Thursday, September 2, 2010
The Charity Commission in New Zealand has refused the attempt by Exodus Ministries Trust Board, the New Zealand affiliate of Exodus International, to register as a charitable entity. Exodus is a Christian ministry that promotes "release" from homosexuality based on its belief that homosexuals can become heterosexual and that homosexuality is morally wrong. Consistent with these beliefs, it provides counseling and conducts seminars and study groups. Interpreting New Zealand's statutory law, the Commission found that the organization was not charitable - citing to the Preamble to the 1601 Statute of Elizabeth from which the definition of "charitable" in most if not all common law countries, including the United States, can be traced - and also that it was unclear whether the group would provide a public benefit. The ruling appears to have been reported in the U.S. primarily if not exclusively in the gay press (see, for example, the Edge's coverage) to date. One interesting question the decision raises is whether similar reasoning could be adopted in the U.S., the U.K., or other countries that use a similar definition of charitable, although at least in the U.S. the explicit provision of "religious" as an acceptable purpose for a charity (for federal tax purposes) may provide an alternate ground for maintaining the charity status of Exodus and similar groups.