In late April, the Charity Commission announced the registration of the organisation ‘LGB Alliance’ as a charity and published an accompanying full decision. The registration decision has been controversial, as some claim that it as an anti-transgender campaign group.
LGB Alliance has charitable objects of promoting equality and diversity in particular for lesbian, gay and bisexual people and promoting human rights and particularly the rights and freedoms of those who face discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The organisation was set up by a group of former supporters of the charity Stonewall who were opposed to its work on transgender rights. LGB Alliance has engaged in social media activity in the past that “may be regarded as inflammatory or offensive”.
The Commission only has the power to consider charity registrations with regard to whether the legal test for a charity is met. It is not able to refuse registration of a charity on the basis that it is controversial. The full decision on the LGB Alliance provides an interesting insight into how the Commission was able to get comfortable with registering the Charity and its approach to the controversy surrounding the organisation in its decision making.
The Commission had received objections to the registration for a number of different reasons, including that LGB Alliance’s purposes unlawfully discriminate against people under the Equality Act 2010 and that its purposes will result in a degree of harm that outweighs the benefit.
In relation to the Equality Act, the Commission stated that if the promotion of the rights of one group is pursued in a way which invariably involves the denigration of rights of others, then the purpose may not be for the public benefit. However, the Commission considered that promoting the equality and human rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people can be pursued without denigrating the rights of transgender people. During the registration process, the Commission did raise concerns with LGB Alliance that some of its social media activity demeaned and denigrated the rights of other protected groups. LGB Alliance addressed these concerns by adopting a revised social media policy. The Commission have said that if LGB Alliance does demean or denigrate the rights of others they may take regulatory action, as that would affect whether the charity was acting for the public benefit.
The Commission noted that considering whether the harm caused by LGB Alliance would outweigh the benefit was part of the public benefit assessment. If harm outweighs benefit, then the legal requirement that a charity acts in the public benefit will not be met. The existence of some harm does not necessarily mean that an organisation cannot be charitable; it is a question of balancing the benefit of the purposes against the detriment of the purposes. In this case, the consequences of the LGB Alliance’s purposes would not necessarily be detrimental to the public.
The Commission states that its role is not to make value judgments about the aims of ideas of an organisation. This registration demonstrates how the legal test for a charity allows a range of views, included those considered controversial, to be considered charitable.