Since the early 20th century, the monks of Buckfast Abbey have made and sold “tonic wine” which is  red wine fortified with ingredients like phosphates, caffeine, and vanillin. Buckfast Tonic Wine or “Bucky” has become very popular and its popularity among violent criminals is being used to attack the Abbey’s tax exempt or charity status.

The National Secular Society says the beverage made at Buckfast Abbey in Devon is harmful.

Buckfast Abbey Trust does not pay tax on the income because it is a charity, which the society claims is an “abuse of the charitable system”.

The trust said it was surprised at the complaint.

It is the normal for monasteries to engage in some form of commerce to support their ministry and charitable works. Some make wine, others brew beer, or make cheese. (One American group of monks supports their order by selling ink and toner for computer printers.) None of the monks draw a salary from these businesses. The money is used to support the monks, the upkeep of their buildings, and their charitable and ministry work.

The National Secular Society claims that “Bucky” is harmful because a survey indicated that a high percentage of violent offenders drank it before committing their crimes. I imagine this is primarily because its a cheap drunk. Even so, only about a percentage point separates Buckfast from those who drank spirits.

Buckfast and crime in Scotland

Survey of male young offenders

43.4% of young offenders drank Buckfast before committing their offence
42% drank any kind of spirits
31% drank any kind of beer
21% drank any kind of cider
9% drank any other drinks
Source: Scottish Prison Service, 2007

(Figures do not add to 100% as respondents often had more than one drink)

I wonder how the percentages would break down if you asked the non-criminal portion of the Scottish population what they drank before doing,…well..anything.

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Susan Wright

The real reason I believe the National Secular Society is concerning itself with this issue is that the monks raise a lot of money by selling it.

The trust made a record £8.8m last year from sales of the caffeine-fuelled Buckfast wine.

The society has called on the Charity Commission to remove the abbey trust’s charitable status “unless they change their activities”.

That’s almost $11 million. Nothing gets secularist activist groups stirred up like large sums of money not being taxed.  The connection to violent crime is obviously a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy being used to mask the Society’s true motives. One could probably find other products that an even higher percentage of offenders used prior to committing a crime, cigarettes for example would probably rank fairly high.

Unless they have evidence that the money coming in is being used for something other than charitable work this sounds like it’s pure politics. Logically, it is just as bogus as when gun control activists in the United States try to pin the blame for violent crime on gun manufacturers. It differs only in being motivated by an antipathy toward Christianity rather than an antipathy toward guns.

There is a political war being waged against Christianity in general and it’s not limited to North America.