Last week I heard on the radio that Family First may be stripped of its status as a charity, which exempts it from having to pay tax. Just as quickly I heard a shocked founder and spokesperson, Bob McCoskrie vow to fight any attempt to strip F.F. of its status.
From the get go, F.F. have not been a charity, despite their attempts to demonstrate otherwise. In the eyes of most New Zealanders a charity is an organization that provides social services of some sort, something that I have yet to see F.F. do.
What F.F. are, is a conservative lobby group. It has campaigned against the legislation that introduced an amendment regarding smacking to Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which is commonly known as the Anti Smacking legislation. F.F. have also campaigned actively against recognition of same sex marriage, something that continues to this day despite widespread acceptance of it by New Zealanders.
Whilst Mr McCoskrie may be determined to fight the pending removal of F.F.’s charitable status, there are other charities that have been subject to scrutiny over the years, which took steps to keep their lobbying separate from their social services. One such charity is Sensible Sentencing Trust which was established to advocate for victims of crime and harsher penalties. Run by Garth McVicar, the S.S.T. was formed in response to concerns that there was no advocacy for victims of crime, particularly victims of violent offences for whom there was post-offence trauma and other issues that did not stop with the sentencing of their attacker/s.
Over the years S.S.T. has gradually become more political. Mr McVicar was seen as endorsing the Conservative Party which is well known for its hard line on sentencing and justice issues and he stood for them as a candidate in the 2014 General Election. In September 2010 the Sensible Sentencing Trust was deregistered as a charity on the grounds it had transformed into a political lobby group.
Perhaps Family First can reorganize itself to provide some sort of social services. Perhaps it could follow the example of Sensible Sentencing Trust and establish the political lobbying as a separate branch. Otherwise I support it having its charitable status revoked.