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Christian Voice rapped by the ASA

From Press Gazette:

A Christian group has been warned by the Advertising Standards Agency not to repeat a “misleading” claim about teenage pregnancy it placed in the New Statesman.

The ad claimed that the HPV vaccine causes teenage infertility.

“Now we have the disaster of teenage infertility.

“Every government initiative, including the HPV vaccine, will increase it, but as all the targets revolve around pregnancy, no-one in power knows how many young people they are making sterile and nobody cares.”

The ASA points out that to make such claims, you really need evidence rather than, you know, MAKING SHIT UP. CV claimed that MAKING SHIT UP comes under freedom of expression. The ASA told them not to be so silly.

Me, I’d have picked up on the “every government initiative” bit. The bank bailout will increase teenage infertility! The communications database will increase teenage infertility! Etc.

What does CV’s Stephen Green have to say?

‘It is a good job the Advertising Standards Authority was not around when the Old Testament was written, or we would be missing half the Christmas story. The ASA would have wanted Isaiah to substantiate his claim that ‘a virgin shall conceive and shall bear a son’ (Isa 7:14). They would have demanded ‘robust, scientific evidence’ that virgins can conceive.

‘The Prophet’s predictions of the fall of Jerusalem and of Christ’s crucifixion would have gone the same way. As for nations beating swords into ploughshares, and the wolf dwelling with the lamb, the ASA would have banned him from ever repeating such an unsubstantiated claim.

Um, Stephen? The Bible isn’t an advert.

15 replies on “Christian Voice rapped by the ASA”

Stephen Green causes teenage infertility. Perhaps I should take out an advert?

Also, Stephen Green is an enormous cock. I can hardly believe how many column inches are taken up with the stupidity that this guy and his organisation spouts at every available opportunity.

I’m sure that CV were also thrilled to be included in the same story as a “mega-porn” DVD complaint. :-D

Yeah, that did amuse me.

@rutty: I think CV are a great example of a real problem with news coverage, where one or two people can give themselves an official-sounding name and instantly become the go-to guys for specific kinds of news stories. Not just religion, but politics, science… whatever. A lot of times if stories told the truth they’d say “we asked a slightly unhinged man with too much time on his hands what he thought” instead of giving these yahoos any respect.

> The Bible isn’t an advert.

You think not? I want to agree that there’s some distinction to be made here, but buggered if I can pinpoint what it is.

It is interesting that Christian Voice are allowed to print these claims in their own magazine and distribute it but they’re not allowed to pay another magazine to print them. Why should the ASA get involved in one but not the other?

The answer, I think, is that adverts usually ask people to buy stuff which costs money, so the ASA are there to prevent a form of fraud. So, if an advert isn’t even indirectly asking for money, should it be under the ASA’s purview?

(I don’t have an answer. Hadn’t ever thought about this till a minute ago.)

> The answer, I think, is that adverts usually ask people to buy stuff which costs money, so the ASA are there to prevent a form of fraud. So, if an advert isn’t even indirectly asking for money, should it be under the ASA’s purview?

Good question. Political ads aren’t.

If political ads aren’t part of the ASA’s remit, why have they got involved in this one?

This would be the same Stephen Green who complained to the very same ASA about the Atheist Bus advert: “Well, I believe the ad breaks the Advertising Code anyway, unless the advertisers hold evidence that God probably does not exist.”

Also responsible for: “People don’t like being preached at. Sometimes it does them good, but they still don’t like it.”

And: “Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.”

People keep telling me he’s real but I think it’s all an Onion job.

@squander two: capital-P political, they’re regulated elsewhere. ASA does charity ads and the like though, and there’s a section in their broadcast code for religious organisations. Can’t find one in the print code, but that’s probably because I only had a quick look at the site.

@graham: Not in terms of the ASA’s remit it isn’t :)

@chris: Of course, the atheist bus. I completely forgot about that. The ASA moves in mysterious ways, heh.

>>unless the advertisers hold evidence that God probably does not exist.

Surely in an almost infinite universe the probability of there being no single supreme entity is higher than the probability of there being one. Since that is one possibility against an almost infinite number of alternatives. In which case the Atheist argument is OK. I didn’t pay much attention in probability maths classes. In all probability I probably skived them altogether. ;-)

OK, well I’m with Stephen Green on at least one issue, then. If an advert is asking for your money, then a lie in it would constitute fraud, so it’s fair enough to regulate it. If it’s not, then the ASA can fuck off.

Anyway, like I said, this is ridiculous. I can print the claim that potatoes cause warts and distribute it; I can pay a printer to print it for me and I can pay a distributor to distribute it for me, and I’m breaking no law. But pay a magazine who in turn pay a printer and a distributor, and suddenly exactly the same claims are illegal? That’s insane.

> Surely in an almost infinite universe the probability of there being no single supreme entity is higher than the probability of there being one.

There’s no such thing as “almost infinite”.

And the probablity of God existing is either 0 or 1 — by definition, it can’t be anything else.

However, the usual English meaning of the word “probably” really has nowt to do with mathematical probability, so Stephen Green is still wrong. You don’t need evidence to prove that something is probably the case. He’s also strategically wrong, as a Christian, to start bringing evidence into the argument. That’s just stupid.

@squander2

1) The ASA ruled on CV’s claims that the cervical anti-cancer vaccine would make teenagers sterile, not on broad religious claims. The ASA doesn’t demand that ads on the Tube that contain bits of scripture need proof. But this was a claim on something that exists in the physical world for which CV had no evidence.

2) The ASA has no legal powers. It administers a voluntary code of conduct. Advertisers don’t have to take notice. But almost all do because if they went down the non-compliance path, there would be legislation.

Hey, Chris.

I was commenting more on what I think the ASA’s remit should be than on what it is. I’m aware that they do get to rule on such claims, but don’t think they should.

> But this was a claim on something that exists in the physical world for which CV had no evidence.

It’s easy, as an atheist, to think you’re making a distinction there, but remember that Christians believe that God exists in the physical world. And it’s not the place of the Government to rule on whether they’re right or wrong about that.

And no-one should need evidence to make a claim. The point of evidence is that people listen to it and weigh it up, not that those without it be forbidden from speaking in the first place.

> The ASA has no legal powers. It administers a voluntary code of conduct. Advertisers don’t have to take notice. But almost all do because if they went down the non-compliance path, there would be legislation.

Oh, God, but I hate it when the Government do that. It’s one of the most pernicious and destructive political practices of modern times. A vital principle of law is that the people get to vote for the politicians who decide what the law is. If the Government pass a law, you have the option of voting for someone else who promises to repeal that law. By foisting “voluntary” codes of conduct on industries by merel threatening legislation, they get to bypass debate in the House, and you don’t get the option of voting for the rule to be overturned because it’s not really a law. Despicable.

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