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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Clubine

Advancement of Religion as a Charitable Purpose

Updated: Jul 4

Group of people holding hands praying together

Under Canadian Law, there are four heads of charity that an organization must fall under to be considered charitable. The four heads are: relief of poverty, advancement of education, advancement of religion, or other purposes beneficial to the community in a way the law considers charitable. This post is part three of our series on each of the four heads of charity. In this post, we delve into advancement of religion as a charitable purpose and the activities that align with it.

What is religion under charity law?

For advancement of religion to be considered charitable, it must include an element of theistic worship. This means there must be worship of a deity or deities in a spiritual sense. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) recognizes that religion encompasses a wide range of beliefs, practices, and spiritualities. It includes traditional faiths, such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, as well as newer or less commonly practiced religions. Despite the requirement under charity law that religion must be theistic, the CRA also acknowledge non-traditional belief systems, such as indigenous spiritualities, alternative spiritual movements, and philosophical or ethical systems that believe in a higher power or a spiritual aspect of life. The emphasis is that the focus must be on the presence of spiritual, metaphysical, or supernatural elements rooted in the belief system, rather than the religion itself.

Activities that advance religion in a charitable sense

Activities that advance religion are establishing and maintaining buildings used for religious worship, coordinating and providing religious teachings, and carrying out pastoral or missionary work. These activities must allow organizations to advance religion while maintaining their doctrines and spiritual observances. The central element is the promotion of spiritual experiences and connections with the divine or transcendental.

Advancement of religion through establishing and maintaining buildings

Providing communities with a place of worship is vital for advancing religion. It is considered charitable for an organization to establish and maintain buildings used for worship or other services related to the faith. Other services that may require a building or facility are religious schools of instruction, and facilities for programs, workshops, music, or other studies related to the doctrines of the religion. While most major world religions have some sort of building or space associated with worship, not all religions or spiritual traditions do. Nevertheless, the activities permitted under the advancement of religion are broad enough to encompass the needs of other traditions.

Advancement of religion through coordinating and providing religious teachings

Another way to advance religion is through intentional teaching or preaching of the religious doctrines and observances. This advances religion by providing individuals with the knowledge they need to actively participate in the religion and gain an understanding of the spiritual purpose behind it. One example of this would be churches providing Sunday school for youth to attend during services, providing further instruction than they would receive otherwise. Another example would be the maintenance of a library of religious literature.

Advancement of religion through pastoral or missionary work

Pastoral work means to provide emotional, social, and spiritual support for those in need. It is an important task for those who serve a church or religion, providing people with a helping hand when they feel completely alone. Missionary work, however, relates to members of a religion visiting another area to promote their faith and provide services to those in need. This typically includes visiting impoverished communities to provide education, healthcare, schools, and suitable drinking water, all while promoting the teachings of their religion.


Overall, the CRA recognizes and respects the diversity of religious beliefs and practices within Canada. Their guidelines aim to provide a framework to ensure an element of theistic worship is present for an organization to be considered charitable under this purpose. Advancement of religion can be completed through establishing and maintaining buildings for worship and services, coordinating and teaching religion, and carrying out pastoral and missionary work.

Outsiders Law has extensive knowledge when it comes to the charity application process. We can help organizations who want to become registered charities under the category of advancement of religion. If your organization is interested in this, please contact us.


The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. Nothing contained herein should be considered as legal, professional, or tax advice. Please contact us directly if you require legal assistance.

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