By Dan Wooding – Originally published in Assist News Service
The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has told a group of Christians in the city of Bath, located in Somerset, south west England, not to make any claims which state or imply that, by receiving their prayer, people could be physically healed.
A registered Christian trust, the “Healing on the Streets – Bath” team, comprised of Christians from many different churches, have been praying for the public outside Bath Abbey for three years and regularly offer to pray for people who are sick to receive healing.
But atheist Hayley Stevens, a 24-year-old from Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, who is a regular blogger and speaker at skeptic conferences, took offence to the group’s adverts, complaining to the ASA that the claims by the Christians could “not be substantiated.” On the www.thisissomerset.co.uk website, she is quoted as saying, “I have complained before to the ASA about claims to do with healing people, but they were against spiritual healers or people making false claims about treatments. I didn’t even realize the Healing on the Streets people were Christian until I got home and looked at their website.
“My issue isn’t with their Christian faith, it is with the potentially dangerous situation of vulnerable people who think they will be cured of something as serious as cancer.
“I don’t think it is appropriate for them to be out on the streets taking the chance that they could come across someone with, say, mental health issues who should be being treated properly.”
Her complaint was upheld and the ASA have now ordered the group to stop stating on their website or in literature that God can heal.
The founder of the Christian group, Paul Skelton, said: “Other teams around the country have been targeted in similar ways. “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.
“The ASA has decided it is appropriate to insist that we cannot talk about a common and widely held belief that is an important aspect of conventional Christian faith. They would now like us to recant our Christian faith in the Bible.
“We tried to reach a compromise, recognizing some of the ASA’s concerns, but there are certain things that we cannot agree to – including a ban on expressing our beliefs.”
HOTs has said that it will now appeal the decision. Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of Christian Concern, said: “This decision strikes at the heart of freedom of belief in the UK. Will we be told that telling people their sins are forgiven, or that you can go to heaven, breaches advertising standards next?
“Will all Christian websites and leaflets now be liable to these types of complaints? Is all Christian doctrine now going to be ruled as misleading by the ASA?
“This decision reveals all too clearly how basic freedoms quickly begin to be lost in a nation that has increasingly chosen secularism over the Christian faith.”
The “Healing on the Streets – Bath” website says that it is a Christian trust and its vision is to: “Promote Christian Healing as a daily life style for every believer, though demonstration, training and equipping.” It adds that they are working in unity, from numerous churches outside the four walls of the building, in order to: * Heal the sick * Share God’s love * Equip the Church The website also features stories of claimed healings which you can check out for yourself