Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The PBCC don't like it up'em

Plymouth Brethren Christian Church

In an article published in The Times on 6 May 2015, which is now the subject of a legal complaint, it was alleged that the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church had “been leafleting for Conservative candidates in key marginal seats and offering prayers for a Tory victory” in the lead up on the recent UK general election. Such actions were said to have taken place in the constituencies of Yeovile, Chippenham and Montgomeryshire. The UK Charity Commission is currently investigating the allegations, as such actions would contravene a charity’s duty not to “undertake party-political campaigns”.

This is not the first time controversy has engulfed the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. The Times have previously alleged that the Church, which operates 34 schools, engaged in ‘an “extraordinary lobbying campaign” to pressurise the Charity Commission into granting …charitable status’ to the Preston Down Trust where members of the Church meet. Allegedly, such lobbying included handing out leaflets for Conservative candidates during the 2010 general election. 

As Frank Cranmer explains, “it is a basic principle of charity law that charities may not undertake party-political campaigns”. As the UK Charity Commission sets out, “To be a charity an organisation must be established for charitable purposes only, which are for the public benefit. An organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are political”. Furthermore, the Commission makes explicit the obligation not to “give support or funding to a political party, nor to a candidate or politician”. However, the Commission does permit charities giving “support to specific policies advocated by political parties if it would help achieve its charitable purpose”. 

The position is similar in Australia, although the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission note that “while a charity can support a political party or candidate, this support must be a way of achieving its purposes rather than a goal in itself“.

Author: Merryn Lynch


  1. I can guess what the Brethren’s defence against these allegations will be. They will attribute their charitable deeds to the organisation or its registered charities, and attribute the political lobbying merely to individuals, saying it was nothing to do with the church. But this attribution is rather arbitrary: it would be just as easy to attribute these activities the other way round. We know from documentary evidence that the Brethren’s political lobbying in some countries has been centrally organised, and sometimes encouraged by their leaders, including BDH. I have written about the evidence for this on WikiPeebia.

    Jim Taylor was probably the first MoG to express political preferences in public and encourage the Brethren to influence the outcome of a general election by prayer. Here are a couple of extracts.

    Ministry of J. Taylor Jr. Volume 147 pages 220-221
    [Start of quote] Well, we've got into politics; I guess we'll be here for a while yet! But I tell you, I think you've had this fellow long enough, so you pray him out of office. You've got a few weeks yet. If you don't believe me, you'll see a change in June; you'll see the change come. You don't believe it, do you, that you'll have a new government next June? You're not optimistic at all. You know you want it! I tell you, you keep praying long enough, and tell the Lord, we've had enough of that for a while. He'll listen to you; and I'll say, that's all right, too. [end of quote]

    Ministry of J.Taylor Jr. Volume 148 age 108 (Reading at Harrow )

    [Start of quote]Ques. I suppose, Mr. Taylor, the good government would make bricks and not drop bricks. Is that right?

    J.T.Jr. Yes, that's right. So I think we're getting on all right. The thing is to see who the leader is, and be sure you're right. So he's in, our man is in. His name is Heath. He's in. Ha, ha, ha! We get 'em in and get 'em kicked out, the others. [end of quote]

    The Bible and Gospel Trust claims copyright of these extracts.

  2. Looks like they might have been on a winner with Heath!