Last year I wrote a series of posts around the Charitable organisation Immunisation Awareness Society and a complaint I had made to the Charities Commission. The Thrust of these posts and the complaint was that the Society does not fulfill the requirements of a charity and should be removed from the register. The effect of this is that they would also be stripped of their tax exempt status.
This indeed was my main goal. There are innumerable groups out there that I don’t agree with but you get that in a wide and varied world. In the case of the IAS though the speech they engage is is effectively publicly subsidised via the tax exemption, this should mean that they are constrained in what they can say. At the very least it should mean that they must present the facts undistorted by ideology.
Yesterday I found out that the Charities Commission agrees with me. In a decision handed down late last month they determined that the IAS does not qualify for charitable status and removed them from the charities register.
So, I guess you could say – I won.
It the words of one of my colleagues it also shows that one person can make a difference. Clichéd but true.
Reading through the Charities Commission decision it seems they focused on two things:
1. The biased nature of the information provided by the IAS and;
2. The political nature of their campaigning for a change in public policy.
This makes sense given the requirements that the Commission need to fulfil to determine whether an organisation meets the requirements to be a charity. Even so I’m a bit disappointed that there was no focus on the factual inaccuracy of and misrepresentation in the materials published by the IAS.
The decision does seem to skirt this line though when stating that “Overwhelmingly, the information on the website argues that vaccination is ineffective and dangerous” the inference being that is view is incorrect as well as being biased. Even so, none of the language of the report actually states this outright (that I can see).
There was also an additional point touched on that merely providing information does not in and of itself “advance education”. In other words to be an educational charity you actually have to actively educate people, not simply act as a repository of information – otherwise every private citizen with a decent library or informational website could become a charity.
Finally, in my personal 15 minutes of fame, the Commissions decision has been reported in the Dominion Post – complete with a quote from me. Not my most eloquent moment but it’s close enough to the point I wanted to make that I’m fairly happy.
[Edit: Thanks goes to commenter Hemlock for sharing the IAS response to this news]
1. And here they are in all their tedious glory: