Greenpeace not a charity

May 11th, 2011 at 2:17 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand’s political activities mean it cannot register as a , the High Court has decided.

Greenpeace appealed against a 2010 ruling by the Charities Commission which found its promotion of “disarmament and peace” was political rather than educational and while it did not directly advocate illegal acts, Greenpeace members had acted illegally.

In his judgment Justice Paul Heath found the commission was correct in its judgment and turned down the Greenpeace appeal.

“Non-violent, but potentially illegal activities (such as trespass), designed to put (in the eyes of Greenpeace) objectionable activities into the public spotlight were an independent object disqualifying it from registration as a charitable entity,” the judge said.

I cam’y say this is a big surprise. Greenpeace acts in a very political way. The actual court judgement is worth a read – located here. I thought the sections on how there is a difference between promoting peace and pacifism. This is a quote from Southwood v Attorney-General:

The point, as it seems to me, is this. There is no objection – on public benefit grounds – to an educational programme which begins from the premise that peace is generally preferable to war. For my part, I would find it difficult to believe that any court would refuse to accept, as a general proposition, that it promotes public benefit for the public to be educated to an acceptance of that premise. That does not lead to the conclusion that the promotion of pacifism is necessarily charitable. The premise that peace is generally preferable to war is not to be equated with the premise that peace at any price is always preferable to any war. The latter plainly is controversial. But that is not this case. I would have no difficulty in accepting the proposition that it promotes public benefit for the public to be educated in the differing means of securing a state of peace and avoiding a state of war. The difficulty comes at the next stage. There are differing views as to how best to secure peace and avoid war. To give two obvious examples: on the one hand it can be contended that war is best avoided by “bargaining through strength”; on the other hand it can be argued, with equal passion, that peace is best secured by disarmament – if necessary, by unilateral disarmament. The court is in no position to determine that promotion of the one view rather than the other is for the public benefit. Not only does the court have no material on which to make that choice; to attempt to do so would be to usurp the role of government. So the court cannot recognise as charitable a trust to educate the public to an acceptance that peace is best secured by ―demilitarisation‖ . . . Nor, conversely, could the court recognise as charitable a trust to educate the public to an acceptance that war is best avoided by collective security through the membership of a military alliance – say, NATO.

Justice Health notes in this case:

Irrespective of whether ―peace, in itself, can constitute a charitable purpose, it is more difficult to argue for that position with respect of disarmament. So far as disarmament is concerned, Mr Salmon makes a good point in referring to the non-contentious nature of nuclear disarmament in New Zealand, as a result of the nuclear free policy first given effect by statute over 20 years ago. But Greenpeace‘s objects refer only to ―disarmament‖, not to ―nuclear disarmament‖. In doing so they fall foul of the admonition against political lobbying about the way in which disarmament should occur, as expressed (for example) in Southwood.

This is key. Greenpeace promotes pacifism, which is not the same as peace. The former is highly political, the latter is non-controversial. I am sure many of their activists think the two things are the same, but that is more a reflection of the narrowness of their views.

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34 Responses to “Greenpeace not a charity”

  1. Ryan Sproull (7,153 comments) says:

    I believe Oxfam gets around it by being technically two organisations – one advocacy, the other charity.

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  2. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    A very welcome decision.

    “The premise that peace is generally preferable to war is not to be equated with the premise that peace at any price is always preferable to any war.”

    An important distinction often lost of those pacifists who damn any military action at all.

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  3. Manolo (13,780 comments) says:

    The eco-terrorists have been punished by being recognised for what they are: a political organisation, and a very left-wing one for this matter.

    How much will this decision cost them? Maybe the Luddite MPs can donate part of their salaries.

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  4. john.bt (170 comments) says:

    Needless to say, this sensible decision will be overturned by the Supremes.

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  5. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    I just hope a few more so-called charities are struck off too. Starting with Sanitarium.

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  6. James Stephenson (2,180 comments) says:

    Greenpeace is a corporation which uses headline-grabbing “environmental” antics to generate income via donations.

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  7. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    Stuff reports: “Non-violent, but potentially illegal activities (such as trespass), designed to put (in the eyes of Greenpeace) objectionable activities into the public spotlight were an independent object disqualifying it from registration as a charitable entity,” the judge said”.

    How true. Greenpeace wandered off the path of the environmental message years ago. Nowadays, when the breathless, TV interviewer rushes to them to get their opinion on something, we see the usual bunch of placard waving dissidents who espouse the socialist theory that their way is the only way and bugger anyone else. In fact, now they even support ragtag outfits such as the marine terrorist Sea Shepherd – an outfit that thinks its a big joke to ram other boats going about their lawful business on the ocean.

    Greenpeace / Sea Shepherd are political. No doubt about it. As such, they need to stump up and pay their share of tax.

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  8. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Given green peaces propensity for violent destruction of other peoples property Lee I can’t really see that they have an argument.

    Tehir claim that their doctrine is simply superior to everyone elses values is simply extremist retoric and the assumption that they are so obviously right that it shouldn;t be question makes Rick Giles look like a debating genius.

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  9. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    Yes a lot of their activities seem quite a stretch for my layman’s idea of what “charity”means also.

    I don’t always agree with what Greenpeace says or does, but you should always open your bidding ahead of where you realistically hope to end up. Overall I think it’s good that they are around…

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  10. peterwn (3,273 comments) says:

    The judgment is here:
    http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/cases/re-greenpeace-of-new-zealand-incorporated/at_download/fileDecision
    In para 59 Heath J said that:
    ” Albeit with a degree of reluctance, I feel constrained to
    apply the full extent
    of the Bowman line of authority [British authority unfavourable to
    Greenpeace] on the basis that I am bound to do so by the Court of
    Appeal decision in Molloy. In modern times, there is much to be said
    for the
    majority judgment in Aid/Watch [Australian decision favourable to
    Greenpeace]. ”

    So basically Heath J felt constrained to give a decision he was not
    comfortable with, and this is sometimes happens. By stating this Heath
    J is virtually inviting Greeneace to appeal his decision to the Court
    of Appeal which can decide to uphold or overturn its earlietr ‘Molloy’
    decision. Hence any decision by Greenpeace to appeal should not be
    seen as ‘sour grapes’, being stubborn, etc. Also a successful appeal
    would not be a ‘slap in the face’ for the judge. Being human judges
    generally hate their cases being successfully appealed and will
    generally endeavour to get it right first time round.

    I am no fan of Greenpeace, but it does look that there is a reasonable chance that Heath J’s decision (or parts of it) will be overturned on by the Court of Appeal – this may or may not be sufficient to leave the way clear for chartiable status. The Court of Appeal may rule on which line of authority should apply then throw it back to Heath J to re-work his judgment.

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  11. Mr Nobody NZ (391 comments) says:

    When you look at other organisations who in recent years have loss their charitable status such as the NZ Freemasons or Sensible Sentencing it is hard to imagine that Green Peace will not loose theirs.

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  12. Komata (1,191 comments) says:

    Has anyone considered that, for an organisation which is perpetually ‘begging’ for donations and memberships (to the extent of sending people door-to-door to solicit), it seems to have no problems in finding and paying for lawyers when it feeels unjustly treated. Since ‘Donations’ alone don’t pay legal fees, can anyone tell us the organisation’s REAL source of income?

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  13. david (2,557 comments) says:

    On Newstalk ZB yesterday one of the commentators stated that this wouold not affect the rebates available from IRD on donations or subscriptions. Surely this must be incorrect. There has to be a nexus between the objects of teh organisation and the tax status of donations made.
    Otherwise the David Foundation with the purpose of meeting my living expenses could solicit donations and donors could get the rebates on them …… just thinking ……………..

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  14. lastmanstanding (1,297 comments) says:

    the difference between the Freemasons The SST and the Greens is that the Greens are a left wing organisation so Heath J will be over turned on appeal. The Judicary since Cooke have become very left wing and unbalanced ( some might say umhinged but I couldnt possibly comment)

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  15. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    Komata –
    when you sign up to donate to Greenpeace, generally they try to sign you up to a recurring monthly donation via your credit card.

    (Regular monthly donations) x (a large number of donors) = funding for activities including the odd bit of legal action.

    No secret hidden funding conspiracy needed!

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  16. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    does this mean that they cant walk around with buckets scabbing cash?

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  17. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    The Judicary since Cooke have become very left wing and unbalanced

    That’s a huge call, lastmanstanding. And who, pray tell, might you be?

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  18. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Essentially there is being developed a requirement for groups not to protest against corporate or government activity lest they lose charitable status. When added to the propenisty for state agenciers to surveilance those involved in protest against free trade agreements and the way foreign aid budgets have moved to promoting economic development via business promotion, the whole NGO strata of society is on notice to abide by the regimes dictate.

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  19. annie (539 comments) says:

    Needless to say, this sensible decision will be overturned by the Supremes.

    Indeed. Such a decision may even make sense on the planet they inhabit.

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  20. Nigel Kearney (1,013 comments) says:

    The ‘charities’ that lined up in favour of the anti-smacking law are representing a political position that is just as fringe as Greenpeace and should also lose their tax exemption.

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  21. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    (Regular monthly donations) x (a large number of donors) = funding for activities including the odd bit of legal action.

