Recent Developments and Future Directions
Edited by Myles McGregor-Lowndes and Kerry O’Halloran
8. Religion as a head of charity Brian Lucas and Anne Robinson This chapter proposes to deal with four questions: (1) why was the advancement of religion included as one of the heads of charity? (2) can religion be conceptualised as part of charity other than by tradition? (3) why should it continue to be included as one of the heads of charity? A subtext of these questions is: is it time to reform the religious head and strip back its privileges? So we might propose that the fourth question is: (4) should religious institutions be given special tax treatment? ISSUES IN DEFINING RELIGION AS CHARITY Definition of terms, not least legal terms, is an entirely purposive exercise. In other words, words are never defined for their own sake; they are attributed meaning for a specific reason and for specific contexts. In Australian common law, in much the same way as in the United Kingdom, the definition of the term ‘charity’ has come from three main applications.1 1. There are those cases where it was necessary for the court to determine the existence of a charitable trust because if they were not charitable they would be void, offending the rule against perpetuities; related to these were other cases where it was necessary to determine the charitable status of institutions to which gifts were given. The term ‘charity’ and ‘charitable’ have been used in statutes (largely in the context of taxation and rate relief) without definition, so it has been necessary...
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