An Outcome In The ASA ‘praying for healing’ Appeal

The complaint I made to the ASA about Healing on the Streets (HOTS) Bath was originally upheld by the ASA with the following:

 The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told HOTS not to make claims which stated or implied that, by receiving prayer from their volunteers, people could be healed of medical conditions. We also told them not to refer in their ads to medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.

The ASA had told HOTS that they could not state that they believed prayer could cure people, which had been the amendment HOTS suggested they were happy to make at the time. This decision by the ASA was appealed by the HOTS group and I was asked to contribute a statement to the appeal being conducted by an independent person who had not been involved in the original case. Today I received word that an outcome had been reached and the original “outcome” has been upheld but only applies to the leaflet now, and not the website which was decided to fall outside of the remit of the ASA in this case.

The ASA state:

 This adjudication replaces that published on 1st February 2012. One point of complaint, in relation to website content, outside the remit of the ASA, has been removed. The wording of the remaining points has been changed but the decision to uphold remain.

Action

The ad [leaflet] must not appear in its current form. We told HOTS not to make claims which stated or implied that, by receiving prayer from their volunteers, people could be healed of medical conditions. We also told them not to refer in their ads to medical conditions for which medical supervision should be sought.

I think this is fair and am really pleased with this as I only included the website claims after finding the leaflet and deciding I was going to make a complaint about it.

When I made the complaint it wasn’t on the grounds that Christians were making these claims – despite what some news sources may have said. I made the complaint because of the specific health claims being made by the HOTS volunteers. These specific claims about what they felt their God could heal concerned me because they are all serious conditions that make the sufferer vulnerable and desperate.

That the ASA have reassessed their initial decision and have announced that HOTS still must not list specific illnesses and diseases is great news. They have still taken into account my complaint and understood my concerns and addressed this in their final decision. This an excellent final outcome as far as I am concerned.

Published by

Hayley Stevens

Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

9 thoughts on “An Outcome In The ASA ‘praying for healing’ Appeal”

  1. It’s a pity that the ASA are not concerned about their website … but otherwise an excellent outcome. The problem with websites is they can always be hosted on foreign based servers so they are out of the jurisdiction of UK laws. I complained to the ASA about such a website advertising “woman discovers miracle wrinkle reduction”, where the photos were blatantly photoshopped, and although the company is based in Scotland the website was hosted in the US. So, unfortunately, people who don’t read all the disclaimers continue to get conned.

  2. Good that the complaint vs the leaflet was upheld. Websites are tricky, but I had thought that web advertising was now in the remit of the ASA. Clearly some subtlety that I hadn’t spotted.

  3. I am happy that you are happy the ASA has chosen to act on your complaint. Therefore making some people feel more comfortable with what the HOTS do. However, I have to make one correction. The HOTS ministry are not doing this because they ‘feel’ that God will heal people, but because they believe. The same way you believe God does not heal people. Not just emotionally feel that there is not a God who heals. There may be some people who find it offensive or dangerous to advertise such a thing as healing. But these people are doing this with a heart to help people. I personally find it a bit hypocritical that non-christians force christian ministry to be stopped, because of their belief that it is wrong is a bit like saying to someone, it’s ok for me to practice what I believe, but it’s not ok for you to practice what you believe. There are many many people who say that they have been healed by God of their diseases, so who are you to say its not true? I do have to say, to advertise healing so boldly is a little tacky. But to go to the ASA is also a bit extreme I think.

    1. I complained because I felt it was wrong of the group to approach people they didn’t know to offer them prayer for healing. They don’t know the people they approach, their circumstances, their beliefs and they don’t follow up with those people afterwards. They have no idea what their moment with them might lead to.

      I can accept that you don’t agree with me making the complaint, but it was the ASA who had the decision at the end of the day. Not me.

      I complain to the ASA when I see people making health claims they shouldn’t be making. Not just christians in the case, but all sorts of people. It has nothing to do with belief.

      You can believe what you want, you can practice your belief, but what HOTS did overstepped the mark and became potentially dangerous.

    2. Kathryn, the problem is (was) with HOTS claims. These could give people false hope and delay or prevent them seeking proper medical help.

      You say: “There are many many people who say that they have been healed by God of their diseases, so who are you to say its not true?”

      I say: if you visit the HOTS Bath website and look at “Stories” with a critical mind you may just understand why I say their claims are exaggerated.

      If you read medical document (Report_6a) of the man who had a bladder tumour you will find that it clearly states “Invasive bladder cancer,G3pT2 resected July 2008. Cystoscopy October 2008 shows no visible tumour mascroscopically or histologically”.

      In layman’s terms this means that the surgeons removed the tumour completely and it appears that no cancerous cells were left to cause further problems.

      The patient then declined any follow-up chemo or radiation and is fine. The patient may have felt better after prayer but he was ‘saved’ by excellent surgery.

      Now listen to the account of the man who had brain tumours. He has had one removed by surgery. Well done the surgeons!

      The account of hearing and sight ‘therapy’ in Mozambique is flawed. Tests were not carried out under proper laboratory conditions. I have posted considerably on a Christian site about this and asked if a similar test would be undertaken in the USA. It was suggested to me that perhaps God only does such healing in countries, like Mozambique, where proper medical services for poor villagers is not available.

      I could go on. I believe (and, yes, it is a belief) that the cancer sufferers cited could all have died had they not had surgical intervention and relied solely on ‘the power of prayer’.

      Prayer like meditation, etc, may aid recovery by lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, etc. But the HOTS team are still trying to convince people that it can do more than that ….. otherwise why did they put such claims on their original leaflets and continue to put such misleading “stories” on their website?

  4. Dear Haley,

    I am very aware of the style of the approach you see with the HOTS. I know there are groups like this all over the world that practice this. Correct me if i’m wrong, or stating the obvious- you see this as dangerous. What I think is important in the communication between the groups of Christians, or whoever it is, and the people they are trying to help is that they strongly encourage them to seek medical attention as well. Especially to receive conformation and that whatever happens is not just purely based on faith. It is important that both parties are responsible and intelligent enough to take action on that. I do not know if the HOTS talk to people they deal with on a one to one and make this point clear to whoever they help. I know that there are places that will make this clear. Its not that I don’t agree with you making any complaint about this advertising. All I am saying is that healing is a fundamental belief of Christianity and other faiths. It seems- again correct me if I’m wrong, you do not have a problem with Christianity, but with this specific advertising. But to me thats a contradiction. For the HOTS of any other group to not be able to talk about their views on healing at all is to take away their freedom of speech is a sense, which is what I do not think is fair.

    Dear David,

    We all have personal opinions and beliefs about healing. These are stories and reports people have sent in, I think they should be allowed to do that.

    1. Kathryn. Freedom of speech does have restrictions; these apply when such speech is hateful or potentially harmful (as was judged to be the case here). Faiths may believe all sorts of nonsense but when this nonsense falls outside of the rules which govern society, they should have no special pleading to practice them regardless. Correct me if I’m wrong but you seem to disagree with this concept.

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