    There would be a bunch of funding from various foundations too I’d imagine.

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  22. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    “I just hope a few more so-called charities are struck off too. Starting with Sanitarium.”

    If you go after the Seventh Day Adventists you’ll have to go after the catholics and anglicans. I’m all for it but good luck…

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  23. Sam Buchanan (501 comments) says:

    The judge’s comments on the ‘peace’ issue seem to be saying “you can be a charity and still advocate and educate people on an issue, but only if you discuss all options and avoid anything controversial” which opens up a huge can of worms (particularly for religious groups).

    Can I get any group that doesn’t include my opinions in its educational material ruled a non-charity? (that would be pretty much all of them , Greenpeace included)

    I’d have thought it would be easier to say it’s beneficial to the public to have all manner of opinions put up for public debate and discussion, hence all groups that are non-profit and advocate any point of view could be charities. The tax take can’t amount to much.

    BTW Greenpeace doesn’t support Sea Shepherd – they are always railing against them.

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  24. tristanb (1,127 comments) says:

    Why have any charity status at all?

    Why not let them all pay proper tax and get rid of the tax benefits. The money made by stopping the charity loophole could be used to reduce everyone’s tax rate – the money we save from lower tax could be given to whatever “charity” the person wanted.

    It just seems like one of those “exceptions” loopholes. The same type of thing you’d see if you had exceptions to GST (e.g. tomato sauce being argued to be a vegetable).

    Make it simple. Treat them as any other organisation. Stop subsiding Churches, Universities, Kapa Haka groups and vegans by calling them “charity”.

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  25. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    Tristan>Why have any charity status at all?

    Because if people give $20 to a charity, they want it all to go TO the charity, not (directly or indirectly) to state coffers.

    >the money we save from lower tax could be given to whatever “charity” the person wanted.

    ….and then taken back from the charity by the state when it presents its tax bill

    Isn’t tomato sauce a fruit? ;-)

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  26. john.bt (170 comments) says:

    Tomato sauce is a basic food group (according to a grandson).

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  27. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    I believe Greenpeace receives some funding and legal aid through some of George Soros’s companies. Of course they still require help from the ill informed and gullible.

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  28. Steve (4,563 comments) says:

    Greenpeace never was a ‘charity’ It was always a political organisation. I donated many years ago but now Greenpeace has been taken over by the toxic waste that are Communists.
    The next ‘charity’ that that needs to be dropped is MAORI. Time to stop handing out to those who demand a lifestyle from the Taxpayer.
    Racist? no, I have a colour TV. I can see all colours not just black and white. How come the Maori charity is so special?

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  29. pq (728 comments) says:

    Green peace the modern Corso

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  30. CharlieBrown (1,012 comments) says:

    So, does that mean we can challenge the charitable status of the SPCA. This organisation is political to, and scarier yet, despite their incompetency, they have powers to enforce the law. Consider the fact that they are always lobbying the government for law changes that are debatable, are against things such as the eating of dog meat, big game fishing, they should be stripped of charity status and any law enforcement powers.

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  31. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    Not only is Greenpeace a political organisation, one of their previous members suggests they are good at telling porkies.

    In an article dated 20 December 2006 titled: The Truth about Greenpeace and Whaling (by Paul Watson, Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society), it has the following quote:

    “It does not matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true.” It was attributed to Dr. Patrick Moore, President of Greenpeace Canada 1981.

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  32. slijmbal (1,236 comments) says:

    I understood part of the reason they lost charitable status was because their politicing was seen as a fundamental part of what was required to be what they are and not ancilliary. Politicing is acceptable as an ancilliary to the main charitiable cause(s) for any charity thus charitable cancer groups can lobby for drug regimes, for instance but not if that is the main thing they require to fulfill their purpose.

    Straight out of their own web site – google Greenpeace and one sees

    “A non-profit organisation campaigning about genetic engineering, toxics, oceans, nuclear energy, and forests.”

    They campaign thus are political thus are not a charity.

    Personally, I could not be more pleased that such a bunch of self-serving, holier than thou, obnoxious, ignorant luddites are treated correcty.

    Don’t get me started on their 17th century approach to science and the environment …………..

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  33. DJP6-25 (1,387 comments) says:

    They got their just desserts then. Greenpeace; we put the con into conservation.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  34. Rich Prick (1,705 comments) says:

    “RRM (3,440) Says:

    May 11th, 2011 at 4:23 pm
    The Judicary since Cooke have become very left wing and unbalanced

    That’s a huge call, lastmanstanding. And who, pray tell, might you be?”

    Not seen the Supreme Court in action then RRM? It would make even your eyes weep.

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