The Charity Commission has said it is “aware of concerns” relating to church charity SPAC Nation, appearing to support a political candidate.
The Commission currently has an open regulatory compliance case into Salvation Proclaimers Ministries Limited, known as SPAC Nation.
Steve Reed, Labour's parliamentary candidate for Croydon North, tweeted that SPAC Nation appeared to be supporting the Conservative candidate in a local council by-election.
Labour's Caragh Skipper won the election, followed by Conservative candidate Jayde Edwards.
'Charities must not engage in party political activity'
The charity regulator said: “We are aware of concerns about a tweet linked to the charity SPAC Nation, which appears to support a political candidate. We will be contacting the charity on this issue as a matter of urgency.”
“Charities have a proud record of engaging in public debate and speaking up for the causes they serve. However, they also have a responsibility to do so within the rules. The public expects charities to be driven by their purpose and to represent their beneficiaries at all times. Charities must not engage in party political activity,” it added.
The Commission's ongoing regulatory compliance case is examining governance matters at the charity and the regulator has issued the trustees with an action plan under section 15(2) of the Charities Act 2011. It said: “Our regulatory compliance case was opened in February 2019 after we became aware of concerns about the charity.”
It said it will be assessing SPAC Nation’s response to the action plan to consider the next steps.
SPAC Nation: 'If anyone has any real complaints they want to make, we have proper channels'
In August, SPAC Nation told Civil Society News that the Charity Commission “does not have an active investigation regarding SPAC Nation”.
It added: “If anyone has any real complaints they want to make, we have proper channels where this can be heard and addressed that can be seen on our website.”
In responce to concerns about the charity seeming to support a political candidate, the charity said: “SPAC Nation has no official affiliation with any political party. One of our members recently ran to be a Conservative councillor in a local election. We have many members in senior positions in the Labour Party as well.
“We will support anyone in our congregation to fulfil their potential, irrespective of the political party. But SPAC Nation itself has not promoted itself as supporting any political party but rather community leaders in their respective boroughs in which our members belong to, and who want to connect with the youths in our church.”
The data for the financial year ending 31 December 2018 on the Commission’s website puts SPAC Nation’s income at £1.2m and spending at £1.2m.
The main objectives of the charity are the advancement of Christian faith, the relief of sickness, poverty and the advancement of education in accordance with Christian principles.
Commission CEO: 'Taking a position on one side of a political divide undermines public confidence'
Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Commission, recently wrote: “If charities appear to the public to be engaged in political debate not because they are representing their beneficiaries or bringing expertise, but because they are taking a position on one side of a political divide, this undermines public confidence in charity as something special, which can inspire trust where other institutions do not.
“The deeper the divisions in the country, the more important it is that charities are demonstrably driven not by their leaders’ own world views but by the needs of the beneficiaries they serve. Charities have the potential to build bridges and heal social divides, if that is damaged then everyone will lose out.”