Quakers raise concerns over Lobbying Act

By agency reporter
December 9, 2014

Quakers in Britain insist they will not allow the Lobbying Act to restrict their political work.They have decided to register with the Electoral Commission as a non-party campaigner under the Lobbying Act while making public their "reservations and disquiet over the Act"

The decision was taken by Trustees of Quakers in Britain following consideration on 6 December by Meeting for Sufferings, the standing representative council of Quaker meetings in Britain.Trustees had asked Sufferings to consider some of the principles underpinning the Act.

The Lobbying Act is known in full as the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.

Quakers have been contributing to political discussion since the seventeenth century and are clear they will not modify their work to fit in with the Act. Trustees’ minute said: “Above all, our responsibility is to act and speak as we are guided by faith.”

Quakers will continue to campaign on political issues. Speaking during Meeting for Sufferings, Jennifer Barraclough, clerk of Trustees said: “Quakerism is a political church – we believe that we should speak our truth and seek to influence the powerful – that must be political.”

“The Lobbying Act will not stop Quakers speaking out but will place financial limits on our campaigning activities.”

She said: “We are called to respect the laws of the state unless our conscience demands that we do not. If we are to say that our conscience demands we do not register, we must identify clearly why that is.

“Not registering would support our belief that it is not for government to place limits on a political campaign that springs from our understanding of God’s will; but registering is a proper expression of our belief in the rightness of transparency in our dealings.”

Meeting for Sufferings (the standing representative body entrusted with the care of the business of the Britain Yearly Meeting through the year) made clear their concerns raised by the Act. Their minute read:

“We engage in political activity because our faith impels us. Registering under the Lobbying Act will not stop us from speaking out. While we feel that the Act has many flaws we also recognise that a key aim is to reduce the ability of large organisations (worthy and ruthless alike) to hold disproportionate influence over the political system and also to increase transparency.”

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends.

* Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

[Ekk/4]

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