Pagan Federation appeals against Charity Commission’s Rejection (my thoughts)

News is circulating on the internet platforms, that the Pagan Federation has made an appeal against the rejection by Charity Commission (UK). The website www.ThirdSector.co.uk has reported the news that Pagan Federation is appealing against the Charity Commission’s decision to reject the Pagan Federation’s application.

“The Charity Commission rejected the federation’s application in October, arguing that it did not fulfil the ‘essential characteristics’ of a religion or its criteria for public benefit…..

…..The commission rejected the federation’s application for charitable status in October. It said it did not consider that the federation fulfilled the essential characteristics of a religion or its criteria for public benefit….”   

I was aware that the Pagan Federation had been rejected in its application to seek Charity Status the first time (years ago), and another application was being prepared by the Pagan Federation some while ago (December 2010).  I was contacted by the Vice President of the Pagan Federation for some information on the Ope Rituals I was managing in London for Pagan Federation since December 2004. The VP’s request concerned outlines of  whether the Pagan Federation asks for payment for these open rituals,  are people let in free if they don’t have money and so on. I suppose it was about showing evidence of how the Pagan Federation serves the general public.

A simple research on the Charity Commission’s website will show anyone that for an entity to be recognised as a Charity, it needs to show that the entity’s activities must be benefiting the public (`for the benefit of the public’ ).  The Charity Commissions’ website gives several examples of `Objects’ (Objectives) which satisfy this requirement. Categories such as `advancement of religion’, `advancement of education’, `advancement of arts, culture, heritage or Science’ are some examples.  I have been researching all these several years ago, when I was preparing to create Gaian Times – the eco-spiritual organisation (initially as a not-for-profit Company limited by Guarantee – very much like The Pagan Federation has been since year 2000).

I am only guessing here – with my knowledge being specific to the Pagan Federation’s usual activities and organisational structure, it’s Constitution, its documentations at Companies House where any companies are registered (free for all to view), and my own research of Charity commission application guidelines.  I suppose the problem that the Pagan Federation may have faced  could have been in demonstrating how its existing practices, activities and Constitutions are serving the general public (bearing in mind it was created to be a campaigning organisation `to promote and defend the pagan traditions’ – which is applicable to a specific community (although it could be said that anyone who wanted to know about Paganism can enter it and benefit from it).

Reading the online reporting at ThirdSector website, I found the following passage to be rather worrying.

“..Winder said winning charitable status could give the federation the legitimacy and recognition of being one of the official religions of the British Isles…”

Why am I worried? Well, in the first instance, I do hope that this online reporting is a journalist hash-job of taking full explanations given by the Pagan Federation Officer and reducing it to a short quote, where valuable information is lost, as well as sentences become `out of context’. Otherwise this quote does not make sense. Why?

Because The Pagan Federation is not and never has been nor ever will be – a religion! The Pagan Federation is an organisation that campaigns for pagan traditions, for pagan religions, for pagan people’s rights just as other people have their rights.

If The Pagan Federation did indeed apply to become a Charity on the basis of it being a religion, of course it is not going to succeed in its charity status for that reason. I am aware that recently the Druid Network gained Charity Status – (No: 1138265 – THE DRUID NETWORK).  Their primary activities are stated as, “INFORMING, INSPIRING AND FACILITATING DRUIDRY AS A RELIGION”.  Now this is quite clever statement. It does not say Druidry IS a religion, or that the Druid Network is a Religion. Rather its activity is `Informing, inspiring and facilitating..’  a particular product…where the product being `Druidry as a religion’ – which implies…its campaigning Druidry as a religion. (It does not claim it already is). Furthermore, it does not seem to limit this campaigning (ie informing, inspiring and facilitating..) to a particular group or community. Anyone – general public- can be informed, inspired and facilitated to!

I am not sure exactly what wordings were used in the Pagan Federation’s Charity status application – but I do fear that appealing on the grounds of definitions of what a religion is, and how paganism fits into all that is a long and winding road – can be full of many challenges.

It is my suggestion that the Pagan Federation convenes a big ol’ committee meeting  / Directors meeting/  members meeting to debate and discuss changes as follows..

  • a) change its basic constitution to broaden it, then,
  •  b)  send in an amendment to its `Articles of Association’ (memorandum, Objects in particular) such that those reflect a `general serving nature’ to Companies House (Government body which manages Company Registrations).. and
  • c) operate under this new system for at least a year or two, and proactively serve general public – (with such things as setting up various eco-centric initiatives (note   ECO.. not Ego), charitable activities like collecting money and sending it to places in parts of the world where it’s needed.., or even such things as running open workshops and courses specifically titled `Paganism and magic for enhancing the lives of general public’   etc
  • d) and finally compile all this `real evidence of serving the public and the world’ – and send it off with a new application to Charity Commission (3rd time lucky?)

I have been a member of the Pagan Federation for 15+ years, and been actively serving it for 8 years- organising those rituals, conventions, socials, picnics.. until few months ago. And though some `new radical elements’ within it   now seem to have a hobby of attacking and bullying me in online platforms, I still have the best wishes and growth for the Pagan Federation. I think I promised a few Wiccan Elders that I would.

-Mani Navasothy

related links

Gaian Times eco-spiritual organisation & magazine

Charity Commission

Companies House

Druid Network

Pagan Federation

Wikipedia – Pagan Federation

ps. A few minority fail to understand that a personal blog is all about the person discussing, debating, offering views and generally being  `personal’. This one is one of my personal broadcasting channels (my other platform is Gaian2012 – youtube channel).  That reminds me, soon,  I will be discussing (under Esoteric Enterprises) how everyone can and should utilize similar online-tools.

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2 thoughts on “Pagan Federation appeals against Charity Commission’s Rejection (my thoughts)”

  1. When was halfway through reading this, I was going to say, compare and contrast an organisation that did achieve charitable status to see how it becomes acceptable and you did. Maybe if the PF organised more free outdoor walks, talks, rituals and free events where they do not have expenses to incur for the meeting place they would be able to reach out to more people. Maybe release an album of pagan songs and musical performers and give all proceeds to charity. On the other point, your blog IS your own space to present your points of view. If people want to discuss or disagree with the post then that is acceptable and that is what the comment section is for. But it should all be courteous and within the spirit of brainstorming ideas and gaining understanding of others’ perspectives.

  2. I happen to agree with Manis comments in this blog post….. the proposals he has listed are already beginning to take shape and the Pagan Federation has withdrawn its application for a tribunal hearing. Whether or not the Pagan Federation as a whole seeks charity status in the future is another matter though. One of the criteria for becoming a charity seems to be that the organisation has to have been establised solely as a charitable organisation and we would need to disolve the Pagan Federation and start afresh as a completely new organisation solely aimed at charity work. It must also be noted that there are a number of Pagan or Pagan friendly groups engaged in charity work already. It might be more appropriate for us to focus our energy on supporting them rather than trying to start something new. Only time will tell what we feel is the right way forward.

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