Plenty of debate has been stirred up this week in response to the publication of a letter from Christians in Parliament to the Advertising Standards Authority criticising their ruling that Christians cannot advertise the belief that God physically heals. One of the signatories, Tim Farron who is President of the Liberal Democrats, yesterday posted a message on Liberal Democrat Voice to further clarify his position and also surprisingly stating that he should not have signed the letter. This is what he said:
“I completely understand why some of you are concerned. It’s not a well-worded letter – the reference to the ASA providing indisputable evidence is silly, and the implication that people should seek faith healing at the expense of medical intervention is something that I just don’t believe in. For what it’s worth, I also think that the Fabrice Muamba reference is crass. So on all those fronts, I should just say sorry and not bother defending myself. I shouldn’t have signed that letter as it was written, so I apologise for putting some of you in quite a difficult position.
However, my reasons for agreeing to raise a concern with the ASA are simply these:
a) The ASA genuinely do a brilliant job, but they really aren’t appointed to be the arbiter of theological matters, I think they’ve overstepped their remit b) As a Christian I believe that prayer helps – although my belief is that God mostly heals through medicine, surgery and human compassion and ingenuity. c) Freedom of speech – an organisation that makes a faith based claim that is clearly subjective (in the same way that a political party makes subjective claims) should be able to make those claims within reason.
To be honest with you, the ASA decision offends my Liberalism far more than it bothers me from a Christian perspective.”
I would have to agree that the letter from Christians in Parliament is not worded as well as it could and should have been, although the reasoning is spot on. It is a shame that Tim Farron feels the need to distance himself from it, although it does beg the question as to why he signed it in the first place.
I do admire his honesty and willingness to admit that in his eyes he made a mistake, whilst still criticising the ASA. The ASA has an important role to monitor advertising but when they stray into areas of belief and religion it does expose their shortcomings. You can’t treat faith like science; it needs a different approach. The danger for the ASA in this is that it is developing a reputation for being anti-faith and biased towards secularist ideology. This is not doing anyone any favours and the sooner it is resolved the better.
The positive aspect of all this is that it is getting plenty of people to consider whether God does actually heal sometimes. In particular following on from Tim Farron’s message, Lib Dem supporters have been particularly vocal. Here are three excellent articles that are worth reading no matter what your political stance is:
From Liberal Democrat Voice: Steven Tall: In defence of Tim Farron: 3 liberal reasons to stick up for him and Tom King: Why I can’t defend Tim Farron, the ASA, Healing on the Streets… or the terms of this debate
From Gentle Wisdom: Liberal Democrats President on Healing and the ASA