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Christian MPs Try To Overturn ‘God Can Heal’ Ad Ban

Christian MPs Try To Overturn ‘God Can Heal’ Ad Ban

 

Three MPs from across England’s main political parties have written to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) demanding it justify its ban on a church-backed ad that claimed “God Can Heal” people of illness.

In March a Christian ministry group called Healing on the Streets Bath was banned from using ad leaflets that said: “NEED HEALING? GOD CAN HEAL TODAY!… We believe that God loves you and can heal you from any sickness.”

The leaflet made claims that prayer could cure “Back Pain, Arthritis, MS, Addiction … Ulcers, Depression, Allergies, Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Paralysis, Crippling Disease, Phobias, Sleeping disorders or any other sickness” and went on to say: “We’d love to pray for your healing right now! We’re Christian 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 ASA said the claims were misleading in that it risked discouraging people from seeking essential medical treatment and therefore band the ministry from using the ads.

However, MPs Gary Streeter (Conservative), Gavin Shuker (Labour) and Tim Farron (Lib Dem) have written a letter to the ASA saying they want “indisputable scientific evidence” that faith-based healing doesn’t work. They are also categorizing this as a matter of religious belief and say that the idea of faith healing is steeped in “two thousand years of Christian tradition and the very clear teaching in the Bible.”

Below is the full letter as sent to the Advertising Standards Authority and Parliament:

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

I am not a member of the ASA but there are some immediate problems with the Christians in Parliament stance:

If there is even a chance that an offer of faith healing under the guise of “God can cure” prevents someone seeking medical attention, then it is not just acceptable for the ASA to ban advertisements that may mislead impressionable people, it is imperative that the standards authority does so. Promises of faith healing are demonstrably dangerous. Earlier this year in London several people died because a ministry allegedly said that they could cure believers of HIV and told believers to stop taking their medication. Not all ministries will act irresponsibly but even if just a handful will act in this manner the need for a ban on such claims become obvious.

With regards to the MPs demanding “indisputable scientific evidence” that prayer doesn’t cure, they are mistaken: it is up to religious groups to provide scientific evidence for their extraordinary claim that faith healing does work, not for the ASA to prove it doesn’t.

Also there is an overwhelming logical reason to suppose faith healing doesn’t work. Assuming for a moment God does exist, the deity does not intervene in our daily lives to heal the sick. If it did, and God is all loving and all powerful, there would be no sick people walking around and disease would be but a myth. Simply put, that God only cures some people, as the letter seems to offer (“people do not always get healed, but sometimes they do”), is just not acceptable when the deity is meant to be the paragon of virtue and moral fortitude. One cannot have it both ways.

As a side note: there have been attempts to pin down whether faith healing has any actual benefits, yet little evidence has emerged and faith healing remains shy around scientific rigor.

Further, while I would not doubt the sincerity of the belief offered by MP Streeter that his ailment was cured through prayer, one unsubstantiated claim does not a cure prove.

Where the statement regarding the footballer Fabrice Muamba is concerned, I have not seen the extracts the letter cites and so cannot make a claim as to whether the ASA should intervene, however there clearly is a distinction between saying that people up and down the country are praying for the well-being of a particular person, indeed this could be as simple as an expression of hope that he would recover and need not involve any religious act of prayer at all, and making a claim to fact that prayer will or even may cure someone.

There is also a glaring and basic logical error in the middle of this letter: that because Christian teaching has for thousands of years offered that God can cure people that this means it is necessarily true. This is not so. If one repeats a fallacy it remains a fallacy despite how much mossy belief that rolling stone might pick up.

While this apparently isn’t out of character for the Christians in Parliament group, that they would aggressively seek to make an issue out of this is worrying because it highlights a developing stridency among religious groups in Britain, particularly those with affiliations to US style evangelical practices.

 

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Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to dtcchc.

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62 comments

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8:08AM PDT on May 4, 2012

this is stupid. did you know that the medical establishment can't explain how many medications work? many anti-seizure medications like Gabapentin have unknown action, and yup, they don't work for everybody. NO medication does.

but they can make money flogging that stuff. how do you make money telling people to pray? these people are not selling anything, they are telling people to ask God for help.

it seems that what the author preaches is not what they practice.
by the way, the connection between those who have faith and healing is very well documented. many studies have been done which have found that those who have faith heal more quickly and more thoroughly than those who don't. look it up - making this out to be about hurting the vulnerable is stupid. there are always those who will do that - including a Pharmaceutical Business that will sell pills at $25 a pill. talk about hurting the vulnerable.

4:03AM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

Simon B – “You show me That it works, and how it works,”
You know, Simon, I’m a healer. And I haven’t a clue how it works, just that in many cases it does work; that’s enough for me – and for many of my clients too. We don’t need you to go carving letters on the ground. That’s just silly, and destructive too.
Rob & Jay – “This is an issue of freedom of speech. No one is forcing anyone to seek healing from god. What an absurd and bigoted attitude this article takes. And many people have been unable to find healing in medical settings - maybe we should shut hospitals & doctors' offices up since they can't prove they can heal everyone either???”
Granted, hospitals and doctors can’t and don’t heal everyone. And ‘spiritual healing’ (I refuse to call it faith healing because it’s not a question of having faith) has often – though not always – worked in situations where medicine has failed.
But my argument with the advertisement is that vulnerable people may be encouraged to forego medical treatment when that is the best way for them.
I won’t take on clients unless (if appropriate) they see their GP or continue with ongoing treatment. And that’s the way it should be. Quite frankly, I don’t care who gets the acknowledgement for any cures; the fact that someone improves/gets better is enough for me.

8:28AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

With all the medications, herbal remedies and hypnotism flooding the market, why is it so bad to advertise that God can heal? If you want to try it, go for it. If you don't believe in it, then don't. But the freedom to advretise it is just that - freedom of belief and speech.

5:38AM PDT on Apr 7, 2012

Whether one believes in god or not, or if that god can/will heal people, has nothing to do with this. This is an issue of freedom of speech. No one is forcing anyone to seek healing from god. What an absurd and bigoted attitude this article takes. And many people have been unable to find healing in medical settings - maybe we should shut hospitals & doctors' offices up since they can't prove they can heal everyone either???

Steve, you disappoint with this call for silencing peoples' right to voice their opinions that aren't expressing any hate toward others. At this rate there won't be any freedom of anything left.

3:23PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

GOD gave us brains unfortunately we often do not use them.

Yes many Televangelists are hypocrites who will face judgment.

Yes you do not have to believe in GOD. But then should you ban those who do believe in GOD from having rights and force them to follow what you believe?

Yes we should seek medical care and we can pray at the same time. A loved one turned from medical care and would not listen to me. I believe in healing but I also know that doctors can help guide and we should live right eat right and do our best at the same time. She died but I do not blame GOD for her death. She choose to believe a false leader that I warned her against. But I have no right to force people to choose what I think is best for them. We are all responsible for our actions. When the Government starts acting like big brother telling us what to believe and do then we are no longer free.

Seventh day Adventist loving GOD his world and all people.

3:01PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

Divine Healing? Seriously?

You show me That it works, and how it works, and when I come around, I'll carve "Crikey, that's Brilliant" In 100ft letters in the ground!

But if you just say, "Because God", then I'll boot you to the door. I'm too old for Deus ex Machinae anymore.

1:20PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

I am so glad I am an American. Our freedom of speech and religion are absolute and we can run any ad we can pay for. Anyway, who says God does not heal. We have had a number of people in my church healed of cancer and other diseases inexplicably. Like the doctor said they had it and it disappeared. God does God's thing and also does God's work through people. And we are not a conservative church by any stretch of the imagination! We are a predominantly gay denomination. We just believe in the power of God.

12:43PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

If one believes in God as the creator, then one must also believe that God created our brains, minds, ability to reason, and learn. Obviously, since humanity has used these gifts to develop science and, in particular, the Science and Art of Medicine, it would stand to reason that God sees that This is Good. However, there are some pillagers and murders of the Bible, who have distorted the teachings of God, and thus perverted religion teo their own uses. I speak of the False Telel-preachers who promise heaven, if only one beleves --and sends in the money to buy air time, mansions, jet planes, and staff, to run the ministry. There are also those who have done away with JESUS within Chrisianity. They deny his instructions, especially those contained in the Sermon on the Mount, and pick and choose verses to justify their political, and power hungry ends. The ones who are presently running the GOP, as well as their counterparts in the Roman city of Bath are an abomination and must be faced down as hypcritical clods, and ignorant destroyers of civilization.

12:06PM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

I was born with a body - that is material. The body will heal if it is meant to be.

My faith was born of spirit.

I do not expect God/Goddess to heal my body as it is a lesson for me to learn from. We have physicians to help us heal our bodies, or get care to live with our bodies if they are not meant to heal. Our bodies are just clay jars, the content within the clay jar is our spirit.

For many, our bodies are our temples, that house our spirit, like water in a clay jar.

With my faith, I do expect healing from God/Goddess if I allow it. There's the key - Free Will!

Faith, accepting faith, is the only way to Spiritual Healing. One has to open one's own FREE WILL to heal spiritually.

But....that spiritual healing is not just in "The Church". For anyone who has a faith of any kind, and holds it close, is healing in spirit. Faith is the only way to heal.

Taking our faith that one extra step, where it infringes on other people's rights of faith, is not healing, that is extremism. Group a Faith, telling Group B Faith their faith isn't good enough so they better accept group A's beliefs or else, is extremism.

There's the freedom of conscience to state a proactive and deeply held belief, and to draw on it in an offer of help; and the freedom of conscience exercised by each person's response to this offer. (Per TomY. ty)

When we step out of those parameters, onto others' personal beliefs, we are crossing the line of decency.




11:54AM PDT on Apr 6, 2012

continued ...

It's abolutely essential that vulnerable people are protected, not just from charlatans, or even sincere but non-effective healers (which could, on occasion, include me) but also from theselves.

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