“Covid-19 scam” Christian charity closed by regulator

A Christian charity whose leader sold £91 ‘plague protection kits’ during the Covid-19 pandemic has been shut down by the regulator, following concerns raised by the National Secular Society.

The Kingdom Church GB was ordered to close following an investigation into the sales of fake Covid-19 remedies by the church’s pastor and trustee bishop Climate Wiseman, the Charity Commission announced last week.

The NSS raised concerns about the London-based Kingdom Church in 2020, when local media reported that Wiseman was selling ‘plague protection kits’ made of oil and string through a website linked to the charity.

In 2022 Wiseman was found guilty of fraud for selling the kits, which were medically useless. He has also been disqualified from acting as a charity trustee or holding a senior position in a charity for 15 years.

Five other trustees were also disqualified.

The commission’s inquiry concluded that the Kingdom Church’s trustees had “exposed the charity’s reputation to undue risk” by allowing the charity to be linked to Wiseman’s private business interests, including “the Covid-19 scam”.

It also found the trustees demonstrated “poor financial controls and management” and failed to keep accurate records.

The charity had not held a bank account since June 2018, the commission said. Instead, bank accounts held in the names of two companies directed by Wiseman and his wife had been used for all transactions relating to the charity. This meant there was “a lack of financial separation between the charity and the private business ventures of the trustees”.

Helen Earner, director of regulatory services at the Charity Commission, said: “The public rightly expects charities to be places of safety.

“Trustee Bishop Climate Wiseman fell woefully short of that expectation when he scammed vulnerable people at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Kingdom Church was registered as a charity with the purpose of advancing the Christian faith and “other such charitable purposes as are beneficial to the community”.

“The advancement of religion” is one of 13 recognised ‘charitable purposes’ in law. The NSS says this charitable purpose can enable charities to promote ideas and activities which may be harmful, despite the requirement for charities to serve a public benefit.

Charity trustee’s website claimed oil and yarn protects against “every coronavirus and any other deadly thing”

In March 2020 a post on the Bishop Climate Ministries website promoted the protective power of “the Divine Plague Protection Oil” and “Scarlet Yarn”.

The post originally included claims that “every coronavirus and any other deadly thing” would “pass over” those using the oil and yarn.

It was later edited to remove some specific references to coronavirus, but continued to claim people could “be saved from every pandemic” by using the oil and string.

Kingdom Church’s website linked to an online shop, which carried the same post.

A disclaimer was later added to the posts to say they were “solely under Bishop Climate Ministries and Not the Kingdom Church” (sic).

Other religious charities sell ‘holy oil’, including the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG). UCKG claims the oil can be used for “the sick”, “the emotionally distressed” and “things that represent difficulties”. In December a BBC Panorama investigation accused UCKG of ‘exorcising’ children, conducting ‘gay conversion therapy’, and exploitative financial practices.

NSS: Case “should be a wake up call” on religious charities

NSS head of campaigns Megan Manson said: “We welcome the commission’s decision to shut down this harmful religious charity and disqualify its trustees.

“However, we are concerned that many other charities are using ‘the advancement of religion’ charitable purpose to exploit people, because the law doesn’t clearly define how charities registered under this purpose should demonstrate their public benefit.

“The Kingdom Church case should be a wake up call. If ‘the advancement of religion’ is enabling organisations peddling fake cures to register as charities, its inclusion on the list of charitable purposes must be challenged.”

Media mentions:
Southwark News:
Fake ‘Covid cure’ Camberwell preacher vows to keep Kingdom Church open after losing charitable status

Third Force News:
Clamp down on scam churches urge campaigners

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