/165: “We consider Family First’s engagement in the deliberations of the community on issues such as abortion, assisted death, anti-smacking laws, prostitution reform and censorship is properly characterised as part of its broader purpose of supporting marriage and family as being foundational to a strong and enduring society. Any attempt to label such engagement generally as cause advocacy of a political nature is not helpful.”

Para 180: “Nor is there any suggestion that Family First engages in unlawful activities, such as the types of non-violent direct action at issue in Greenpeace.”

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