Jesus does not heal cancer - advertising watchdog

A mother fighting to save her three-year-old boy from leukaemia has won her complaint against a Hawke's Bay Church which claimed “Jesus Heals Cancer”.

In its deliberation issued yesterday, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld complaints against the Equippers Church, saying it breached three rules and one basic principle of the code of ethics.

Ms J Condin complained to advertising watchdogs about a billboard outside the church in Tamatea, Napier, saying she found its claims “offensive and upsetting.”

“I have a son battling cancer, a grandfather battling cancer, a friend battling cancer and have lost a grandmother to cancer," she said.

"I have also seen many children die from cancer during my son’s cancer journey and seeing this sign really makes my blood boil.” 

In a further letter to the authority, Ms Condin branded the billboard: “Totally disrespectful and hurtful to those who have lost loved ones to cancer and are waiting for them to die.”

She had contacted the church, which told her the billboard was a message of belief and hope.

But the mother told the ASA this view was “dangerous and deceptive as it could potentially offer false hope and lure in the vulnerable to their time of illness and sadness”.

In its deliberation, the authority noted duplicate complainants held similar views while others expressed concerns that the claim made in the billboard “could not be substantiated and the billboard may influence some cancer sufferers into stopping conventional medical treatment”.

The Equippers Church told the ASA it did not mean to cause offence with its billboard, which it later amended, saying its claims were a “message of hope and life in Jesus Christ”.

“Our belief is substantiated by the fact six people within our congregation have testified to Jesus healing them from cancer,” the church said.

It also replied that drugs do not offer the only cure from cancer and there are many unexplained recoveries.

The church also felt it could make its claims through freedom of speech and freedom of religion, as allowed under the Bill of Rights Act.

After some media coverage, it also claimed “overwhelming support” for its billboard, but decided to change the wording, removing “Cancer” so it now states: ”Jesus Heals Every Sickness & Every Disease - Matthew 4:23”.

In its deliberation, the authority accepted the church had not meant to cause offence, but the “Jesus Heals Cancer” statement was “expressed in a manner that denoted a strong absolute statement of fact when it more accurately may be expressed as a statement of belief”.

The ASA also believed the statement was also “provocative enough to be likely to cause serious offence to those people who were dealing with, or knew people who were dealing with cancer”.

Personal religious belief was also not enough to substantiate such an absolute claim, even if the church was the advertiser.

It also ruled that a tagline underneath the claim, saying “Church. But not as you know it”, had “the potential to cause confusion for some people as it could mean the Equippers Church was able to offer something that other churches could not”.

The authority's complaints board doubted people would forego cancer treatment based on the advert, but ruled that “the advertisement had neither been prepared nor displayed with the due sense of social responsibility required”.

With three rules and one basic principle breached, the complaint was upheld. 


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good, about time those religious wackos were givien a slapping for peddling their bogus imaginary claptrap.

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In fact there is considerable evidence of miraculous healing throughout history stretching long before this country existed let alone this small time tribunal.

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You mean spontaneous remission? Yes it has always happened; including before 2000 years ago.

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Such "healings", whether or not they could or couldnt be understood either at the time or in terms of modern medicine are certainly not proof of any kind of divine intervention.

Religion in all forms continues to be the greatest scourge on modern society and needs to be confronted with rational arguments wherever and whenever it attempts propose its obnoxious and entirely unsubstantiated claims.

This tribunal may not be the size of any religion - but it's logic is certainly a whole lot more sound.

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No there's not.

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I'm really pleased this was ruled offensive. "Sorry kids, Jesus didn't save mum" - not an easy conversation to have.

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Some claim the internet as the best invention of all time, others the internal combustion engine. Howeever in terms of money making, surely the church/god/jesus etc are right up there. And the genius of the fiction is that its tough to disprove, thereby sucking in all those desperate fools seeking something to cheer up their miserable lives.

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@Anon - Thanks for that, buddy I feel so cheered up by your comment. What do you use to cheer up your miserable life? Chill, Bro!

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Another example of nanny state encroaching on basic freedoms. There are so many missing elements of an actionable wrong:
* the statement is not a representation made to induce anyone to enter a contract
* the statement is not made by a person who knows it to be false
* no one was induced to enter a contract as a result of the statement
* no one is claiming to have personally suffered a loss as a result of reliance on the statement and seeking a remedy for it.

