Charity Commission quizzes Muslim charity over alternative vote

Watchdog received complaint over endorsement of Yes to Fairer Votes by British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has asked the charity British Muslims for Secular Democracy to explain why it has publicly backed the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign, which is lobbying voters to support the introduction of the alternative vote electoral system in the forthcoming referendum.

The charity allowed its logo to be used on the Yes to Fairer Votes website because it believed this was in line with its charitable objects, Third Sector understands.

It has received a letter from the commission that says there has been a complaint about the use of the logo and asks the charity to explain why it allowed the logo to be used.

The charity’s description of its objects, filed on the Charity Commission’s website, says: "BMSD aims to raise awareness within British Muslims and the wider public of democracy, particularly secular democracy, helping to contribute to a shared vision of citizenship."

The commission published new guidance on referendums in January. It said charities could "set out the pros and cons of a yes or no vote for their beneficiaries" if they believed the outcome would directly affect the delivery of their charitable objects.

"In exceptional cases charities may consider that the outcome of a referendum is likely to directly affect, positively or negatively, the delivery of their charitable objects," it said. "Where the impact on the work of the charity is very indirect or uncertain, the trustees will find it difficult to justify campaigning for a particular outcome.

"The key question for the trustees is exactly how such activity would be an effective way of promoting the objects of the charity."

A spokeswoman for British Muslims for Secular Democracy declined to comment because the charity was seeking legal advice. 

The Charity Commission confirmed it had asked the charity for more information.

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