Fiona Patten’s Charities Amendment Bill, which seeks to remove ‘the advancement of religion’ as a charitable cause will erode the ability of faith-based congregations to serve the poor and the needy, warns the Australian Christian Lobby.

“In her crusade to remove ‘advancing religion’ as a charitable purpose from the Charities Act, the Reason Party leader, Ms Patten, seeks to force congregations to dramatically reduce their service to the underprivileged and instead pay massive land and payroll taxes to the government,” ACL Victorian director Dan Flynn said.

“Ms Patten’s claim in Parliament yesterday that the bill will not affect places of worship and congregations, is false.

“Her proposed exemption from land tax to places ‘used exclusively as a place of public worship’, provides no exemption for a church that allows an auditorium or hall to be used by a community group - even if only once a year.

“As property prices have sky-rocketed over the years, land tax on many church properties, especially those closer to the CBD where the need is great, could exceed $45,000 every year.

“Churches are community hubs, hosting a variety of community service activities during the week. Imagine the increased costs that will need to be passed on to not-for-profit community groups if faith-based charities are forced to pay tens of thousands in state taxes every year.

“Why is Ms Patten trying to block the fountain that so much charity springs from?

 “The bill threatens the very existence of congregations to provide space for community services that help the poor and marginalised.

“The promotion of religion is the promotion of doing good to others, helping the poor, building hospitals and schools.

“Another element of the bill forces churches to pay payroll tax, increasing the burden on people of faith to have to give more in order for the State to take their cut.

“I trust the Government and opposition will see through this extreme bill, being only too aware that Victorian faith communities take a huge burden off government departments and agencies.

“A vote for Ms Patten’s Bill is a vote for weaker communities and higher misguided taxes,“ Mr Flynn said.

Mr Flynn said it was important for faith communities to speak out against this bill prior to it being debated in the coming weeks.