I haven’t really been writing much lately, for this blog at least. Much that is due to simple procrastination but earlier this year my free time was spent doing something equally stimulating.
Back in July I submitted a complaint to the New Zealand Charities Commission, which they (allegedly) are currently investigating, about the Immunisation Awareness Society (IAS). This is a charitable organisation that disseminates anti-vaccine information, while at the same time denying that they are anti-vaccine.
Grant has recently done an excellent post on some of the nonsense put out by IAS representatives, go have a read if you’ve not seen it yet.
My complaint focuses on the fact that to be a registered charity an organisation must fulfil a charitable purpose (makes sense). The particular legislation outlines these purposes as:
“the relief of poverty, the advancement of education or religion, or any other matter beneficial to the community.”
In my complaint I detail how the advancement of education is not met by the IAS, that they are anti-vaccine and that they therefore do not constitute a benefit to the public. As they do not relieve poverty nor advance religion this effectively should remove them from the arena of “Charity”.
To answer the question posed in the title, theoretically – yes there is quality control over charities. Part of the mandate of the Charities Commission is to:
“promote public trust and confidence in the charitable sector”,
“monitor charitable entities and their activities to ensure that entities that are registered as charitable entities continue to be qualified for registration as charitable entities”
“inquire into charitable entities and into persons who have engaged in, or are engaging in, conduct that constitutes, or may constitute, a breach of this Act or serious wrongdoing in connection with a charitable entity”
In large part my compliant is based on this previous post about the IAS, cleaned of snark and updated with a few references. In addition I dismantle a few of the “Educational” posts on their website to show how the information they promote is factually incorrect and geared towards convincing parents not to vaccinate their children.
In particular I look at This post that attempts to link NZ vaccines with Thimerosal and thereby to Autism even though both links in this chain are fictitious. Next I go over This post which is a copy of a submission to an FDA committee by Roberta Boyce founder of the anti-Gardasil website truthaboutgardasil.org, predicably criticising the Gardasil vaccine for being some sort of secret plot to make people sick and sterile. Okay maybe you couldn’t have predicted that. Finally I take apart yet more claims about the “Toxic” ingredients of vaccines, similar to another of my previous posts. Then I cover potential and actual damage caused by anti-vaccine sentiment (like the Auckland Measles outbreak).
I have no doubt that the IAS will rail against this complaint claiming that I’m trying to suppress free speech (nothing of the kind, they can continue their activities without being a charity) or that I’m attempting to smear them (no need, their output speaks for itself) or that I’m a henchman for the Immunisation Advisory Centre (no affiliation, but if they want to throw some money my way…;-)).
I’m hopeful that this complaint will at least get the Charities Commission to pay attention to the IAS and it’s output. Like I said I’m not interested in shutting them down, upholding free speech means defending those you don’t agree with (or something, I’m hazy on the details. People tell me it’s good). The issue I have is that these guys are essentially receiving a government subsidy (in the form of tax exemptions) for spouting inaccuracies.
Finally I have to give enormous thanks to Simon Clendon who kicked me into action after my post on the IAS philosophies and took on the task of editing the brain dump that resulted. He also made a bridge to the nice people at the IMAC who provided some extra info (still no affiliation just a few emails).
For those who want more on how I deal with the IAS misinformation I will repackage the various sections of the complaint as follow-up posts (tagged “IAS complaint”). Plus, I went to all that work, might as well eh?
If you want to read the full complaint in all it’s damning detail and mind numbing depth you can find it in PDF form Here, I’ve also got a snappy snip url: http://snipurl.com/iascomplaint. Go on, you know you want to. Tell your friends.
There are also a few supporting documents at that address as well, just to make finding them easier. If this inspires you to make your own complaints then go for it, the more the merrier, probably. I’m sure you needn’t go to as much trouble as I did (though if you want to, it’s fun. Plus by now the IAS has continued to march ahead with new misinformation).