A group of Christians who were banned from advertising healing through prayer, have vowed to appeal against the ruling.
Healing On The Streets (HOTS) in Bath faced a probe by the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) after a visitor to their website complained about claims that God can heal.
The group, which is made up of volunteers from numerous churches in the city, had a flyer available to download which stated ‘Need healing? God can heal today!’ The leaflet listed a number of ailments, including Arthritis, Depression and Paralysis, and said ‘we believe that God loves you and can heal you from any sickness.’
A further webpage contained testimonials from people who had received prayer for healing, where individuals told how their conditions had improved after the prayer.
But a complainant wrote to the ASA challenging whether the claims of divine healing could be substantiated, and claiming that the ads were irresponsible and offered false hope to the ill.
The ASA also considered whether the ads might discourage people from receiving treatment for serious medical conditions.
And while the ASA acknowledged that HOTS Bath have sincere belief that God can heal, they upheld claims that the advertising was misleading, and demanded that the group remove the offending elements from the site.
In a ruling which could impact the healing and prayer ministries offered by churches and organisations across the country, the ASA said that HOTS must not: “make claims which stated or implied that, by receiving prayer from their volunteers, people could be healed of medical conditions. We also told them not to refer in their ads to medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.”
In an official response, HOTS said:
“We are disappointed with the ASA's decision, and will appeal against it because it seems very odd to us that the ASA wants to prevent us from stating on our website the basic Christian belief that God can heal illness.
“The ASA has even demanded that we sign a document agreeing not to say this, which is unacceptable to us - as it no doubt would be for anyone ordered not to make certain statements about their conventional religious or philosophical beliefs.
“All over the world as part of their normal Christian life, Christians believe in, pray for and experience God’s healing; our ministry, in common with many churches, has been active in praying for God‘s healing (of Christians and non Christians) for many years.
“Over that time the response to what we do has been overwhelmingly positive, and we find it difficult to understand the ASA’s attempt to restrict communication about this. Our website simply states our beliefs and describes some of our experiences.
“We tried to reach a compromise, recognising some of the ASA’s concerns, but there are certain things that we cannot agree to – including a ban on expressing our beliefs.
“It appears that the complaint to the ASA was made by a group generally opposed to Christianity, and it seems strange to us that on the basis of a purely ideological objection to what we say on our website, the ASA has decided it is appropriate to insist that we cannot talk about a common and widely held belief that is an important aspect of conventional Christian faith.
“For more information, please see the Bible.”
February 2nd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross