Friday, September 02, 2011

Britian's Charity Commission Issues New Guidance On Exceptions For Religious Charities

On Wednesday, Britain's Charity Commission announced the issuance of new, more detailed guidelines under the Equality Act 2010 clarifying when charities may restrict their benefits to persons on the basis of their religion, gender, age and various other protected characteristics.  The Guidance (full text) has special rules for charities that limit their benefits to members of a particular religion. A "religious or belief organization" can restrict membership, participation in their activities, the services they provide or use of their premises on the basis of a person's religion, belief or sexual orientation, if certain conditions are met.  This type of restriction may be imposed only to comply with the organization's doctrines, or to avoid conflict with the religious-based convictions of many of the organization's followers. However, these limitations may not be invoked by an organization that is wholly or mainly commercial.  Also, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not permitted when an organization is providing a service on behalf of a public authority under contract with it. Yesterday's Guardian reported on the new Guidance document.