New draft guidelines for religious charities could pose a threat to Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of England Newspaper has learnt.
Several Jehovah’s Witnesses charities in the UK expressed concern that the draft guidance could affect their beliefs on blood transfusion.
Their concern regards the commission’s draft guidelines which details how religious charities now have to prove ‘public benefit’ in order to ensure their charitable status.
In the Charity Commission’s Public Benefit and the Advancement of Religion document it states that a charity’s benefit to society will be measured against its detriments.
The 91-page report states: “One possible example of this type of detriment or harm is the refusal to allow medical treatment, or the taking of medicines, on religious grounds.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the giving or receiving of blood is wrong in any circumstances because of certain texts in the Old and New Testament.
The draft legislation continues: “Whilst exercising personal choice regarding medical treatment might not affect public benefit, public benefit is more likely to be an issue where an organisation advancing religion seeks to actively discourage members of the public in general from seeking medical treatment.”
One member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses said that because their views were based on the Bible, they were “willing to stand by our core conviction”.
Mr John Cunnington, the presiding overseer of the Hayes Congregation of Jehovah’s witnesses in London, said that the draft legislation could “be a concern”.
A spokesman for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in the UK said: “There is no evidence that our view on blood causes any damage.”
Sarah Whalley, a press officer for the Charity Commission said: “We would need to look on a case-by-case basis at any charity advancing religion that has any practice that might be defined as causing detriment or harm.”
She added: “The withholding of medical treatment on religious grounds on behalf of those who may not be able to make the decision for themselves is a contentious area, and we would need to look at the specific factors in any given situation and whether possible damage to health outweighed the general benefit of people having the freedom to follow their religion and the benefit that the advancement of that religion provides to the public.”