ASA bans church’s healing claims

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned the Christ Embassy church from airing its claims of faith healing, following a complaint from the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).

However the church says it intends to appeal.

The ruling, released on Wednesday, came after the ASA rejected an initial complaint in June last year.

TAC spokesperson Nathan Geffen said on Thursday that the claims were aired during the church’s regular early morning slot on e.tv on Sundays.

He said the church claimed to use faith healing to treat several diseases, including heart disease, and had run adverts on its website claiming to treat HIV/Aids.

“Quackery of this nature is not merely misleading. It is life-destroying,” he said.

He said TAC knew of a woman infected with extreme drug resistant TB who stopped taking her medication because she believed the church had cured her, and died, after infecting her own children with the disease.

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Geffen also criticised e.tv for continuing to run Christ Embassy programming even after it was alerted to TAC’s concerns.

“During the ASA proceedings, the extent of the financial motive involved in running Christ Embassy’s ads became abundantly clear: a broadcast agreement between Christ Embassy and e.tv shows that Christ Embassy paid R2,6-million excluding VAT to run 52 24-minute episodes,” he said.

In its ruling, the ASA’s Advertising Standards Committee said the particular Sunday morning programmes that TAC complained of, in which a woman was allegedly healed of rheumatic heart disease, clearly constituted an advertisement for services.

The probable impact of the material on those likely to see it was that Christ Embassy possessed, or had the power to transfer, God’s healing powers to the ill and diseased.

“Common sense tells us not to allow false hope to grip vulnerable and sick people,” the committee said.

“The ASA will be failing in its duty if it allows miracle cure [a phenomenon that is known to occur in very few instances] to be touted as an everyday cure that is available at Christ Embassy.”

An attorney acting for the church, Sean Sim, told the South African Press Association the church would definitely appeal the ruling. It had 20 days to do so, he said.

The church was not going to make an apology for or backtrack on the belief in faith healing.

“It is one of the fundamental tenets of Christianity,” he said. — Sapa

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