Last year on a visit to the city Bath I became aware of a group of people who called themselves ‘Healing on the Streets” (HOTS) who were outside the cathedral, offering to help people with various illnesses be healed by god.
It was concerning but I didn’t think much of it at the time as I was distracted. A few weeks later a conversation I was having about healing reminded about the group and I decided to check out their website for more details on what they do and how they operate. I was quite concerned at the claims I found there about illnesses and conditions that this group seemed to be promoting as healable through prayer. At the same time I became conflicted about what to do next because I knew that no matter what I did, I would be accused by people of being anti-religious.
However, as time passed I saw the group at work again, and I also became aware of their Youtube videos in which even more claims were made, and I realised that I didn’t feel comfortable with not expressing my concern to people who might be able to do something about the claims if they agreed something was wrong. That’s when I made the complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority using the ‘Fishbarrel’ plug in.
You can read the complaint details in the ASA adjudication report published on their website here. I am glad that the ASA could see my points and agreed that the claims could certainly be perceived as a last hope for those with serious illness.
I thought twice about making it known that I was the person who had made the complaint because in the past I have been harassed by those I’ve made complaints against, and with this group being based on Bath they’re very close to home. Yet the reaction from HOTS Bath has made me decide against remaining anonymous simply so that I can answer the accusations raised in a frankly bizarre statement on their website.
We are disappointed with the ASA’s decision, and will appeal against it because it seems very odd to us that the ASA wants to prevent us from stating on our website the basic Christian belief that God can heal illness.
The ASA has even demanded that we sign a document agreeing not to say this, which is unacceptable to us – as it no doubt would be for anyone ordered not to make certain statements about their conventional religious or philosophical beliefs.
All over the world as part of their normal Christian life, Christians believe in, pray for and experience God’s healing; our ministry, in common with many churches, has been active in praying for God‘s healing (of Christians and non Christians) for many years.
Over that time the response to what we do has been overwhelmingly positive, and we find it difficult to understand the ASA’s attempt to restrict communication about this. Our website simply states our beliefs and describes some of our experiences.
We tried to reach a compromise, recognising some of the ASA’s concerns, but there are certain things that we cannot agree to – including a ban on expressing our beliefs.
It appears that the complaint to the ASA was made by a group generally opposed to Christianity, and it seems strange to us that on the basis of a purely ideological objection to what we say on our website, the ASA has decided it is appropriate to insist that we cannot talk about a common and widely held belief that is an important aspect of conventional Christian faith.
It appears that HOTS Bath have intentionally or unintentionally misunderstood the ruling by the ASA and are making it sound as though this whole ruling has been made on the grounds of what they believe rather than the grounds of the claims they were making. It quite clearly states in the ASA adjudication exactly why the ruling has been made.
I guess I am the only person who can state why the complaint was made and it was not made by a ‘group generally opposed to Christianity’ as HOTS Bath have alleged, not even an individual generally opposed to Christianity either. I made the complaint because claims were being made about a range of illnesses and medical conditions being healed through prayer on the streets on Bath. Some of these illnesses were severe – MS, depression, crippling disease, paralysis, asthma, and cancer just to name a few…
I did not feel that the claims being made and the emphasis being put on their success was justifiable and, as the ASA adjudication comments, I felt the ads were irresponsible, because they provided false hope to those suffering from the named conditions and that is why I made the complaint.
I couldn’t care less if somebody believes it is God, Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster that will heal the sick, but I do care when claims are being made that might be proving those who are extremely ill with hope where hope does not exist.
Between the ages of Fourteen and Eighteen I suffered with a life threatening condition in my inner right ear. At the time I was an avid believer in ghosts and an afterlife and people I was friends with who were involved with the paranormal research field claimed they were sending ‘healing’ my way to help me get better. I genuinely thought they could help.
Luckily I also believed my doctors could help me and I went ahead and had surgery. Had I postponed the surgery for another three months I would not be alive today. I don’t even like to think what would have happened if I had been someone who didn’t trust conventional medicine and, luckily for both me and the people who ‘sent healing’ I wasn’t.
However they weren’t to know that, just as HOTS Bath aren’t to know who they’re offering their ‘healing prayers’ to.
They do not know if the people they encourage to pray for healing from their god is someone who mistrusts their doctor (which sadly many do) and even though they apparently give out a letter telling people to carry on with their medication or treatment, there is potential for damage to be done.
I have no issue with people praying for the healing of others in their own personal way, and if you believe your god can cure somebody then I’m truly glad that you have such faith, but I object to that being pushed onto other people as a genuinely potential cure. Especially when they’re vulnerable.