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MP group seeks to overturn 'Prayer healing' advertising ban


Chindie
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I read about this earlier and struggled to believe it.

Quick back story - a Christian group in Bath, who claimed without doubt that prayer, and God, can heal the sick, handed out leaflets and advertised that belief with specific reference to numerous disases and maladies (from the fairly mundane like back pain through things like MS and paralysis), with happy testimonials to back it all up. The ASA subsequently investigated this advertising and effectively asked them to stop until they made changes to their advertising that, in essence, required them to add an element of doubt to their claims (basically saying 'We believe our prayer can help you!'), as their claims were unsubstantiated, testimonials not counting in ASA opinion.

Step forward Christians in Parliament, and in particular chair Gary Streeter MP, and Vice Chairs Gavin Shuker MP and Tim Farron MP, who sent this letter to the ASA...

Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury

Chairman, Advertising Standards Agency

21st March 2012

We are writing on behalf of the all-party Christians in Parliament group in Westminster and your ruling that the Healing On The Streets ministry in Bath are no longer able to claim, in their advertising, that God can heal people from medical conditions.

We write to express our concern at this decision and to enquire about the basis on which it has been made. It appears to cut across two thousand years of Christian tradition and the very clear teaching in the Bible. Many of us have seen and experienced physical healing ourselves in our own families and churches and wonder why you have decided that this is not possible.

On what scientific research or empirical evidence have you based this decision?

You might be interested to know that I (Gary Streeter) received divine healing myself at a church meeting in 1983 on my right hand, which was in pain for many years. After prayer at that meeting, my hand was immediately free from pain and has been ever since. What does the ASA say about that? I would be the first to accept that prayed for people do not always get healed, but sometimes they do. That is all this sincere group of Christians in Bath are claiming.

It is interesting to note that since the traumatic collapse of the footballer Fabrice Muamba the whole nation appears to be praying for a physical healing for him. I enclose some media extracts. Are they wrong also and will you seek to intervene?

We invite your detailed response to this letter and unless you can persuade us that you have reached your ruling on the basis of indisputable scientific evidence, we intend to raise this matter in Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Gary Streeter MP (Con)

Chair, Christians in Parliament

Gavin Shuker MP (Labour)

Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament

Tim Farron (Lib-Dem)

Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament

Pulled from Total Politics' report on this

If any of the above men are your MP, your neighbours appear to voted in morons. Who endorse advertising that misleads the public, and further, charlatans.

A Guardian response piece that pulls apart quite why this is absurd, lest endorsing misleading advertising to prey on the sick is not enough of a reason to think these fellas should be given short shrift.

EDIT - I thought the reference to Muamba was particularly... interesting :crylaugh:

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Apologies, you appear to be represented by a dud.

On the plus side, he might have your back if you set up a business where you claim your prayers can influence lottery results, provided a mate of yours will testify you prayed for his ticket and he subsequently won a tenner.

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They should just dish out holy water on the NHS. It would save a fortune.

Schoolboy error. Water is a valuable commodity, and has a cost.

Now prayer... prayer is free. Prescription prayer, 100% profit.

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Yet strangely , when a xtian has a medical emergency they're pretty quick at dialling 999. It's very rare for you to hear them shout "Get me a rosary bead , my hand's been caught in a wood chipper".

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Mental - was very disappointed to see Tim Farron on that list, agree with him on most stuff and he's generally thought to be the next Lib Dem leader, which is a bit odd as the party is massively secular/atheist!

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Why exactly should advertising for anything be banned?

If you're a moron who believes that prayer will save you, then perhaps it's for the greater good that you die...

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Why exactly should advertising for anything be banned?

I don't see the problem with this either. If the group were saying "we can heal you with prayer, for just £9.99..." then clearly that's wrong. As it is I don't see what harm they're doing.

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Why exactly should advertising for anything be banned?

It's a requirement (in the UK) that advertising claims must be demonstrably true. I think this is sensible considering the amount of non-scientific bollocks out there.

Most people don't understand how all the supermarket chains claim (and can prove) to be the cheapest. I think it's reasonable that societies protect their citizens from being dumb.

