Does charity registration for the LGB Alliance really matter?
Updated: May 13, 2021
Written by FJ - charity specialist, social business owner, parent, musician, G & T
On 20 April the Charity Commission announced on social media that it was going to register LGB Alliance as a charity “after careful consideration” to “promote equality, diversity and human rights”. Well that makes me feel like I’m categorised as “not human” for their purposes because I feel the sting of their hostility on a daily basis as a trans person.
Registration as it stands will is going ahead despite a petition of over 44,000 signatures and over 100 formal objections to the Regulator, and the Regulator themselves finding evidence of “inflammatory and offensive language”. It feels like a huge defeat, but I have some thoughts as a charity specialist, it may not be so rosy for them even if they manage to stay on the register.
So now they’re regulated…
The LGB Alliance are joining the ranks of charities that they have criticised, and they’ll have to be more transparent. Charity accounts are a lot more detailed even at a low level of income than micro company accounts and publicly available over £25,000 turnover, a level that also triggers an ‘independent examination’ of their finances.
Independent Examiners have “whistle blowing” responsibilities and the Examiner will not tell LGB Alliance if they report them to the Commission (I know, I’ve had to do it and the Commission are very keen for solicitors and reviewers to up their reporting).
They will have to prepare a Trustees Annual Report and explain how they have met their objects and what activities they’ve undertaken…that would be an interesting read…
They will have to submit an Annual Return.
All of that is interesting enough but the most important factor in my opinion is the damping factor that maintaining the registration should have.
LGB Alliance have had to make a promise to the Charity Commission as a condition of registration, this is VERY unusual. “LGB Alliance stated that it intended to adopt a less defensive and confrontational approach to social media engagement. The revised social media policy places a focus on the language and tone of the social media posts and states that staff must never: unlawfully discriminate; make offensive, abusive or threatening comments or harass or bully other people in any way or breach any laws or ethical standards.”
The Charity Commission have publicised this as part of their explanation of why they registered them. If LGB Alliance does not keep to their part of the bargain, the Charity Commission have said they will consider action…well given that its easy to find examples of them breaking that promise, it would be embarrassing for the Commission to not act when it has said that it will.
Here they are on 3rd May defending laws including those harming LGB people, 4 religious refusal bills in North Dakota, South Dakota and two in Arkansas (this allows doctors to refuse medical treatment to ALL LGBT+ people); 1 trans medical care ban bill in Arkansas and 3 anti-trans sports bans including requiring gender non conforming children to undergo genital inspections to confirm who they can play sport with. I fail to see how anyone can consider this activity “pro LGB”
They’ve been noticed by a whole new sector of the media.
Their controversial registration has also been reported on in sector press like Third Sector and Civil Society with the heading “Charity Commission registers LGB Alliance despite ‘inflammatory language” and stating other charities “shocked, disturbed and upset”. The difference with this is that there are far more pro LGBT+ charities than trans hostile ones and the sector press will give a voice to those well established and respected charities. The writing style in third sector press is different. A lot of people in charities are LGBT+ and the press in my experience is overwhelmingly supportive.
Why did LGB Alliance register?
They get tax relief but given the swathe of trans hostile crowdfunding recently that seems not particularly relevant as it seems that hostility to trans people comes with deep pockets.
No, I think they want the kudos of being a registered charity, saying they are on a footing with Stonewall, who’s strapline is “acceptance without exception”.
Registration will allow them to apply for grants, but they are well known for being hostile to trans people and it remains to be seen if grant funders will be hoodwinked into granting funds that could bring them into breach of public benefit themselves by association.
I personally think it is more about their presence in the media. A greater voice, insisting that they are referred to as an LGB charity to whitewash their true purpose to the general public.
Will the Commission take action?
Sadly, LGB Alliance will not be the only trans hostile registered charity. This is Filia’s conference from 2019:
Their website includes podcasts such as:
#118 Heather Brunskell Evans: Transgender Body Politics; #111 Stephanie Davies-Arai: Transgender Trend – harms of gender identity teaching, from classroom to clinic; #105 Nicola Williams: Fair Play For Women – why sex-based policies matter for women’s sport.
I complained formally to the Charity Commission through the proper channels, with this evidence and the response was that they would not act at this time but keep the evidence in case anyone else complained. How many complaints makes this nonsense worse I wonder? 10…maybe 50? If the Commission cannot see the problem with this, then you might as well write any trans hostile trash you like surely…
The possible light here though is that LGB Alliance do rather like the bright light, cheeky little moths that they are. If anything does put a rocket under the Charity Commission it tends to be in my experience where there is public embarrassment. Filia do a very good job of hiding their podcasts on their website and staying under the radar, LGB Alliance are NOT camera shy and could easily embarrass the Commission.
