In Today’s UK telegraph, Brendan O’Neill rants about a bunch of Christians being told to not make outrageous fraudulent claims, because doing so infringes upon their religious freedom.
We have a special scientific word that accurately describes that stance, and that word is “Bullshit” …let me explain and fill you in on all the details.
An organization in Bath city called “Healing on the Streets” (HOTS) plastered flyers around town advertising their services, however, the Advertising Standards Authority declared them to be irresponsible, false advertising and ordered them taken down. These leaflets read …
“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.”
After receiving complaints, they reviewed what was being advertised and quite rightly concluded that they could encourage false hope and were irresponsible. As you can imagine, the HOTS folks responded witha murmuring of disbelief that they had been challenged, “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.“. Yea sure, you believe it, we get that, but the fact that it is not actually true is a bit of a problem.
So moving on … today we now have Mr O’Neill asserting within his Telegraph article that …
the unelected suits of the Advertising Standards Authority crossed the line from policing displays of cleavage in film posters and monitoring health claims in TV commercials to interfering in the realm of freedom of religion
Nope, quite wrong … nobody is telling them what to believe. The ASA has not stepped over the line here, it is their remit to ensure ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful by applying the Advertising Codes. Publishing leaflets that claim that a supernatural entity will cure you are neither honest nor truthful. In all of human history there has not been one single verified case of such supernatural intervention … lots of claims, but exactly zero have been verified. I am more than willing for them to advertise like this, but first they have to prove it, just as any other product on the market needs to do.
This is NOT, as Mr O’Neill claims … “an outrageous attack on freedom of religion, on the basic right of people to express central tenets of their faith. “. He justifies that by claiming that the remit of the ASA is as follows …
the authorities have a role to play in keeping a check on the scientific claims made by businesses in their ads. If, for example, Pepsi suddenly announced that a can of its pop can cure backache, that should be challenged; likewise, companies that spout homeopathic claptrap can reasonably be asked to provide evidence for their claims. But the state and its offshoots have no business whatsoever sticking their snouts into the expression of a religious conviction …
In other words, if it is a non-religious claim that is false he feels that it is apparently OK to spike it, but if it is a religious claim, we are supposed to back off and let them claim whatever they like. Really!! since when has religion had a special “Get-out-of-jail-free” card, why are they permitted this special privilege to commit fraud? That is the essence of his daft argument here.
He also appears to think that this is new, he claims that, “The ASA has been itching to ban the words “God heals” for quite a while. “, then goes on to cite an example from June where it rapped the knuckles of a church in Nottingham for putting up a poster that said “God can heal you today!”. He cites this as a case where “the church was grassed up to the ASA by some snitch in Nottingham’s Secular Society.“.
First Point: It has always been the case that dishonest religious claims brought to the attention of the ASA are dealt with, this is not new. For example, back in 1996 the Advertising Standards Authority upheld four complaints against Morris Cerullo relating to his claims of being able to offer miraculous healing to the disabled, and that was not a first either.
Second Point: Note the language used, apparently a valid complaint regarding a fraudulent religious claim is described as “grassing up the church“!! So we now discover that Mr O’Neil finds religious fraud acceptable, and he also apparently dislikes people who have the temerity to complain about it.
He then goes on to describe all this as a “secular Inquisition”, and yes, he really has lost his grasp on reality with that one.
Finally he finishes off with the assertion that modern-day secularists betray the values of the Enlightenment because this is apparently an attack upon religious freedom. What he fails to appreciate is that nobody is dictating what people should or should not believe, if they wish to believe that pink faeries will cure them of anything and everything, they are quite free to do exactly that, but they should not be surprised if they are mocked and ridiculed for doing so. What they also don’t get to do is to enter the public domain and advertise blatantly fraudulent claims to the public.
Some might respond, “But what is the harm?”. The issue is that real living breathing people are conned by this nonsense and sometimes end up dead because of it. Audrey Reynolds, a 25 year-old from Clapham in London, attended a Mission where she was prayed for and was told God had cured her. She promptly abandoned her medication and as a result died. The Southwark Coroner, told the inquest, ‘It was a tragedy that she went to this meeting and thought she was cured of everything. Sadly, it led to her death.’ – that is why it matters.