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Charity Law and Religion

posted on 2023-05-22, 11:13 authored by Gino Dal PontGino Dal Pont

It has been well established now for centuries that the advancement of religion is a charitable purpose provided that the requisite element of public benefit is present. The charitable status of the advancement of religion originally stemmed from the fact that, in English society, the concept of charity was essentially religious in origin. This is notwithstanding the fact that the Preamble to the English statute accredited with defining the legal concept of 'charity', namely the Statute of Charitable Uses 1601 (also known as the Statute of Elizabeth), made no direct mention of the advancement of religion. This was not accidental, but the result of the secular orientation of Elizabeth I, coupled with the desire of Puritans to have a religion free of state interference.

Yet certainly by the time of the important case or Morice v Bishop of Durham it was clear that the advancement of religion came within the 'spirit and intendment' of the purposes listed in the Preamble. The logic for this, though not explicitly stated, appeared to be that the relief of poverty and distress - which formed the backbone of many of the purposes listed in the Preamble - could be viewed as a religious purpose. To this end, it has been observed that the Statute of Charitable Uses should not be regarded as devoid of religious inspiration, but be seen 'as a chauvinistic Protestant assertion of the duty to perform "good works"'. There is, moreover, the view that 'no insignificant portion of the community consider what are termed spiritual necessities as not less imperatively calling for relief, and regard the relief of them not less than as a charitable purpose than the ministering to physical needs'.


Publication title

Law and Religion: God, the State and the Common Law


Peter Radan, Denise Meyerson, Rosalind Croucher






Faculty of Law



Place of publication

New York



Rights statement

Copyright 2005 Routledge

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Justice and the law not elsewhere classified

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