Tenpenny’s anti-vaccination tour hits a snag in Australia (Update)

This isn’t censorship, it is a public health stance. There is no excuse for allowing peddling of ridiculous anti-science nonsense that endangers the lives of children. Pro-vaccine advocates wish to disallow Tenpenny to have a soapbox to spout anti-vax propaganda.

Sherri Tenpenny: Sydney venue cancels seminar of US anti-vaccination campaigner.

Pressure is mounting against a planned speaking tour by American anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny, with at least one venue now cancelling a seminar.

Kareela Golf and Social Club in Sydney has cancelled a seminar, while a group of doctors cancelled their own workshop at a Melbourne venue, angry the place had also booked Dr Tenpenny next month.

A pro-vaccination group has asked Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to deny the anti-vaccination campaigner a visa to speak in Australia.

A tour organizer (you may recognize her and her wrongheaded views about measles) said those opposing the talks were trying to hide things from the public and that this sets a worrying precedent for denying visas. Stop The Australian Anti-Vaccination Network helped start the petition calling on Mr Dutton to deny Dr Tenpenny a visa. Stop AVN is not hiding anything, while Tenpenny, however, may not have been forthright about her claims which are not supported by science.

Sherri Tenpenny believes autism, asthma, auto-immune disorders, and ADHD are caused by vaccines and says her claims are backed up by studies and research. But is there mention about the myriad more studies that show that vaccines are safe, effective and NECESSARY public health measures to protect children? Is she using rejected studies like Andrew Wakefield’s study from the late 90s that started the whole anti-vaccines push?

Doctors are calling for her not to be allowed to do the tour even calling her a “liar”:

Australian Medical Association’s Council of General Practice chairman Dr Brian Morton also supported the call for her to be blocked from entering, saying her views were inconsistent with overwhelming scientific evidence supporting vaccination.

Tenpenny and her supporters are claiming that the pressure for her seminars to be cancelled stifles her right to free speech. Health professionals say it is not right to allow her to spread misinformation and fear.

Is denying a person a visa the right move? Ideally, she should have been upfront with what her stance was, that it was NOT supported by science, and that it would be potentially divisive. But, she didn’t.

The proper way to advance a medical claim is through the respected scientific literature. The anti-vax position has been rejected. Instead, proponents wish to scare parents into rejecting vaccines. That is unscientific and unethical. So, the venues have every right to give her the boot for her rejected, harmful ideas.

UPDATE (8-Jan-205) Now more cancellations is sending a message that anti-vax propaganda is not welcome. Venues cancel events featuring US anti-vaccination campaigner Sherri Tenpenny. Also, all you want to know: Getting to know Sherri Tenpenny – a guide

  7 comments for “Tenpenny’s anti-vaccination tour hits a snag in Australia (Update)

  1. Kevin
    January 7, 2015 at 8:01 PM

    While I totally agree with your views on vaccines, and hate that these people are misusing freedom of speech, it is unfortunately not limited to speech we agree with, nor even with truthful speech. However, I don’t know what the limitations on speech are in Australia. As far as the spread of anti-vaccine ideas over hear, perhaps we need some sort of limitation on speech that is detrimental to public health, like laws against hate speech in Canada. The only problem with this is that this leaves it to the government to determine what is valid medical opinion, and what is not, which is also problematic.

  2. Barry
    January 8, 2015 at 3:56 AM

    If you yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater, you should be held liable for the injuries and deaths of those trampled in the resulting stampede to the exits. Likewise, if you spread demonstrably false medical advice, you should be held liable for resulting outbreaks of communicable disease.

    Of course we don’t wait for the such liabilities to materialize and then say “we told you so”. That’s why there are numerous exceptions to the right of free speech for cases like incitement, obscenities, credible threats and outright lying.

  3. Martijn
    January 8, 2015 at 8:30 AM

    I think xkcd explained this fairly well:

  4. January 8, 2015 at 3:09 PM

    This is certainly a thorny issue: the right to free speech to promote ridiculous ideas (that are not against certain protected categories) vs the right to choose who will be allowed to use your venue. Personally, I’d like to get rid of the Truthers, Birthers, flat earth folks, alien abduction folks, psychics and medical scammers, but I don’t know how to legitimately stop them.

    I attended a 9/11 Truthers event at Arizona State University last year, sponsored by a student group and held in the student union. I came away actually scared and afraid of the Truthers, whom I had previously simply considered harmless cranks showing the same stupid videos to each others and railing against the government. But if they truly believe what they say they believe…they have to put in a special category of dangerous lunatics. Nevertheless, how can we deny them the right to convene?

    So, much as I abhor the anti-vaxxers, I think we need to tread carefully on denying them the right to use public venues.

    Perhaps the best way is for responsible medical and academic groups to cancel their support and to lobby against giving anti-vaxxers a forum, such as when Jenny McCarthy was removed from the Ottawa Cancer fundraiser last year. That was a brilliant move. Petitioning to have her removed from The View was also a smart move.

    I’m not sure that a venue — be it a country club or a hotel — should be allowed to ban conferences or speakers on controversial topics that don’t involve hate speech or discrimination.

  5. Reality
    January 8, 2015 at 4:30 PM

    As a USA citizen I strongly support free speech unhampered by government with some limitations on incitement, sedition, child porn, etc.
    In any event, in the US Tenpenny should be allowed to babble incoherently like the scammer that she is just as we allow holocaust deniers the freedom to display their evil ignorance for all to see.

    The possible problem for Tenpenny in Australia that I see is that she is engaging in commerce, not standing on a street corner barking at the moon for free. I know nothing of Australian law, but I would bet that there is a lot less concern for freedom of speech when applied to commercial enterprises.

    Tenpenny, Messenger & Co. stand to make upward of 6 figures from these “seminars”. This is not some activist ranting at London’s Hyde Park Speakers’ Corner. This is all about the bucks $$. Tenpenny isn’t there to lie on the beach and vacation. She is there to work and make a profit.
    I wonder if her visa needs to reflect that she is there in a commercial endeavour instead of on holiday?

  6. Mark Riegel
    January 8, 2015 at 7:20 PM

    Yes, that sums it up pretty well.

  7. Cathy
    January 11, 2015 at 5:08 PM

    Yes, her visa does need to indicate that she is in the country to work otherwise she woud be deported for working on a holiday visa.

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