ASA Adjudication on Healing on the Streets-Bath
Healing on the Streets-Bath
8 Huntingdon Place
Bradford on Avon
13 June 2012
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Three issues where investigated all of which were Upheld.
A leaflet stated "NEED HEALING? GOD CAN HEAL TODAY! Do you suffer from Back Pain, Arthritis, MS, Addiction ... Ulcers, Depression, Allergies, Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Paralysis, Crippling Disease, Phobias, Sleeping disorders or any other sickness? We'd love to pray for your healing right now! We're Christians from churches in Bath and we pray in the name of Jesus. We believe that God loves you and can heal you from any sickness". The leaflet was viewed on 10 May 2011.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the claim that the advertiser could heal the named conditions was misleading and could be substantiated; and
2. the ad was irresponsible, because it provided false hope to those suffering from the named conditions.
3. The ASA challenged whether the ads could discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Healing on the Streets - Bath (HOTS) said there was no claim in the ad that HOTS or any individual person could heal the conditions referred to. They said the leaflet stated "God can heal you", which was a statement of their belief. They said there was no guarantee or promise in the ad that people would be healed.
2. HOTS said they did not believe the ad was irresponsible or provided false hope to people who were sick. In their view, any hope provided was not false because they believed that God could and did heal sickness, and that many people had experienced that. They said it was not irresponsible to provide people with an opportunity to be prayed for, and to experience healing. They said they were a registered charity and praying for healing was part of their objectives as a registered charity, and was also in accordance with traditional Christian beliefs. They added that the charity's activities were endorsed by many churches and other reputable members of the community. They said they provided people with an opportunity to consider the possibility that God could help them.
3. HOTS said they did not agree that the ad discouraged people from seeking essential treatment and there was no suggestion that people should think that it was an alternative to seeking medical supervision or essential treatment. They said all their volunteers underwent detailed training before taking part in their activities, including instruction that everyone who received prayer must be given a letter which included the statements "if you are on medication STAY on it. Under NO circumstances should you stop doing anything a medical professional or counsellor has advised. We are not medically trained so please verify with them what has happened and take their advice. If you have been healed, their endorsement is a great encouragement to others of what God has done."
HOTS offered to amend the ad to state "We believe God can heal" and "See God heal the sick" or "Pray for the sick", to include the words "We believe" in any references to healing, and to remove the leaflet from their website.
THIS ADJUDICATION REPLACES THAT PUBLISHED ON 1 FEBRUARY 2012. ONE POINT OF COMPLAINT, IN RELATION TO WEBSITE CONTENT OUTSIDE THE REMIT OF THE ASA, HAS BEEN REMOVED. THE WORDING OF THE REMAINING POINTS HAS BEEN CHANGED BUT THE DECISIONS TO UPHOLD REMAIN.
1. & 2. Upheld
The ASA acknowledged that HOTS sought to promote their faith and the hope for physical healing by God through the claims in the ad. However, we were concerned that the prominent references to healing and the statement "You have nothing to lose, except your sickness" in combination with the references to medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought such as arthritis, asthma, MS, addictions, depression and paralysis, could give consumers the expectation that, by receiving prayer from HOTS volunteers, they could be healed of the conditions listed or other sicknesses from which they suffered. We concluded the ad was misleading.
We acknowledged that HOTS volunteers believed that prayer could treat illness and medical conditions, and that therefore the ads did not promote false hope. However we noted we had not seen evidence that people had been healed through the prayer of HOTS volunteers, and concluded that the ad could encourage false hope in those suffering from the named conditions and therefore were irresponsible.
We acknowledged that HOTS had offered to remove the leaflet from their website.
On these points, the ad breached CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility), 3.1 and 3.6 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 12.1 and 12.6 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
We understood that HOTS volunteers were instructed to give a letter to the recipients of prayer which told them they should not stop taking their medication or following the advice of medical professionals. However, we considered that, because the leaflet made claims that through the prayer offered by HOTS volunteers people could be healed of specific medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought such as arthritis, asthma, MS, addictions, depression and paralysis, the ad could discourage people, and particularly the vulnerable or those suffering from undiagnosed symptoms, from seeking essential treatment for medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. We concluded the ad breached the Code.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code rule 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told HOTS not to 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.