First Minister urged to review ‘advancement of religion’ as a charitable purpose


The National Secular Society has urged Scotland’s First Minister to review the advancement of religion as a charitable purpose, arguing that it is “impeding the Scottish government’s attempts to combat misogyny”.

The organisation has called for the Scottish government to review charity law and the inclusion of ‘the advancement of religion’ as a charitable purpose, in a letter sent to Humza Yousaf, the First Minister. 

The letter, from NSS chief executive Stephen Evans, says Yousaf’s Shaping Positive Masculinity initiative is being impeded by charity law, which it says “enables the spread of religiously inspired misogyny”.

Yousaf said this initiative, announced at the start of February, seeks to “promote positive masculinity” to “tackle the root cause of violence against women and girls, namely abusive behaviour perpetrated by men”.

In its letter, the NSS says that this initiative is “being undermined by charity law which enables the spread of religiously inspired misogyny”, citing recent media reports of a sermon from the Rosyth Baptist Church, which re-registered as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation in January under the charitable purpose ‘the advancement of religion’.

According to reports from the Daily Record and the Daily Mail, the sermon included claims that “a husband is the head of his wife” and that a wife “should submit to her husband’s leadership”.

The NSS says it has raised concerns about this charity with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

A spokesperson for OSCR said: “We have received concerns about Rosyth Baptist Church which are currently being assessed in line with our usual policies and procedures.”

The NSS letter says: “Permitting ‘the advancement of religion’ as a charitable purpose is not only enabling the spread of religiously inspired misogyny; it is, in fact, furthering it through the generous tax breaks that charities enjoy.”

It urges Yousaf to “review charity law and the inclusion of ‘the advancement of religion’ as a charitable purpose”.

Yousaf pledged in late 2022 that the government would undertake a review of charity regulation in Scotland, and in early February the government confirmed that it was considering making this review an independent one.

Kirsten Hogg, head of policy and research at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “For some time now SCVO has called for an independent review of charity law in Scotland, which will allow for a range of views to be heard on issues including the public benefit test and charitable purpose. 

“We are pleased that the Scottish government has committed to this wider review, and are currently working to ensure that the review is independent of the government.”

This article was updated on 1 March to include a comment from OSCR.

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