In the recently concluded National Trust investigation, the Trust were held to not have breached their objects, but the Commission did say this:
“ Nonetheless, the report “did generate strongly held and divided views”, and the Commission, therefore, says It’s reasonable to conclude that the Trust’s “planning and approach did not fully pre-empt or manage the potential risks to the charity”. Specifically, the Commission says the charity could have done more to clearly explain the link between the report and the Trust’s purpose. - See more here.
This was to do with National Trust education on black history generating a lot of complaints from some quarters. The Commission said that they should have known it was an area likely to generate strong feelings, and that is equally true of LGB Alliance. It is a perfect example of the Commission being embarrassed into acting by negative publicity.
So is it a given that the LGB Alliance will stay registered?
You have 42 days to appeal and that goes to an independent tribunal who often overturn Charity Commission cases. I would not be surprised if there were groups preparing to do this. It is low cost and often held remotely. A third party deciding to overturn the decision would be the best case scenario for the LGBT+ community because in the words of Tina Turner “We don’t need another hero” where trans hostile poster groups or people are concerned.
The Charity Commission could also remove them from the register, but they would have to commit a very serious breach for this to happen in my experience.
So, where my thinking is at the moment…. unless there is an appeal, it is likely that LGB Alliance will remain registered. If they continue to behave as they do, there should be a steady stream of complaints which at some point or other will become a nuisance to the Commission. I suspect the Commission would tell them to behave themselves or risk further action – so either they stick to their objects and we see a dampening down of their language and activities, or they carry on, probably get worse and eventually the Commission will be embarrassed enough and have a full enough inbox to investigate them fully. I would *LOVE* a full investigation of their activities against their stated objects, Charity Law and public benefit.
Just for context:
The Commission conducted 6,246 regulatory actions cases in 2019/20, 181 of those were full enquiries. 247 reports were received from whistleblowers, there were five first tribunal cases (these are independent and do not always agree with the Commission’s decision).
And at the end of all this….
It pains me deeply as someone who works with and loves charities with a passion that the legal form of charity in UK can be used to purposefully and relentlessly single out and harm a group of people. It goes against everything I understand charity to mean and to be.
I do not know what set these people off on the path they have chosen. Trans people are not their enemy, there is no cabal, no ideology, no ‘big pharma’ no conspiracy to “trans” young people.
I wish this wrong think was challenged by the media, by our Equalities Minister, instead of trans folk having to constantly defend our very being.
I am someone who works with charities that are not trans…everything but…women’s groups, NEET, migrants, mental health, humanitarian aid, families, faith groups, art, representation of minorities, POC, prisoner rehabilitation… I don’t want to keep looking inwards, I want to work with LGBT+ people and address some proper issues. This is the ultimate frustration for me…I’d rather spend time on helping LGBT+ people in hostile countries, BLM, domestic abuse …these are the real issues.
To use a historical allegory, LGB Alliance is being the Harold Hardrada of 1066… while we’ve all in the Stamford Bridge of trans hostility, the William the Conqueror of real issues is at his relative leisure waiting for an already exhausted fighting force.
Extract from full registration decision dealing with responsibilities of charities and specifically how LGB Alliance must behave:
Their full decision includes this statement which basically shows a conflation of gender with sexuality and I think would be the best place to challenge them at tribunal.
“Registered charities fall under the Commission’s regulation, and their trustees must continuously meet the legal duties and responsibilities set down under charity law. A charity can promote the rights of one or more specific groups, but may not do so whilst demeaning or denigrating the rights of others, including on social media – and the Commission will consider taking regulatory action where that occurs.”
28.Promoting equality and human rights for lesbian, gay and bisexual people is not unlawful or contrary to public policy. A purpose of promoting the equality and human rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people is not inherently discriminatory and does not necessarily have the effect of inhibiting the rights of transgender people.
37.During the course of the registration case, the Commission noted some evidence of social media activity (information that was posted or re-posted on social media) by LGB Alliance and considered that some of the language used may be regarded as inflammatory and offensive. In addition, it was not immediately obvious how some of these postings furthered any of the LGB Alliance’s purposes. The Commission was concerned that, although it promoted the rights of some groups, the activity appeared to involve, at times, demeaning or denigrating the rights (recognised by law) of others.
38.The Commission raised these concerns with LGB Alliance and in response LGB Alliance reviewed and revised its social media policy. LGB Alliance stated that it intended to adopt a less defensive and confrontational approach to social media engagement. The revised social media policy places a focus on the language and tone of the social media posts and states that staff must never: unlawfully discriminate; make offensive, abusive or threatening comments or harass or bully other people in any way or breach any laws or ethical standards.
39.LGB Alliance’s social media activity represents a part but not the totality of its activities in furtherance of its purposes. If LGB Alliance presents its view in such a way that respects the dignity of transgender persons and does not create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, then this is capable furthering charitable purposes. If a charity promotes the rights of one or more groups whilst demeaning or denigrating the rights of others, then the Commission may consider taking regulatory action.