In the course of the day-job, I posted a rather shorter version of the following on the website of the Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service.
The relevant legislation
Campaigning by charities during elections and referendums is governed by Part VI (Control of donations to registered parties and their members etc) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, which must be read in conjunction with Part 2 (Non-party campaigning etc) of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.
Further, quite apart from the specific rules around campaigning at election time, church congregations are bound as charities by the terms of their domestic charities legislation – in England & Wales the Charities Act 2011, in Scotland the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and in Northern Ireland the Charities Acts (Northern Ireland) 2008 & 2013 – and those restrictions apply to charities whether or not they are registered as charities with their territorial regulator. Registration is about the degree of regulation to which the charity is subject, emphatically not about charitable status itself.
The basic rule in all three jurisdictions is that a charity must not support or oppose a specific political party, because purely partisan political activity is not a charitable purpose – though that bar does not prevent charities from supporting or opposing specific policies. Continue reading