The use of biblical language to describe homosexual practice in a newspaper ad broke rules on ‘decency’, the advertising regulator has ruled.
The minister of the church that placed the ad says the Advertising Standards Authority has effectively put the church on trial and found the Bible guilty of being offensive.
The full-page 540-word ad appeared on 1 August this year in a Belfast newspaper, the News Letter. It was published in anticipation of a gay rights march in the city. The previous year’s march featured a placard bearing the slogan “Jesus is a fag”.
The ad was placed by Sandown Free Presbyterian Church and sought to explain the Bible’s teaching on the issue of homosexual practice.
It cited a number of Bible verses, including Leviticus chapter 18 verse 22 which in the Authorised Version reads: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind; it is abomination.”
The Advertising Standards Authority received only seven complaints – all but one claiming that the ad would stir up violence against homosexuals. The Authority rejected that charge, but upheld complaints that the ad broke rules about ‘decency’.
In its assessment the Authority said: “The ASA noted the ad prominently stated ‘Published by the Kirk Session of Sandown Free Presbyterian Church’ and recognised that readers would understand that the text was representative of the beliefs of a specific group and indicative of their opinion only.”
But went on to say: “We considered that particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of sexual orientation, and concluded that this ad had caused serious offence to some readers.”
It ruled that the ad must not appear again, and told the church to seek advice from the Committee of Advertising Practice before publishing any future marketing material.
The controversy mirrors that of Iris Robinson MP who used similar language on a radio debate earlier this year. Homosexual activists called for her to be arrested and charged for expressing her religious beliefs.
The ad was a response to this behaviour, which went unchallenged at the previous year’s ‘gay rights’ march.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Revd David McIlveen suggested that Christians were being treated less favourably. He argued that the church was justified in placing the ad because no action was taken against the gay rights protester who carried a placard saying Jesus was a homosexual.
Revd McIlveen also defended the language used in the ad saying that people in Northern Ireland would be “familiar” with it in light of the long-running radio debate over the summer.
Speaking to Ruth Gledhill at The Times he said: “Obviously we are very pleased with the second part of the judgement, that they recognised that the advertisement itself would not lead to an act of violence against the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender community. I think that is a vindication of the true spirit of the statement we were making.
“But we are disappointed with the way in which the authority adjudicated on the issue of the homophobic offence complaint. They used the section of the code on decency. They are therefore saying that to quote a text from the Bible is indecent in regard to homosexuality. We find that unacceptable and in fact we find it offensive.
“We find it very strange that an authority which is out to protect other people from being offended has no scruples in offending Bible-believing Christians.
“We also are very conscious that the actual adjudication is really a form of censorship against the Church. When they make reference to the fact that the ad is not to appear in its present form, we can live with that. Then they go on to this directive that they have told the church that in any future marketing material we are to seek advice from the committee of advertising practices.
“We see that as an interference in church affairs. It is totally unacceptable and totally unwarranted.”
The wording of the ad in full:
THE WORD OF GOD AGAINST SODOMY
Last year in the ‘gay pride parade’ a banner stating “Jesus is a Fag” was carried by one of the participants. The supporter of homosexuality was able to walk through the streets of Belfast displaying this offensive placard in spite of the presence of the PSNI, representatives from the Commission and the march organisers. The act of sodomy is a grave offence to every Bible believer who, in accepting the pure message of Gods precious Word, express the mind of God by declaring it to be an abomination. (Leviticus, ch18 v22, Thou Shalt not lie down with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination.) This unequivocal statement clearly articulates Gods judgement upon a sin that has been only made controversial by those who are attempting to either neutralise or remove the guilt of their wrongdoing. As a result, we are now witnessing a hostile spirit being exerted against the testimony of Gods precious Word and those who adhere to its teachings. It is imperative that everyone whose faith is centred upon the authority of the divinely inspired scriptures maintain a strong and public stand for the ethical and moral standards that will ultimately exalt the nation. (Proverbs, ch14 v34, Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.)
The issue of human rights is no longer a basis for this parade, as successive governments have legislated for the lowering of the age of consent, the authorisation of civil partnerships and the inheritance rights of a nominated partner. It is a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality, which in certain incidences has provoked the unacceptable and totally unjustifiable response of violence. Such a response, however, must not intimidate the church into silence.
We are obliged under God to publicly challenge the vices of this generation with the divine assurance that the gospel of redeeming grace can change a persons life by making them a new creature in the beloved Lord Jesus Christ. (1st Corinthians, ch6 vs9-11, know Ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you; but ye are washed. But ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the spirit of our God.)
The message of the gospel is purifying, positive and precious all because the Lord Jesus Christ shed his sinless blood on the cross of Calvary to take away sin. We invite you to join us … as we assemble in the park … for a gospel witness against the act of sodomy. This parade is not a welcome addition to our city, neither is it a positive celebration of a profitable lifestyle flaunting a form of sexuality that generations of men and women have righteously resisted and by Gods grace will continue to resist. Romans, ch1 v17″.