I was recently invited, indirectly, to sign a petition.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29011

I won’t be.  And the reason is that I think the ASA got it right.

These are the sort of adverts that have raised the ASA’s ire:

The wording of the leaflet, to my mind, clearly tries to imply that miraculous healing is to be expected, and will be instant.

I find it hard to imagine that anyone who’s inhabited the real world for more than a few months can actually believe that to be true.  It just – isn’t.

Experience says that whilst it may indeed be true that God can heal, and even that God sometimes does, in the vast majority of cases He does not.  The most one can normally suggest is God working through the medical professions.  Miraculous healing solely in response to prayer is at best vanishingly rare – to the extent that it’s perfectly rational to question whether it happens at all.

That is the background within which the ASA must work.  It does not, and should not, allow special treatment to specific religious groups.  In the absence of any strong evidence that divine healing is commonplace and the expectations possibly raised by adverts of this nature realistic, it should find in the way it did.

It also seems to me that the petition call is slightly misleading.  The adverts were not banned for making a statement of belief, nor for saying that God can heal.  They were found against because they made claims for a service that they were offering that could not be substantiated.

More balanced comments come from Canon Ed Pruin in relation to the Nottingham incident are here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-13925399

The best I can say for the petition is that it fails to understand the thrust of the ASA’s ruling, based on a belief, popular in some circles, that Christianity is undergoing persecution.  Being held to the same legal standards as everyone else is not persecution; it’s what we should expect.

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