A regional press ad, for Sandown Free Presbyterian Church, was headlined THE WORD OF GOD AGAINST SODOMY . Further text stated:
Last year in the 'gay pride parade' a banner stating "Jesus is a Fag" was carried
by one of the participants. The supporter of homosexuality was able to walk through the streets of Belfast displaying this offensive placard in spite of the presence of the PSNI, representatives from the Commission and the march organisers. The act of
sodomy is a grave offence to every Bible believer who, in accepting the pure message of Gods precious Word, express the mind of God by declaring it to be an abomination. (Leviticus, ch18 v22, Thou Shalt not lie down with mankind, as with womankind; it is
an abomination.) This unequivocal statement clearly articulates Gods judgement upon a sin that has been only made controversial by those who are attempting to either neutralise or remove the guilt of their wrongdoing. As a result, we are now witnessing a
hostile spirit being exerted against the testimony of Gods precious Word and those who adhere to its teachings. It is imperative that everyone whose faith is centred upon the authority of the divinely inspired scriptures maintain a strong and public
stand for the ethical and moral standards that will ultimately exalt the nation. (Proverbs, ch14 v34, Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.)
The issue of human rights is no longer a
basis for this parade, as successive governments have legislated for the lowering of the age of consent, the authorisation of civil partnerships and the inheritance rights of a nominated partner. It is a cause for regret that a section of the community
desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality, which in certain incidences has provoked the unacceptable and totally unjustifiable response of violence. Such a response, however, must not intimidate the church into silence.
The ASA received seven complaints:
1. four complainants believed the ad's content was homophobic and, therefore, offensive and
2. six complainants believed the ad was likely to provoke hatred and
violence against the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The ASA noted the ad
prominently stated Published by the Kirk Session of Sandown Free Presbyterian Church and recognised that readers would understand that the text was representative of the beliefs of a specific group and indicative of their opinion only. We
considered, however, that some of the text used in relation to homosexuality, for example, ... declaring it to be an abomination ... , . .. God's judgement upon a sin ... , . .. remove the guilt of their wrongdoing ... , ... a
cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality ... , went further than the majority of readers were likely to find acceptable.
We considered that particular care should be taken to avoid
causing offence on the grounds of sexual orientation, and concluded that this ad had caused serious offence to some readers.
On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clause 5.1 (Decency) but did not breach 8.1 (Matters of opinion).
should not appear again in its current form.
2. Not upheld
We understood that the complainants were concerned because the ad called for an outdoor meeting to be held in protest of the act of sodomy and
to voice disapproval of the Belfast Gay Pride parade on the same day as the parade was arranged; they believed this action could be read as an attempt to spread hatred and incite violence against supporters and members of the Pride movement and LBGT
While we appreciated the complainants' concern, we considered that the ad did not in itself incorporate language likely to incite a violent emotional response. We considered that it would be clear to readers that it represented the
views of a specific group, which were not universally held, and would be deemed extreme by some. We acknowledged, therefore, that the ad conveyed an opinion that was controversial for some readers but concluded that it was unlikely to provoke hatred or
violence against the LGBT community.
On this point, we investigated the ad under CAP Code clauses 8.1 (Matters of opinion) and 11.1 (Violence and anti-social behaviour) but did not find it in breach.
Consider Judicial Review
Based on article from newsletter.co.uk
Two senior lawyers have advised the church that the ASA ruling had gone too far legally and a groundswell of public support has begun behind the Rev David McIlveen of Sandown Free Presbyterian Church in Belfast.
McIlveen said he
had been inspired by the level of support he had since received: After Wednesday's Press conference I had missed 24 calls on my mobile and when I got home I had to spend some time going through about 50 messages of support on my answer machine.
A legal expert who specialises in both sexual orientation and freedom of speech said the ASA had got the balance wrong between the two issues, and that its ruling could be open to judicial review.
Dermot Feenan of the University of Ulster
School of Law explained that rights to express religious views must be balanced with the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sexuality.
He said the advertising code used by the advertising authority prohibits adverts likely to
cause serious offence, but that the authority did not show how the offence caused by this advert was serious enough to warrant censorship: There was no evidential basis for its finding that the ad went further than the majority of its readers
were likely to find acceptable.