Advertising Definitions from the ASA -Religious and spiritual healing
Religious & Spiritual Healers have been relatively successful with their ‘discussions’ with the ASA; they have had several CAP code rulings in their favour. This of course has implications for the marketing & advertising of Religious Healing & Spiritual Healing, but the landscape can often seem confusing. Here is a brefi guide which may help.
CAP Code Rule 12.2 prohibits marketers from discouraging essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought (Emmanuel Church, 26 August 2009).
Religious & Spiritual Healers 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.
Religious & Spiritual Healers 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).
As well as steering clear of “serious” medical conditions, marketers should note that the ASA has upheld complaints that ads claiming to heal adverse physical conditions were irresponsible. One ad claimed “local ordinary people who have been healed as a result of Christian prayer”.
The ASA considered that the marketing communication was irresponsible for referring to, and implying attendance at the service could help treat or prevent the occurrence of, medical conditions (Rule 1.3 and North Shrewsbury Community Church, 30 July 2008).
Marketers should also bear in mind rule 12.6, which states “Marketers should not falsely claim that a product is able to cure illness, dysfunction or malformations”. And rule 3.7 states that “Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading the absence of adequate substantiation”.
Religious organisations should not make healing claims that refer to “serious” or specific conditions. Nor should they exploit vulnerable readers or make claims that might be irresponsible.
What Advertising can Religious & Spiritual Healers Do?
In 2005, the ASA rejected a complaint about a poster headlined “Miracles Healing Faith” because it judged that readers would understand the poster to refer to spiritual, not physical, miracles and healing (Peniel Pentecostal Church t/a Michael Reid Ministries, 5 October 2005).
This would suggest that claims that are either non-specific, clearly relate to spiritual or emotional healing, or that are likely to be seen by readers, including those that might be more vulnerable because of ill-health, as merely a manifestation of faith, are likely to be acceptable.
Marketers are likely to be able to make claims about spiritual or emotional well-being or describe the comfort and support that prayer or faith has offered sufferers and their families. Claims that go beyond that and which refer to physical or mental healing (but do not mention specific conditions or symptoms) have not been tested by an ASA investigation or adjudication.
You can read the CAP Code of Conduct here: ASA CAP Code for Complimentary Therapy