Shropshire Star

Charity Commission will not be weaponised in culture wars, chairman to pledge

Orlando Fraser will say charities can find themselves at the ‘biting edge’ of such wars.

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Charity Commission

The charities watchdog will not be “misused or weaponised” in culture wars, its chairman will vow.

Orlando Fraser will commit to not allowing the Charity Commission to be used in such a way by “powerful interests” in politics, the media, or from within the sector.

Mr Fraser, a barrister appointed to chair the commission in 2022, is expected to say that while charities can bring people together, they can also become “caught up in fierce public battles for the soul of our nation”.

In a speech to launch the commission’s five-year strategy on Monday in London, he will state that charities can nowadays find themselves “at the biting edge of what we have come to know as the culture wars”.

He will say: “We are emphasising our independence so strongly in this strategy, not because this is a new idea, or at particular risk, but because we believe this principle will be increasingly important in the years ahead.

“We live in a more and more atomised society, with fewer universally shared values and norms than in past decades, and certainly less trust in institutions.

“Charities can bring us together powerfully, we saw that during the pandemic, we’ve seen it in response to the war in Ukraine, charities have huge unifying potential.

“But they can be caught up in fierce public battles for the soul of our nation.

“These debates help to highlight the crucial work of charities.

“But there are risks involved, when charities find themselves at the biting edge of what we have come to know as the culture wars.

“I will not allow the Commission to be misused or weaponised by any army involved in fighting these wars.

“Whether it be led by powerful interests in politics, the media, or indeed the sector itself.

“We will march consistently, and confidently, to the beat of another drum, namely the law.”

He will say it is certain the commission will “find ourselves in contested territory” at times, as “divisive and contentious issues” arise.

“But where we face such challenges, we will tackle them in a way the seeks to promote respect, tolerance, and kindness,” he will say.

“And we will expect the charities we regulate to do the same, responding with purpose-led magnanimity to attacks they may face along the way.

“I want us to make our contribution to upholding a democratic, pluralistic, tolerant culture that allows a broad and diverse charity sector to thrive in the first place.”

While he will commit to supporting trustees to run charities well and fix mistakes where they happen, he will also warn that action will be taken against “wrongdoers”.

He will say: “Where necessary and appropriate, we will deal robustly with intentional wrongdoers, whose actions risk harming not just one charity, but the trust the public has for charities overall.”

Culture wars are defined by the Cambridge dictionary as “disagreements about cultural and social beliefs between groups”, especially between people with more conservative opinions who are generally against social change, and people with more progressive opinions who are generally supportive of social change.

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