UPDATE: The global campaign to support skeptical campaigner Britt Hermes has reached an astounding milestone, with over A$100,000 (€62,000) raised thanks to the generosity of the worldwide Skeptical community.
The fundraising campaign, organised by Australian Skeptics Inc (ASI), was launched on January 14. The original campaign goal of at least A$80k (€50k) was the amount Britt’s lawyer has advised would likely be required, and that figure was reached in less than 9 days via more than 2000 donations. Considering the unpredictable nature of legal costs, the final amount required may vary.
While the prime focus of the campaign is to ensure that Hermes will not be out of pocket from what might be considerable legal costs, there is a broader message that goes beyond her situation. As Hermes herself said in a recent message to donors, “the international skeptic and science community stands united to protect the freedom to criticise pseudoscience and preserve the scientific enterprise”.
This recent campaign is indicative of a trend over the last decade for cross-border skeptical action. Fired by social media, disparate groups have been able to coordinate programs that raise the profile of skeptics globally, and emphasise the power of joint action.
Should more funds be raised than required to cover Britt’s costs, they will be held for a period of up to 12 months to ensure the legal risk to Britt has passed, after which they will be put into a generalised global Skeptics legal defence fund.
We will continue to update readers and donors on the progress of the campaign
Fundraising campaign for Britt Hermes – original news item
You may be aware that Britt Hermes, a noted skeptical campaigner, has been taken to court in Germany by US-based naturopath ‘Dr’ Colleen Huber, claiming that Britt has defamed her. This concerns statements Britt made in a blog, in which she was critical of the medical and fundraising practices of the Naturopathic Cancer Society and the Nature Works Best Cancer Clinic (Huber is associated with both).
Britt is an American former naturopath, who has spent much time and effort lately in campaigning against naturopathic practices. She is the author of the blog “Naturopathic Diaries – Confessions of a naturopathic doctor”, which she has written since January 2015. She has also addressed many skeptical groups across the world – just last year she spoke at QED in Manchester, CSICon in Las Vegas, and Skepticon in Sydney.
For this reason, Australian Skeptics Inc is managing a fundraising campaign to assist Britt in her current legal action.
We are concerned by the case brought against Britt, not primarily from the point of view of the merits or otherwise of the libel action, but that the case may have the effect of silencing a major campaigner against unproven and disproven ‘medical’ practices through the imposition of considerable legal costs.
Skeptics will be familiar with the libel action brought by the British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh in 2008-2010. Following a judgement that Simon could use a “fair comment” defence, the BCA dropped its case. Nonetheless, Simon was still left with substantial legal costs.
While no-one likes to see anyone suffer punitive costs under such circumstances, Simon is a successful author in his own right and had the support of skeptical groups around the world. Britt is not in a similar financial situation, being a PhD student in evolutionary biology at the University of Kiel, Germany. The current case is being brought against her in a German court, and she is already incurring considerable legal costs in her defence case.
With this in mind, we are managing an international campaign to raise funds to support her financially.
This is not an endorsement of the statements by Britt that are the subject of this case – we are not in a position to assess the legal merits of the case – but a defence of a leading campaigner in an area that most skeptics would regard as pseudoscience and pseudomedicine.
We have had experience in such fundraising, having managed a grass-roots funding program in support of Australian campaigner Dr Ken Harvey when he was hit with a “SLAPP” suit by SensaSlim, the manufacturer of a bogus weight loss product. The Harvey campaign raised in excess of A$40,000, ensuring that Ken did not have any ‘out of pocket’ legal expenses. (The case was found in Ken’s favour and he was awarded costs, however the company went into liquidation and Ken received no money.)
If you would like to support Britt please go here. Every contribution will be gratefully received.
If you would like to know more about the defamation suit, Britt has written an article for her Naturopathic Diaries blog which explains the case in more detail.
Please note the following:
• The funds donated are non-refundable.
• We cannot guarantee that Britt will win her case.
• Should more funds be collected than required to cover Britt’s costs, they will be held for a period of up to 12 months to ensure the legal risk to Britt has passed, after which they will be put into a generalised global Skeptics legal defence fund.
• No entity linked to the campaign, including Britt, Australian Skeptics Inc (ASI) or any of the collaborators, will receive any funds raised by the campaign.
• ASI is not a registered charity in Australia and donors should not expect their donation to be tax deductible in Australia or anywhere else (depending on prevailing local regulation).
Many thanks for your help.