An email from Knights Templar International, seen on 11 April 2016. The ad stated “Dear fellow Patriot … As you sit in the safety of your home today, maybe watching TV or playing with the kids or grandkids, spare a thought for those who have voluntarily left all these things behind in order to defend our faith and our fellow Christians who are being tortured, raped and butchered by the Islamic devils known as ISIS. We know this level of commitment is not possible for everybody, that’s fine but the least the rest of us can do is to support these brave defenders of OUR Faith. If you have NOT already done so please accept this Personal invitation to join the Knights Templar Order as an affiliate. How many more innocent lives are going to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness? If you have joined the Order, please consider making a gift towards our ‘work’ in these new killing fields where Christians are being slaughtered like cattle yet few even care. Do you care enough to actually DO something? Well here is your opportunity. Can I tell our people you are with them? Can I tell those in peril you are backing the resistance to help save them? You can donate here via this secure link … Donate Now”.
The complainant, who believed the ad suggested that donations would directly fund those fighting ISIS, challenged whether it was misleading and could be substantiated.
Knights Templar International acknowledged the complaint but did not respond further to the ASA's enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Knights Templar International’s lack of substantive response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 1.7 Any unreasonable delay in responding to the ASA's enquiries will normally be considered a breach of the Code. (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
We noted that the ad described the purported actions of Knights Templar International’s volunteers against ISIS and included claims such as “… but the least the rest of us can do is to support these brave defenders of OUR Faith” and “… please consider making a gift towards our ‘work’ in these new killing fields where Christians are being slaughtered …”. We considered that readers were likely to understand from the claims that Knights Templar International funded those fighting against ISIS and that any donations received in response to the email would be used directly to fund and support that specific cause. We therefore considered that Knights Templar International should have provided evidence to demonstrate that all funds raised through the appeal would go towards that cause. Because Knights Templar International did not provide such evidence we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Knights Templar International that when making claims in relation to solicitations for donations they should ensure that those claims were accurate and substantiated by documentary evidence, and that they should be able to substantiate that all funds raised would go towards that specific work.