I once lost a whole advertising channel on this site because I pointed out to them that one of their adverts was illegal in the UK.

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Why exactly should advertising for anything be banned?

I don't see the problem with this either. If the group were saying "we can heal you with prayer, for just £9.99..." then clearly that's wrong. As it is I don't see what harm they're doing.

The ASA doesn't care whether an advert is for profit or not, they care only for the... 'wellbeing'... of the consumer. You can read the adjudication on the subject here, but in short the issues with their adverts were

1. The claims of healing were misleading and unsubstantiated (in effect they gave the impression you would be healed, not that they believed you might)

2. They claim they could heal specific illnesses (which exacerbates the above. They also made reference to healing cancer on their website)

3. In making those claims they were irresponsible and provided false hope to sufferers

4. The ads could discourage people from seeking/continuing genuine medical attention, and therefore possibly endanger themselves.

All of which were upheld, and therefore they concluded that the adverts were not allowable. They're big on misleading people, especially on medical matters, and for them, the cost matters not. That it requires people to be particularly gullible (or, more accurately and kindly in this instance, perhaps desperate) to be mislead by this, only hastens the requirement for the ASA to nip it in the bud.

That these MPs are happy for that kind of thing to go on, and to use rather dumb arguments to back it up, is rather damning, imo. Although I'm lead to believe they've stood for other pretty grim things in the name of Christianity, so it figures I guess.

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So British people are morons who can't be trusted to make decisions for themselves... yeah, um, right (though given the extent to which every UK-based poster is cheering this, perhaps it's true)...

Is it possible for any advertising to pose a danger to society? I'd argue not.

Consider an advert for pure unadulterated arsenic being pitched as a headache cure (and well, if you take pure arsenic, your headache will go away...). If you don't fall for it, how are you hurt (except perhaps by being annoyed by the advertising, but it's difficult to see how one could devise a standard based on being annoying that bans Pararsenicil and allows other adverts)? If you do fall for it, you did choose to take arsenic, and you probably die as a result. Sucks for you, but you made the bet that arsenic would help you and the bet lost.

By making that bet, you're stating that you believe you'll be happier making that bet than you would be not making the bet, and this judgment is only makeable by the individual in question.

Ultimately, people are happier with no restrictions on advertising than with any restrictions on advertising.

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you can make outrageous unsubstantiated claims in UK advertising, I think the phrase is a 'mere puff'

For instance, the Linx effect adverts, I can't believe anyone would think they are true, but they are allowed.

Levi's point about allowing all advertising is a bad one (sorry). The multinational company is always going to be in a position of power over the individual. If they are also unbridled by atleast not being alllowed to tell ridiculous lies or make ridiculous promises the balance of power is way too far in their direction.

I'm not interested in making a bet with my health. I'm interested in a society that at least tries to put people before profit. I guess that's why I haven't moved to China, Russia or the USA.

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One of the signees, Farron, has apparently said he shouldn't have signed it 'as it was written', stating it was poorly worded.

You'd have thought he'd have noticed that before he signed it.

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you can make outrageous unsubstantiated claims in UK advertising, I think the phrase is a 'mere puff'

For instance, the Linx effect adverts, I can't believe anyone would think they are true, but they are allowed.

Levi's point about allowing all advertising is a bad one (sorry). The multinational company is always going to be in a position of power over the individual. If they are also unbridled by atleast not being alllowed to tell ridiculous lies or make ridiculous promises the balance of power is way too far in their direction.

I'm not interested in making a bet with my health. I'm interested in a society that at least tries to put people before profit. I guess that's why I haven't moved to China, Russia or the USA.

Exactly. It's just about keeping some checks and balance.

Would Levi also approve if companies were allowed to slip arsenic (or some other toxin) into food products and then lie in their advertising by claiming it is not there?

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Or what if th eadvert wasn't about arsenic, but was about Hydrochlorotoxifretenic

Obviously I've made that word up. But point is if it was some chemical that people didn't know of and they were claiming it cured headaches, but actually it was harmful, then people would be likely to take it. People believe aderts.

In regards to the letter, this was my favourite bit

What does the ASA say about that?

That's almost comically cliched

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