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Free speech threatened by charity chiefs

The Northern Ireland Charity Commission's document Meeting the Charity Test - Demonstrating Public Benefit, states that if an organisation's activities result in a likely increase in friction with other groups, then its charitable status may be revoked.

The commission's failure to define 'friction' has worrying implications for free speech. Public argument and the expression of conflicting views are necessary components of democracy.

Is the Charity Commission seeking to deregister particular organisations because those who hold a contrary view react angrily to their campaigns or activities?

Such an approach could lead to animal welfare charities being struck off because their campaigns against hunting stir up friction among Countryside Alliance members. Or charities seeking to ban the right of parents to smack their children may be deregistered if their campaigns arouse friction among parents.

Certainly those promoting crime or violence are unworthy of charitable status, but that is very different to mere 'friction'.

The Charity Commission must clarify this distinction.

PETER McKELVEY

Cullybackey, Co Antrim

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