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09 January 2014

Alliance welcomes both ASBO and Plymouth Brethren decisions

Alliance welcomes both ASBO and Plymouth Brethren decisions

The Evangelical Alliance has welcomed news of the success of two major campaigns its advocacy team has been involved in.

Yesterday, the House of Lords voted against the government's attempt to threaten freedom of speech and today the Charity Commission announced its decision to grant charitable status to the Plymouth Brethren.

The Alliance was involved in the two long-running campaigns, working hard to protect free speech and defending the charitable status of the Christian organisation.

Ministers had wanted to replace anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) in England and Wales with injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance.

Dr Don Horrocks, head of public affairs at the Alliance, said: "Proposals to lower the threshold of behaviour currently required for ASBOs so that almost any kind of public activity could have been caught by the new Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs) were rejected by the Lords by a large majority. The government will now have to reconsider its whole approach."

The government was defeated by 306 to 178 votes in the Lords.

Lord Dear – the crossbench peer who led the opposition plan – said IPNAs risked "being used for those who seek to protest peacefully, noisy children in the street, street preachers, canvassers, carol singers, trick-or-treaters, church bell ringers, clay pigeon shooters, nudists". He added: "This is a crowded island that we live in and we must exercise a degree surely of tolerance and forbearance."

Commenting on another positive result in advocacy work this week, Dr Horrocks said: "This is turning out to be an excellent week for good news in the Alliance's public policy arena."

Today, the Charity Commission announced its decision to grant charitable status to the Plymouth Brethren after previously threatening to remove it.

The Evangelical Alliance has been involved in discussions relating to the charitable status of the Plymouth Brethren because it relates to important questions of religious freedom and charitable status, which we support and want to see protected both for those who are members of the Alliance as well as those who are not.  

Dr Horrocks said: "An amicable agreement has now finally been reached. But make no mistake: this represents a climbdown by the Charity Commission following a high profile campaign.

"However, the cost to the Brethren has been over £1 million. What a shame that the Commission did not adopt their new constructive approach earlier. This campaign has significant implications for religious charities across the board and important lessons have also been learned by all sides in the process."

For more details on both of these stories, read the next edition of the Alliance's political newsletter: PQ.