Catch the Fire ministries stripped of charitable status after raising funds for Rise Up Australia party

Controversial Melbourne evangelical church Catch the Fire, which solicits donations for the Rise Up Australia Party, has had its charitable status revoked by authorities.

The ministries, based in the south-eastern suburbs, have been run by Sri Lankan-born pastor Daniel Nalliah since the late 1990s.

Mr Nalliah launched the Rise up Australia party in 2013 on an anti-Islam, anti-multiculturalism platform and fielded candidates at last year's federal election.

He openly preaches his political message from the pulpit and collects donations for the party at church services.

As a registered charity, Catch the Fire had access to Commonwealth tax concessions including GST waivers, income tax exemptions and fringe benefit tax rebates.

But the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) has now revoked its charitable status. Charities are not allowed to promote or fund political candidates.

"Normally we're not able to talk about individual cases because of the strict privacy provisions that we have in our legislation," David Locke from the ACNC said.

"But in this particular case Catch the Fire Ministries have themselves spoken to the media and set out that [the ACNC's] concerns were in regards to political activities they were undertaking and I can confirm that that is the case.

Mr Nalliah said Catch the Fire had been an overtly political church since it began.

"My response to them was 'what's new about that?'," he said.

"From 1998, since we started Catch the Fire ministries, we've been publishing political opinions constantly.

"In principal I think it's a very wrong thing to [say that] our organisation, because we're a charity that we don't have a political opinion. That's discrimination."

Church services are separate to charity, Nalliah says

In 2014 the church hosted a World Congress of Families conference, which endorsed anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage messages.

The then-social services minister Kevin Andrews cancelled his planned address at the meeting after strong opposition to the event.

For more than a year, there have been complaints in the community that Rise up Australia Party and Catch the Fire were indistinguishable as organisations.

But Mr Nalliah strongly denied that charitable funds raised by Catch the Fire were ever funnelled to the political party.

"We have church services on a Sunday, which is a separate entity not the charity, and people could come to a church service and put money into the donation tin and say this is for the purposes of Rise Up Australia party," he said.

"People don't donate to the charity [at the service], they're donating it to the political organisation fully knowing they're doing it.

"Church is a place where people have the right to do what they want to do."

The regulator said it was currently investigating 37 complaints regarding political lobbying and warned charities not to fall foul of laws that forbid promoting or opposing political parties.