Lawyers criticise Charity Commission's decision on gnostics

Regulator 'obliged to draw on absurd case law'

The Charity Commission's rejection of the Gnostic Centre's application for charitable registration is "begging" to be appealed to the charity tribunal, according to charity lawyer Rosamund McCarthy.

An internal commission review decided that gnosticism did not meet the legal definition of a religion because it did not promote "a positive, beneficial, moral or ethical framework" .

But McCarthy, a partner at Bates Wells & Braithwaite, said the case law the commission was obliged to draw on was "absurd" and needed to be tested legally. She said it was also possible that the commission had breached the Human Rights Act, which requires religions and other moral belief systems to be treated equally.

Phil Watts, a senior manager at Anthony Collins Solicitors, questioned the commission's interpretation of the law and said it would raise concerns that the regulator was creating rather than applying charity law.

Celia Ennis, a member of the Gnostic Centre, said she would appeal if she had time to complete the application within the six-week time limit. She criticised the commission for releasing its decision on Christmas Eve.

A spokeswoman for the commission said it was the regulator's policy to release decisions as soon as they were made.

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