Abstract:

The research question of this thesis is: is there a rationale for charitable recognition of religious organisations? The enquiry answers the question by discussing the approach of four philosophical traditions: natural law, liberalism, utilitarianism and contemporary political theology. It considers variously how these traditions have influenced the applicable laws in Australia, the United States and England & Wales and the implications they might have for future reform. It does so with reference to two distinct, but inextricably linked, fields, the law of charity and the law of taxation.

The thesis compares and contrasts the approaches of the differing philosophical traditions to the research question. This analysis is assisted by inference-oriented case-selection that identifies existing guiding principles that underpin the law, both statutory and common, both unarticulated and express. In light of this knowledge, the thesis proposes principles to guide future development of the law. The intent is to provide a framework from which reform proposals may be sourced and by which they may be measured. This theorem is then grounded in praxis by observing how the rationale identified may impact recent and existing reform proposals. The enquiry concludes with recommendations for reform.

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