A website and a leaflet, for Healing on the Streets - Bath, viewed on 10 May 2011:
a. The website home page stated Our vision is to :- Promote Christian Healing as a daily life style for every believer, through demonstration, training and equipping. We are working in unity, from numerous churches outside the four walls of the
building, In order to :- - Heal the sick ... .
A page headed What people have told us afterwards ... included five testimonials in which people stated that after receiving prayer their conditions had been improved.
b. The leaflet was available for download on the website under the heading Download a healing flyer by clicking below . The 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 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 . Issue
A complainant challenged whether:
the claim in ad (b) that the advertiser could heal the named conditions was misleading and could be substantiated;
the testimonials in ad (a) misleadingly implied that the advertiser could heal the conditions referred to; and
the ads were irresponsible, because they provided false hope to those suffering from the named conditions.
The ASA challenged whether the ads could discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.
ASA Assessment: Complaints Upheld
1., 2. & 3. Upheld
The ASA acknowledged that HOTS sought to promote their faith and the hope for physical healing by God through the claims in their ads. However, we were concerned that the prominent references in ad (b) 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 would be healed of the conditions listed or other sicknesses from which they suffered. We also considered that the testimonials in ad (a) could also give consumers that expectation,
and furthermore, noted that a video on the website also made claims that HOTS volunteers had successfully prayed for healing for people with cancer, fibromyalgia, back pain, kidney pain, hip pain, cataracts, arthritis and paralysis. We noted the
testimonials on the website and in the video but considered that testimonials were insufficient as evidence for claims of healing. We therefore concluded the ads were 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 ads could encourage false hope in those suffering from the named conditions and therefore were irresponsible.
We acknowledged that HOTS had offered to make amendments to the ads, and to remove the leaflet from their website. However, we considered that their suggested amendments were not sufficient for the ads to comply with the CAP Code.
On these points, ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code rules 1.3 (Social responsibility), 3.1 and 3.6 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.47 (Endorsements and testimonials), 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. We also noted their offer to add a
prominent reference along the lines of that letter to their website. However, we considered that, because both the leaflet and the website 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 ads 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, ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code rule 12.2 (Medicines, medical devices, health-related products and beauty products). Action
The ads must not appear again in their 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.
HOTS Bath official response
We are disappointed with the ASA's decision, and will appeal against it because it seems very odd to us that the ASA wants to prevent us from stating on our website the basic Christian belief that God can heal illness.
The ASA has even demanded that we sign a document agreeing not to say this, which is unacceptable to us - as it no doubt would be for anyone ordered not to make certain statements about their conventional religious or philosophical beliefs.
All over the world as part of their normal Christian life, Christians believe in, pray for and experience God's healing; our ministry, in common with many churches, has been active in praying for God's healing (of Christians and non Christians)
for many years.
Over that time the response to what we do has been overwhelmingly positive, and we find it difficult to understand the ASA's attempt to restrict communication about this. Our website simply states our beliefs and describes some of our experiences.
We tried to reach a compromise, recognising some of the ASA's concerns, but there are certain things that we cannot agree to -- including a ban on expressing our beliefs.