U.K. Charity Commission to Review Confidentiality Rules

March 19, 2012; Source: Third Sector

Confidentiality regarding aspects of the nonprofit sector is an issue in the U.K. as well as in the U.S. This past January, the U.K.’s Charity Commission refused to reveal the name of the person who registered the British False Memory Society (BFMS) as a charity. The BFMS basically argues that there are a number of cases of adults who have falsely remembered incidents of sexual abuse they believe they suffered as children. The person who made the request of the Commission was a woman who survived child abuse and who alleged that the founder of BFMS was one Ralph Underwager, who she says gave an interview in a magazine in the 1990s expressing support for pedophilia.

BFMS Director Madeline Greenhalgh said that Underwager didn’t form them, but he did create the U.S.-based False Memory Syndrome Foundation, a completely separate organization. The Charity Commission has argued that BFMS was not required to reveal the name of its founder or incorporator under the terms of the Data Protection Act of 1998, and because the man has since died, they cannot ask him for permission to release his name voluntarily.

The Charity Commission’s attorneys are going to review the non-disclosure decision to see if an error was made in this case, though the Third Sector article doesn’t identify what the lawyers might be examining. It would seem that, in this instance, the British system may have confidentiality rules that go beyond what applies to U.S. nonprofits.—Rick Cohen