Earlier this week New Zealand’s Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold the deregistration of Family First’s charitable status, on the grounds that Family First’s “advocacy” for traditional marriage and family is “discriminatory” and not working for benefits to the general community, that its purpose is mainly “political”, that it had “crossed the line between education and advocacy”, that “its research reports lacked the balance that is required to further an educative purpose”, and that its “advocacy is not fair, balanced or respectful, so its advocacy is not charitable”.
Some of that seems not very convincing. Marriage and family is good for society, and every human society has always believed so. It is quite a stretch to argue that advocating for marriage and family is somehow “discriminatory”. Surely, too, it is legitimate for Family First to speak out in the public interest against trends and policies which it sees as socially harmful.
Some people dislike Family First’s views or object to its particular style. But that does not establish the conclusion that Family First is therefore “not charitable”. On the contrary, it seems self-evident that Family First’s motivation is to speak out for what it sees as the benefit of general society. How is that not charitable?
Ironically, many other “advocacy” groups – some of them highly politicised, but with opposite views to those of Family First – retain their charitable status. But Family First has been deregistered as a charity.
While people might not agree with every single thing that Family First has ever said, or how they may have said it, we should nevertheless absolutely defend their right to say it.
The wider principle is that, in a free society, the State should refrain from trying to restrain those groups whose views it finds unpalatable. The State should be careful not to discriminate.