Another fundie outfit falls foul of the ASA

Another fundie outfit falls foul of the ASA March 27, 2009

THAT godless “tool of the politically correct secularist establishment” – the Advertising Standards Authority – has shafted another evangelical outfit – claiming this week that it was misleading to suggest that prayer could “shrink tumours and overcome infertility”.
The claim was made in a leaflet distributed by Kings Church Salisbury (which has just reinvented itself as Salisbury City Church).kings-church
A leaflet, A Man with a Message – A God who Heals featured a testimonial that stated:

I was diagnosed with a brain tumour with tests showing I’d be unable to fall pregnant.  After being prayed for the tumour shrunk by half and now we have a lovely daughter.

The accompanying text stated:

Terry Hotchkiss will be praying for the sick and talking about the true message of Christianity.

The person who complained to the ASA said:

The implication in the testimonial, that praying had helped to defeat cancer and infertility, was misleading and could not be substantiated.

And that:

The leaflet was irresponsible, because it could discourage people from seeking medical advice for serious medical conditions.

KCS argued that God did heal by prayer as they firmly believed he did, it would be irresponsible of them not to offer and encourage that, particularly for someone who might be suffering from long-term, serious illness.  They said to remove the opportunity of prayer for someone with a serious medical condition would be callous and unkind and explained that the leaflet was written to give people the opportunity to come to God in prayer.
KCS also said they did not offer medical treatment and had never guaranteed or claimed to treat illness.  They explained that the very fact that they offered prayer meant that they were reliant on a miracle, which was something that no one could guarantee.  They pointed out that they did not ask for money or suggest alternative therapies or make claims of infallibility.
In its assessment, the ASA said:

It understood the fervent beliefs of KCS and in no way wished to prevent members of that group from holding their faith or expressing their religion.  We were concerned, however, that the leaflet implied treatment of serious medical conditions, cancer and infertility, through prayer for which a testimonial was insufficient as evidence.
Although we recognised that KCS believed prayer could heal and acknowledged that prayer helped some people through difficult circumstances, we considered that it was misleading to suggest that it could shrink brain tumours and overcome infertility.

The ASA also:

Noted the leaflet included a testimonial from a believer, which referred to a tumour being shrunk in size and infertility being reversed following prayer and considered that the implication readers were likely to take was that prayer had cured those conditions.
We were concerned that, because the claim was made on a leaflet, which was posted indiscriminately through letter boxes, it could reach people who suffered from cancer or were having difficulty conceiving themselves and were, therefore, at a particularly vulnerable point in their lives.
While we acknowledged that believers were of the view that prayer could treat illness and medical complications, we concluded that the leaflet was irresponsible, because it could discourage people, and particularly the vulnerable, from seeking essential medical treatment for serious medical conditions.

This is the second time this year that a religious flyer has fallen foul of the ASA, which also incurred the wrath of Stephen “Birdshit” Green when it ruled against complaints over the Atheist Bus Campaign. He described the ASA as “a tool of the politically-correct secularist establishment”.

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  • valdemar

    Telling lies about cancer cures… That is a crime, isn’t it? I mean, wasn’t there an act of parliament designed to stop charlatans exploiting desperate people? Ah, but I suppose ‘faith’ is the get of jail free card here, as in so many other cases of dishonesty. If you require believers to actually tell the unadorned, verifiable truth, you are persecuting them.
    As for the actual claim here, if someone grows back an amputated limb after praying for a new one, then we can talk about miracles. After all, the bible says god stopped the sun in its orbit around the earth, so….
    Hang on a minute! The bible is full of crap! Does this change things, I wonder.

  • Rozi

    Why didn’t god just magic away the tumour completely? Or just not give him a tumour in the first place? I’d say he got short changed. He ought to take it to God’s complaint commission.

  • Broga

    Rozi. I asked a fundi nutter that one a few years ago. Answers below:
    1. It is not for us to question god and what he chooses to do. Be grateful for what he chooses to do for miserable sinners, however little.
    I also suggested to the same woman that prayer is like asking an omniscient being to change its mind. Why would god change his mind as he knew everything in advance. Answer:
    2. It is not for us to question the ways of almighty god.
    Not exactly deep stuff. This was in the USA bible belt and I felt a couple of times that the infinite mercy of god as conveyed through the crazies I met was wearing thin and if a pile of dry brushwood had been around I might have been the main event for the evening barbecue.

  • dead yeti

    If this isn;t a crime it really should be. until these charletons realise that they cannot give medical advice based on nothing but 2000 year old fairy tales and a vague testimoney of a brainwashed and seriously ill indivdual they need to be stopped and the closing down of their ministry, confiscation of church assets and or a prison sentence should get the message across to these idiots

  • Godless not gormless

    “I was diagnosed with a brain tumour with tests showing I’d be unable to fall pregnant.”
    It is unlikely that this woman would have had a brain tumour since possession of a brain is essential to suffer from that particular condition.
    “After being prayed for the tumour shrunk by half and now we have a lovely daughter.”
    From this description, I can’t help wondering if the ‘tumour’ had caused a huge bulge in this woman’s belly and it “shrunk by half” at exactly the same time as their daughter appeared.
    If they didn’t oppose sex education they might learn a bit.
    I think I’m right in saying that Christopher Hitchens wrote in GING about a nun in India who had had a ‘miraculous’ recovery from a serious illness. He had been invited to the vatican to act as devil’s advocate whilst the pope ruled on whether or not this was to be considered a miracle.
    Lo and behold, it was a miracle! Despite the fact that three doctors had been treating her in hospital and had put her recovery down to that treatment.
    Nah! It couldn’t be anything as simple and obvious as that. It must have been a miracle!
    “Be grateful for what he chooses to do for miserable sinners, however little.”
    It’s nice to know that god doesn’t discriminate against small people.
    “It is not for us to question the ways of almighty god”
    Why can’t they see through that? It’s such an obvious con and it’s not so long ago that I posted a little bit about that myself, describing the time my father explained to me what faith was. I think I was about 14 or so at the time and it was soooooo obvious to me then and stopped me in my tracks from taking my interest in religion any further.
    Obviously I am eternally grateful to him for that even though it’s not the outcome he would have had in mind!

  • valdemar

    I’ve actually done about five minutes’ research on this. The Cancer Act of 1939 says that nobody should advertise a cure for cancer – there were a lot of charlatans around then as treatment was rarely effective. But I suppose a Xian can claim that it’s god who is advertising a cure. And you can’t put god in the dock, worse luck. It would make Nuremberg look like a slight quibble over a speeding ticket…

  • Wurble

    (False) Hopeium for the people.

  • That’s great news. I wonder if they’d have gotten away with it if they’d put the same claims on an election leaflet.

  • Stuart H.

    Isn’t describing your daughter as half a tumour a bit insulting – even for a godbotherer?

  • Broga

    When my wife, a doctor, heard about the Secular Medical Forum, which I hear is progressing nicely thanks, she could not get joined up soon enough. Now, I hear The Lancet has given the Pope a major bollocking for his vicious nonsense about condoms.

  • If prayer worked why would people think they had to pay for it? You can talk to your own hands for free. Freaking morons.

  • sas001

    I know a vicar whose wife died of breast cancer 11 years ago – he claimed that it was God’s will to give him an incumbency near the Royal Marsden Hospital where she could be treated. In disbelief, I responded, “But she died – What kind of cruel God do you believe in?” His response, “We are not here to judge God’s plan for us, we must accept his decision”.
    This is typical of the sickness derived from irrational belief!