'God heals' leaflet ruled misleading by ASA

Advertising watchdog's decision could prevent Evangelical churches from claiming power of prayer, says church

Evangelical churches could be prevented from claiming that God heals because of an Advertising Standards Authority ruling yesterday, a church has claimed.

The ASA upheld a complaint against Kings Church Salisbury, which distributed a leaflet claiming that prayer had helped to defeat cancer and infertility.

A recipient contacted the watchdog to complain that the claims were misleading and irresponsible.

The church said the adjudication could have implications for other evangelical churches with charitable status that offered healing.

"We believe God heals and have examples of that - and it's important to tell people," said Kevin Bartlett, an elder at the church.

"We are in further correspondence with the ASA about whether we are allowed to express what we believe God is doing. The implication is that churches won't be able to do this."

The leaflet, which was distributed last year, contained a testimonial saying: "I was diagnosed with a brain tumour with tests showing I'd be unable to fall pregnant. After being prayed for the tumour shrunk by half and now we have a lovely daughter."

In its verdict, the ASA said: "Although we recognised that Kings Church Salisbury believed prayer could heal and acknowledged that prayer helped some people through difficult circumstances, we considered that it was misleading to suggest that it could shrink brain tumours and overcome infertility.

"It could discourage people, and particularly the vulnerable, from seeking essential medical treatment for serious medical conditions."

The watchdog ruled the advert must not appear again in that form.

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