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).
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.Â 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.
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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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.Â 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”.