Charitable Un-educational Objects

AuthorGino E Dal Pont
PositionProfessor, Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania
Charitable Un-educational Objects
Gino E Dal Pont*
Judges appear to have stipulated a ‘merits’ test when it comes to public benef‌it
underscoring education as a charitable object. e same is not evident in, say, objects
directed to relieving poverty or advancing religion. At the same time, courts have
progressively broadened the concept of ‘education’ for the purposes of charity law. is
may present a tension between what is ‘educational’ and what is ‘benef‌icial’ in the
charity sphere. Lacking more than a perfunctory coverage of this issue in the literature,
it is appropriate to probe the rationales and parameters of the ‘merits’ test, with a view
to developing an understanding of how education intersects with charity law. is is
pursued by reference to three primary scenarios where contention has focused: (1) where
the object is allegedly irrational or nonsensical; (2) where a donor has sought to establish
a perpetual display of his or her possessions; and (3) bequests of funds for publication of
(usually the donor’s) work.
* Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania.
Dal Pont, Charitable Un-educational Objects
I. C
II. T M U E H
III. I  N
IV. P C  A D
V. F  P  D  W
VI. W D T L U
I. Context
The concept of ‘charity’ has challenged common law judges for
hundreds of years. It has been judicially described as a “dif‌f‌icult and
very artif‌icial branch of the law”,1 one “full … of anomalies”2 and an area
in which “many f‌ine distinctions have been made”.3 And Lord Evershed,
Master of the Rolls, once remarked that “[a]ll those who practise in
this branch of the law know how inf‌inite is the variety of the decided
cases, how extreme sometimes are the ref‌inements, and how apparent on
occasions the contradictions which those cases demonstrate”.4 Propelling
these dif‌f‌iculties, distinctions, ref‌inements and contradictions is the
insistence at general law that an object is either charitable, or it is not;
there is, in this regard, no legally recognised and ef‌fective intermediate
(partially charitable) category. Charity law has, to this end, so occupied
the judicial thought because, in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes,
“where to draw the line … [is] pretty much everything worth arguing in
the law”.5
Complicating this line-drawing exercise are various characteristics
of the concept of ‘charity’ espoused by the law, sometimes verging on
the paradoxical. For instance, while it is acknowledged that ‘charity
must ref‌lect time and place, judges not infrequently refer to the Statute
of Charitable Uses from 1601.6 Also, whereas the law attributes a legal
meaning to ‘charity’, this mostly functions to reduce its precision
6. (UK), 43 Eliz I, c 4 (also known as the Statute of Elizabeth I) [Statute of
Charitable Uses].

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