UK charity Sense About Science have been instrumental in organising support for Simon Singh, the British science writer who is being sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association over an article he wrote in the Guardian, criticising the unsubstantiated health claims made by chiropractors.
Now it seems a BCA supporter has tried to close down this campaign. Julia Wilson reports:
You alerted us that someone was touting for ideas about reporting SAS to the Charity Commission. We were aware that chiropractors discussing the GCC complaints had mentioned the idea, which perhaps they saw as a way to get back at Simon and the campaign.
Well, it happened. We had a complaint against us in respect of Simon Singh and the campaign. Our board responded robustly and we received a letter pretty much by return saying that the complainant's case has been closed. We have put this correspondence up on a link from our campaign page (see http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk/index.php/site/about/406 ) for anyone who is interested and in the hope that it might help others (we are thinking of the Australian skeptics who've had a complaint against them too, albeit in a different way).
The letter from the Charity Commission, outlining the complaint, can be read here. Among other things, it questions whether the campaign could "impact unfavourably on the charity's supporters". It looks like the BCA supporter is trying to paint Singh as a pariah whom we should be embarrassed to associate with. How wrong-headed can you get?
Chairman Lord Taverne's reply is here. He hit back:
Our campaign in support of Dr Singh is concerned with the impact of UK libel laws on public discussion about science generally and we considered that a change would be highly unlikely to impact unfavourably on our supporters. Indeed over 17,000 people have signed up in support, many giving time, money and practical assistance. It is supported by other charitable organisations. Donations from existing supporters have increased since May; while this may reflect interest in our other projects it does not suggest the campaign is having an unfavourable impact. We have inspired new volunteers and partnerships with other organisations and have reached other sections of society. All our work and activities have benefited from the publicity roused by this campaign and there has been an increased demand for our older publications.
The complaint was thrown out by the Charity Commission almost immediately.
I enjoyed reading the letters - especially the succinct ending for the 'case closed' one.
Whoever put the complaint in must be feeling a bit miffed ;)
Here in Sweden those cheeky chappies from The Pirate Bay took an unusual approach to paying off the award made against them to the media conglomerate. They asked their supporters to help pay the award by making a payment to the media conglomerates solicitor. What happened then was many individuals started making payments of 1 Kr - about 10 pence in English money. Unfortunately for the solicitor the credit card companies levied a charge for payments that was actually greater than 1 Kr. The result was the media conglomerates solicitor getting a huge bill from the credit card companies - far exceeding the original award.
I'm not sure of the legal situation in the UK but something along this line would surely be close to justice in the case of Simon Singh being found guilty. I know for sure I would donate if this was the outcome.
Bravo Chairman Lord Taverne! Good Smackdown!
How extraordinary. Amongst the grounds for the original complaint was that this campaign was somehow detracting from the senseaboutscience charity's core purpose - which is to encourage good science communication...! It doesn't detract from this purpose, it positively nails it squarely and is the essence of what a science communication charity should be doing...!
Agree that the summary dismissal was great - as was the detailed, measured, calm and authoratative response from Lord Taverne - kudos!