This is a case requring tolerance and balance, and for protecting basic freedoms and rights of expression. Those calling for rational arguments should also show respect for other people's rights to think and believe differently, and to peacefully promote their views.

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But that is not correct David. The church is a marketing entity always looking for new customers - that is how it makes money. For all you know it may have sucked in the desperate already with that billboard. Its no different to any other business making misleading and factually incorrect claims. Better the agency stops them in their tracks before too many people do lose money...rather then being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

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Correct anon. The church (as always) is making a statement which is factually incorrect and representing it to be the truth. They then try to hide behind the fact that they are religious.

Just imagine the outcry if Westpac/ANZ/ASB/BNZ made a statement along the lines of "opening a bank with us will cure your cancer"..... what about if the Chinese purchaser of the Crafar farms listed as one of the key aspects of their proposal "the ability to cure cancer".... these statement would hold exactly the same amount of truth and exactly the same principals would apply.

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hear hear David. I'd love to see this in court

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should be appealed

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I think they made an honest mistake by thinking Jesus' obvious skill in *ontology* and arguments for God were confused for experience in *oncology* :)

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Ms Condin is to be congratulated as is the ASA. The billboard message is totally offensive (and inhumane) to those who are themselves or have close family members suffering from cancer-related conditions. Mr Hillary's comments are so far off the mark as to be unworthy of a response

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Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that some find a peaceful sign "Jesus Heals" to be so offensive that they'll put the authorities on those audicious enough to make the claim, after all Jesus was convicted and crucified as an insurrectionist for challenging the authorities words only.

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Setting aside that Jesus may or may not have existed and the fact that the bible despite being wholly untrue, contradictory and factually incorrect throughout is your source for this course of events let us at least agree that this was occurred 2000 years ago... back when the earth was probably still considered to be flat.

I would not find a sign saying "Jesus Heals" to be overly offensive... it is just plain factually incorrect in terms of medical and physical ailments. Believe it or not there have been entire studies conducted to prove this - ironically conducted by the American religious right in many cases.

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My 61yo neighbour told me she was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer early last year.

Here you have, a lovely Sussex unmarried woman who is absolutely devoted to the Presbyterian church all her life (of course she invited me to her weekly service).

The last time I visited her, she looked real weak from all the chemotherapy treatment. In pain, she told me she has prepared her will (leaving everything to her niece), funeral arrangements etc.

My question is : why did god choose to save those few cancer striken victims in Equippers Church and not the other cancer striken christians all around the world (number possibly in the tens of millions if you take into account of christians who lived thousands of years ago)?

By the way, those six Equippers church members are on cancer treatment programmes and taking clinical drugs. So rather than thanking the surgeons, nurses, pharmaceutical manufacturers and hospital staff, these six christians choose to go on stage during a chirpy Sunday morning and proclaim witness to the healing touch of jesus.

No wonder everyone thinks religious people are dillusional.

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Freedom of speech should be protected.
Just because someone has to a different point of view does not mean they should be stopped from airing their views. Lots of people are religious, doesn't the UN have laws protecting religious viewpoints. Dictatorships tend to ban religions or at least restrict their freedoms. Having a sign up outside the Church quoting from the Bible shouldn't be offensive to anyone.
The Sign is completely silent, it shouldn't offend anyone.

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This is not a freedom of speech issue. if someone wants to put up a sign outside a chruch that says "I love Jesus", or "He is the light of my life" then that is fine. But to misleadingly claim he heals cancer to drive membership of the congregation is just disgusting (and a load of bullsh:t to boot).

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"Cancer sufferers into stopping conventional medical treatment" - reminds me of Cynthia Hetfield (the mother of the dude in Metallica).

Cynthia was a very strict Christian , and in accordance with her belief, she strongly disapproved of medicine or any other medical treatment and remained loyal to her faith even as she was dying from cancer.

Well, I guess that's one of the reason why James Hetfield is so anti-christian in his songs (The God That Failed). This screwed-up childhood experience of seeing your mum dying of cancer without any clinical treatment is nasty.

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YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

Would be a much better billboard for a Church ... factual, and more to the point for their insurance sales pitch :-D

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