Charities regulator risks becoming censor
Charities Services has confirmed it will analyse the Destiny Church’s tax-free status and see if its guilty of breaching the Charities Act.
If anything is uncovered a full investigation will then be carried out.
But stripping Destiny Church of its charity status risks turning Charities Services into a censor, a charity law expert says.
To be removed from the charities register the law requires evidence of “serious wrongdoing”, said Sue Barker, director of law firm Charities Law and also the co-author of The Law and Practice of Charities in New Zealand.
“And deregistering a charity for “speaking out” could have the “chilling effect” of silencing others, Barker said.
“Do we really want the charities register to be the chief censor?
Destiny Church is registered under its Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Nelson, Taranaki, Tauranga, Wellington, Whakatane, and Whangarei branches.
There are 27,934 registered charities in New Zealand, according to the Charities Services. There are hundreds, if not thousands, which fail to get onto the register, Barker said.
“It’s already very hard … I argue we want them on the register because then they’re subject to all this transparency.”
“If they’re not on it, and are carrying on with their work, what regulation are they subject to? Probably not any.”
Barker said Tamaki himself is not a charity so his income should be taxable.
“I am not aware of his tax profile but I’m presuming he is an employee and he should pay tax on the income that he receives, unless he has an exemption but I can’t think of one that he would qualify for,” she says.
On Friday a spokesperson for the church said they have had no communication with Charities Services so would not be commenting on the development.
DESTINY CHURCH – Is its applicability for tax-free status to be threatened by what has been assumed to be ‘hate-speech’ by people who object to a statement made by its Auckland Leader, ‘Bishop’ Brian Tamaki? The fact that Mr Tamaki proclaimed in a worship service his belief that the recent New Zealand earthquakes were a direct result of God’s displeasure at what he sees as homosexual and other sexual licentiousness being indulged by the locals (together with the enactment of Equal Marriage by the civil authorities) could, it seems, provide a reason for withholding the current tax-free status for Destiny Church throughout New Zealand.
However, if homophobia – evidenced by anti-gay speech in sermons – could become the basis for taking away the tax-free status of all religious entities in New Zealand, then there would be grounds for removing this privilege from some of the mainline Churches in this country. I can think of more than one Anglican Church that could be accused of anti-gay sermons, that would then be treated in the same way.
What could be a problem, though, with Destiny Church, is whether, or not, its Leader, Brian Tamaki, is also considered part of the tax-free status accorded to the Church he leads. This may be the only basis of a legitimate complaint about Destiny’s tax-free status. Other established Churches in New Zealand have no exemption from income tax levied on their ministers; so this situation ought to apply to all ministers of religion, without exception.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand