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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

ASA Upholds Complaints Against Full Page Advert By Evangelical Christians

The National Secular Society has welcomed a ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority against a full page advertisement in The Times which sought to raise alarm about the Sexual Orientation equality legislation that was being debated in Parliament earlier this year. The Society was one of the complainants. The advertisements were placed by a Christian evangelical organisation calling itself “Coherent and Cohesive Voice.”

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society said: “We are extremely pleased that this advertisement has been shown to be misleading. There is an increasing tendency among evangelical religious groups to exaggerate and panic-monger when fighting campaigns. It is incumbent on everyone dealing with legislation that involves serious social reform with big impacts on the rights of vulnerable minorities – in this instance gay people – to be careful, objective and truthful.”

“The sensationalist full page advertisement, which was also placed in a publication for members of Parliament, made four claims about the Regulations, every one of which Lord Rooker, the Government Minister concerned, told fellow peers in the chamber he believed to be incorrect.

“The Advertising Standards Agency found the advertisement breached its CAP Code under clauses 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness). Its judgment noted that there had been considerable input from lawyers in drafting the advert. It is astonishing that, given such eminent advice, the advertisement contained so many obvious flaws.

“The legislation, which was passed despite the advertisement, made it illegal to discriminate in the provision of goods, services, education and accommodation on the grounds of sexual orientation. It was contained in Regulations brought under the Equality Act”.

The ASA judgment can be found here

THE CONTENT OF THE ADVERT:

SEX

Freedom of conscience?
Freedom of religion?
Not any more.

Now the Labour Government are going to decide what is and isn't acceptable, and then they are going to force their views onto you. Until last week it appeared that the Government were taking seriously the concerns expressed by religious groups about the Sexual Orientation Regulations. However, the Government has now fast-tracked identical Regulations in Northern Ireland, ignoring all such representations and setting an unworkable precedent for England, Wales and Scotland."

A heading stated "So what do the Government's newly proposed SEXUAL ORIENTATION REGULATIONS do?

A list of questions, each with a ticked box beside it, stated:

"Force all schools to actively promote homosexual Civil Partnerships to children (from primary school age) to the same degree that they teach the importance of marriage?
Force a printing shop run by a Christian to print flyers promoting gay sex?
Force a family-run B&B to let out a double room to a transsexual couple, even if the family think it is in the best interests of their children to refuse to allow such a situation in their own home?
Make it illegal for a heterosexual policeman, fireman or member of the Armed Forces, to refuse to join a Gay Pride event promoting the homosexual way of life?"

The text continued "All British people should live together respectfully and peacefully but they should not be compelled by law to act against their conscience. It is not too much to ask of the Government that individuals are left with the freedom to make their own minds up as to what sexual practices are acceptable and what aren't. We call on the Ministers with authority on this issue, Meg Munn and Ruth Kelly, to protect the long cherished freedom of conscience in this country, by adding a simple clause to the Regulations: 'Nothing in these Regulations shall force an individual to act against their conscience or strongly held religious beliefs'."

Further text invited readers concerned by the issue to write to the named Ministers, and gave their addresses. At the bottom of the ad, text stated "Placed by Coherent and Cohesive Voice, a network of hundreds of Christian leaders in the UK representing hundreds of thousands of voters."


Published Wed, 18 Jul 2007