Today the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) advised via their website that claims of Religious and Spiritual Healing are not exempt from being found to breach CAP Codes stating ‘Rule 12.2 prohibits marketers from discouraging essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. They should not offer specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment for such conditions unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment is conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.’
They cited specific claims that would be in breach of CAP codes with examples of times such claims had been made by religious organisations and also used as an example my successful complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about the claims being made by the ‘Healing on the Streets’ organisation in Bath who claimed that their god could heal everything from colds and broken bones to HIV and crippling disease.
They should avoid referring to conditions such as brain tumors, infertility (Kings Church Salisbury, 25 March 2009), cancer (Mount Zion Restoration Ministries, 2 June 2010), HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, depression, leukemia (All Nations Church, 11 February 2009) broken vertebrae and autism (Medway Revival Fellowship, 8 June 2011).
CAP explained that ‘Marketers offering religious or spiritual healing should therefore ensure that they do not state or imply they can treat or cure those conditions listed in the Help Note on Health, Beauty and Slimming Marketing Communications that refer to Medical Conditions.’
This help note, available from the CAP website by clicking here, mentions Rule 3.7 which states
“…marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation”.
Later on, the guide also comments on matters of opinion, advising that
Marketers who do not hold satisfactory evidence of the purported qualities of their product can ask the CAP Copy Advice team for help in devising an acceptable marketing platform. This might involve the marketers giving their opinion on the desirability of their product, though they must clearly be expressing their opinion and not stating fact. Claims that go beyond subjective opinions are subject to the Code’ rules on substantiation.
Bringing attention to advertisers who make unsubstantiated claims about health treatments and cures has never been about not allowing people to share their opinion, and has always been about ensuring opinion doesn’t get presented as factual information to people looking for a way to treat their illness.
Share your opinion all that you like, but unless you have the empirical evidence that shows your opinion is factual then don’t expect to share it without being challenged. That’s what the ‘Healing on the Streets’ fiasco boiled down to – not religious intolerance, not faith based persecution as the Daily Mail and Fox News would have you believe, but good old fashioned facts being held in higher regard than personal faith in an idea.
h/t Alan Henness