The religious charities the Salvation Army and Quakers in Britain have become the latest charities to register with the Electoral Commission as non-party campaigners under the provisions of the lobbying act.
The act, which was passed in January last year, says that charities, campaign groups and other organisations must register with the Electoral Commission if their spending on particular "regulated activities" exceeds £20,000 in England or £10,000 in the rest of the UK in the period before an election.
Charities and campaigners have attacked the laws, with some calling it "the gagging law", and have said it will make organisations less likely to engage in legitimate campaigning activities.
At that time, Quakers in Britain said it expected to join them shortly. But in October it was still considering its position.
The charity – under its full formal name Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) – eventually registered on 9 January.
Meanwhile, the Salvation Army Trustee Company – a private company that is the trustee board of the army itself and three related but much smaller charities – registered last week with the Electoral Commission, although its registration is yet to show on the commission’s online register.
Jessica Metheringham, parliamentary engagement officer for Quakers in Britain, said: "Politics is not just for political parties. Quakers in Britain is a church and we are political. Speaking truth to power is the way that we act out our witness in the world, and we have been doing that for 350 years. We have decided that we will not change the way in which we campaign on issues such as opposing nuclear weapons, so we have registered with the Electoral Commission as a non-party campaigner."
A spokeswoman for the Salvation Army said: "Although we remain non-party political, we have decided to register. This is because we intend to encourage the public to think about some of the issues that our service users experience, such as homelessness, unemployment and personal debt. We also want to be free to comment during the election campaign on any negative messages about people living in poverty."
She said the charity would exceed the £20,000 spending threshold because its spend would include staff costs. The charity considered the act to be "a confusing law that needs revision", she said.
Metheringham has previously told Third Sector that Quakers in Britain believed the legislation was "unworkable and unenforceable". The difficulty of following the Electoral Commission’s guidance has been a concern to charities since the law came into force.
Among the 45 registered non-party campaigners are the RSPCA and Stonewall. The majority of registrations are not charities, including the campaigning platform 38 Degrees and the fee-paying schools body the Independent Schools Council.