Advertising Standards Authority tells Evangelical Alliance that Christians cannot claim that God physically heals

Following on from the Advertising Standards Authority’s ruling earlier this year that Healing on the Streets (HOTS) – Bath cannot mention that God can heal the sick in their literature and on their website, HOTS founder, Mark Marx wrote a response at the start of February updating HOTS groups round the country on the current situation.  Mark Marx is based at Causeway Coast Vineyard in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.  I have not put this in the public domain until now, because it was specifically for HOTS partners, however today the Evangelical Alliance published an article that explains much of what is in this letter, so now seems the right time to post it:

Dear partners,

Some of you have been emailing about the recent ASA decision in Bath – http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2012/2/Healing-on-the-Streets_Bath/SHP_ADJ_158433.aspx

Our partners there have been added to a growing list of people accused of false advertising for claiming that God can heal people!

The adjudication relates to an older version on the HOTS leaflet – “NEED HEALING? GOD CAN HEAL TODAY!” However, in discussion with the ASA, Bath HOTS offered to include the words “We believe” in any references to healing and to include a more prominent reference to medical treatment as per the new leaflet. These suggestions were rejected by the ASA who offer the following advice, ‘Religious organisations may make claims about healing only if it is clear that they are referring to spiritual, not physical, healing.’ This restriction is clearly counter to what HOTS stands for.

Evangelical Alliance has for some time been working with the ASA to try to agree acceptable wording around healing. The ASA have made it clear that they will not accept any claim relating to physical healing. Their guidelines state that ‘the ASA does not arbitrate between conflicting ideologies’, but sadly they are now doing just that by going further and banning belief statements. Evangelical Alliance has now concluded discussions without agreement as the ASA are being so unreasonable.

Bath HOTS have indicated that they intend to appeal the ASA adjudication. Until that appeal is heard it will not be possible to offer definitive advice. However, it is worth noting that a number of lawyers have looked at recent decisions and believe the ASA has significantly over-reached its authority.

It is also important to note that the ASA has limited legal authority. The ASA is a self-regulatory body and its Code does not have the force of law. HOTS Bath have been found in breach of the ASA’s own rules by the ASA – they have not been found to be acting illegally.

We have been doing HOTS for six years now and God has really blessed this ministry, which has seen people healed throughout the UK and further afield. It is difficult for some who don’t yet know Jesus to understand that God can and does heal today. This ruling will not stop us from heading out on the streets each week and we hope it will not stop you. We cannot guarantee that the ASA will not adjudicate against others, but we can be certain that more people will be healed by God – that is what He does!

We will keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Many thanks,

Mark Marx

The Advertising Standards Authority appears to be in no mood to change its stance.  It believes it is able to disregard a core Christian belief and demand that Christians only refer to God’s healing in spiritual terms.  The effect of what they are saying is that Christians need a change in their theology and they are in absolutely no position to demand this.

I was very saddened to hear that the ASA was being so unwilling to work with the Evangelical Alliance to find a satisfactory way forward. Fortunately they have little power, but they can still cause churches and Christian organisations like HOTS a big headache.

Last summer I listened to Heidi Baker who works in Mozambique with orphaned and street children talking about the scientific study carried out involving her.  She often sees people there being healed through prayer and a research team came to study what is happening.  Those doing it were amazed at the healings they saw.  You can find out more about this study at Peter Kirk’s blog, Gentle Wisdom.

The ASA is not bothering to consider any factual research and testimonies into whether God can heal. It is easier for them to ignore it, otherwise they would have to agree that God can heal and I really don’t think that they have any intention of acknowledging what many people know to be true.

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Categories: Advertising, Christian organisations, Healing

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7 replies

  1. Well done keep strong in our Lord, and God bless and keep you all

  2. I think theologically the ASA may have half a point – we shouldn’t ever claim that God will certainly heal people, because we don’t know if he’ll choose to or not. But we should defend our freedom of speech to say that God can heal people and wants us to ask him to. Including in the message that God uses both supernatural means and the NHS sounds wise to me.

    My understanding of the ASA (from complaints I’ve made against car companies claiming to be greener than they are) is that it can ask an advertiser not to repeat an advert it rules against, but if an advertiser runs a new advert with a similar message, the process starts again, ie if anyone sends a complaint to the ASA, they will rule on it a few weeks later.

    • Thanks Ben. I agree. Christians should never claim that God will definitely heal anyone. That’s not for us to decide, even if we’re convinced God is going to do it. But we should never be afraid to speak what we know to be true – God can and does heal people.

      I’m inclined to encourage Bath HOTS to carry on as they are. Tweaking the wording on flyers to avoid misleading people is wise, but I wonder whether the ASA will continue to pursue it further. I doubt they are in a position where they really want to take on the whole church over this.

  3. The wording of the flyer is very important. In my previous life as a psychiatric nurse i have known of churches who have actively encouraged patients to stop psychotropic medication. This caused many problems,removing an essential part of the treatment programme, a worsening of the patients condition and in one case was extremely dangerous. Someone vulnerable being told that they were possessed by the devil is incredibly unhelpful. On the other hand Healing clearly does take place for many people i myelf have had personal experience. I am not sure we have to claim anything. The christian who helped me with my medical problem just prayed with and for me. If the flyer states that H.O.T.S. will pray for people with medical conditions maybe thats enough God will do the rest. Did jesus make prior claim. When prayer works there will always be those who claim ”coincidence” The evangelist J. John does a highly amusing if not hilarious peice on this subject on one of his D.V.D.s. The work of the H.O.T.S. teams are obviously fruitful and deserve our prayers

    • When I first saw the wording that HOTS groups initially used of their flyers, I was a bit concerned that they didn’t quite send out the right message although there is nothing false about them. It did come across as a bit sensationalist. I think most of the trouble they have experiecend comes from this. It goes to show that Christians need to think some things through carefully when the go out in public. It’s important to present the gospel in a way that can be understood as clearly as possible by everyday members of the public, most of whom don’t know a great deal about the Christian faith these days. That said, I can’t condone the actions of the ASA at all, but sometimes it’s good to be challenged and think carefully about the words we use as Christians.

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