Jesus and the Lion: ASA has its way with Equippers Church and Waikato Draught

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a church billboard proclaiming “Jesus Heals Cancer” that was erected by the Equippers’ Church in Napier and an ad for Waikato Draught that linked itself with the Chiefs in a Waikato Times supplement have crossed the line. 

The Equippers Church billboard provoked an outcry from cancer survivors and locals alike and while the wording was later changed, the ASA investigated numerous complaints and said while the church is a not-for-profit organisation, the billboard—providing information about service times—fit the definition of an advertisement.

It was found to be in breach of several elements of the authority’s code of ethics, including a “due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society”; not making “false and misleading representation”; and not being “likely to cause serious or widespread offence”.

The board said while the church’s intention was to convey a message of hope, the statement was likely to cause serious offence to people who had been affected by, or known someone affected by, cancer.

Complainant J. Condin called the billboard “totally disrespectful and hurtful to those that have lost loved ones to cancer or are caring for loved ones with cancer and waiting for them to die”. As a mother of a three-year-old battling leukemia, she said it was “false advertising” and brought back memories of other loved ones she had lost to cancer.

“I believe that the billboard comes across as more of a fact rather than a message of belief and hope. This is dangerous and deceptive as it could potentially offer false hope and lure in the vulnerable in their time of illness and sadness. The billboard is also intimidating to those who do not belong to the church or believe in religion. It is scaremongering, and religious bullying to those who are dealing with a horrible illness already.”

A complaint about a Waikato Times newspaper supplement for the Waikato Chiefs Rugby 2012 season team advertisement that featured a picture of a 15 pack of Waikato Draught and the play on words “Our starting XV is looking pretty good this year” was also upheld for breaching Principle 4, Guideline 3 and using heroes of the young.

This adds to Lion’s slap on the hand for its ’30 names to believe in‘ ad that was upheld last year for the same reason.

The Waikato Draught advertisement first appeared as a billboard in 2011 and was approved by LAPS. Check out the full ASA ruling.

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