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Mar 27 2012

Say prayer works or we will squash you

Three MPs (UK) are trying to get the Advertising Standards Authority to change its ruling about advertising that claims prayers can heal diseases.

Last month, a Christian group in Bath were banned from using leaflets that said: “NEED HEALING? GOD CAN HEAL TODAY!… We believe that God loves you and can heal you from any sickness.”

The ASA said the claims were misleading and could discourage people from seeking essential medical treatment.

Here’s the letter they sent:

Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury Chairman, Advertising Standards Agency 21st March 2012

We are writing on behalf of the all-party Christians in Parliament group in Westminster and your ruling that the Healing On The Streets ministry in Bath are no longer able to claim, in their advertising, that God can heal people from medical conditions.

We write to express our concern at this decision and to enquire about the basis on which it has been made. It appears to cut across two thousand years of Christian tradition and the very clear teaching in the Bible. Many of us have seen and experienced physical healing ourselves in our own families and churches and wonder why you have decided that this is not possible.

On what scientific research or empirical evidence have you based this decision?

You might be interested to know that I (Gary Streeter) received divine healing myself at a church meeting in 1983 on my right hand, which was in pain for many years. After prayer at that meeting, my hand was immediately free from pain and has been ever since. What does the ASA say about that? I would be the first to accept that prayed for people do not always get healed, but sometimes they do. That is all this sincere group of Christians in Bath are claiming.

It is interesting to note that since the traumatic collapse of the footballer Fabrice Muamba the whole nation appears to be praying for a physical healing for him. I enclose some media extracts. Are they wrong also and will you seek to intervene?

We invite your detailed response to this letter and unless you can persuade us that you have reached your ruling on the basis of indisputable scientific evidence, we intend to raise this matter in Parliament.

Yours sincerely,

Gary Streeter MP (Con) Chair, Christians in Parliament

Gavin Shuker MP (Labour) Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament

Tim Farron (Lib-Dem) Vice Chair, Christians in Parliament

I can’t decide if it’s more stupid than bullying or more bullying than stupid.

28 comments

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  1. 1
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    I love the idea that they’re asking for empirical evidence…

    Seriously, receiving this is more Poe than a Cask of Amontillado being delivered.

  2. 2
    Ant (@antallan)

    Definitely more stupid than bullying.

    It’s hardly a good threat: My response would be, “All right: Go on then.”

    /@

  3. 3
    Forbidden Snowflake

    They seem to have no idea what the burden of proof is and how it works.

  4. 4
    'Tis Himself

    I prayed to Jesus and my acne cleared up, so how can you say God doesn’t cure cancer just through prayer?

  5. 5
    Efogoto

    I would be the first to accept that prayed for people do not always get healed

    That’s why Fabrice Muamba is in hospital, not church.

  6. 6
    RowanVT

    “Many of us have seen and experienced physical healing ourselves in our own families and churches and wonder why you have decided that this is not possible.”

    Buh? Does this person not realise that physical healing…. is innate? And that if you don’t physically heal, you tend to end up somewhat mildly deceased? No god needed.

  7. 7
    NathanDST

    Bullying. Tempting to say stupid, but don’t forget that many, many people think that science has to prove things, 100% beyond a doubt. If it doesn’t, well then, you have no right to claim I’m wrong! Neener neener! Notice how they say “indisputable scientific evidence”? They can use misconceptions of science to their advantage, whether or not they actually share those misconceptions.

  8. 8
    Adam

    First time I’ve tried to post a link, hope it works:

    http://newsthump.com/2012/03/27/christian-mps-urged-to-prove-it-isnt-the-flying-spaghetti-monster-healing-people/

    I was hugely impressed by the medical and surgical teams’ response and delighted that Muamba survived – but the number of people saying, implicitly or explicitly, that prayer was the reason drove me mad. It’s fucking stupid and downright insulting to the doctors.

    As to this, I think it is bullying but then I automatically believe the worst of Tory MPs – but then that’s evidence-based belief.

  9. 9
    Matt Penfold

    They seem to have no idea what the burden of proof is and how it works.

    Especially when it comes to the ASA where it is for the advertiser to produce evidence to support any claims made in an advert, not for the ASA to provide evidence the claim is false.

    So a double fail on the part of the MPs.

    I met Steeter on a few occasions years ago when I was living in Plymouth and he was my MP. I was not impressed by him at the time, and nothing has caused me to revise my opinion other than downwards.

  10. 10
    nanooe

    Dear Christian MPs
    If a letter is too crazy for Nadine Dorries to sign you might want to reconsider.

    N

  11. 11
    Aliasalpha

    If god can heal the sick through prayer, surely changing the decision through prayer should be even easier

  12. 12
    Ant (@antallan)

    @ Adam #8 But sadly the Labour and Lib-Dem cosigners are just as bad.

    /@

  13. 13
    Ray Moscow

    Of course, we all know that the FSM is responsible for all that’s good in the world.
    http://newsthump.com/2012/03/27/christian-mps-urged-to-prove-it-isnt-the-flying-spaghetti-monster-healing-people/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

  14. 14
    peterh

    As Marvin observed, “Reality is on the blink again.”

  15. 15
    Boomer

    Prayer doesn’t heal.

    What is healing is the fact these congregations of people act as support groups whose members help each other out.

    It’s the companionship, the comaraderie, the conversations, laughter and mental stimulation that characterises these groups that provides all the healin’.

    It’s a well established fact that closely knit groups like Catholic nuns enjoy better health and longer life expectancies than lay Catholic women, but it’s not because the nuns pray.

    It’s the companionship, the company, the conversations and activites that lowers blood pressure, that eases the strain on arteries, that attenuatess anxiety levels that leads to healthier and longer lives.

    Loneliness, isloation and seclusion all lower our immune systems and can lead to depression which in turn leads poorer health and ultimately to a shorter life

  16. 16
    Tim Groc

    I wasn’t aware of this ‘Christians in Parliament’ group, but from now on, I’ll be keeping a close eye on them.

    If they can be so ignorant and asinine about this issue, it makes me wonder what else they think, on more important policies.

  17. 17
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    After prayer at that meeting, my hand was immediately free from pain and has been ever since. What does the ASA say about that?

    Oh yeah? I was turned into a newt once!

  18. 18
    Twist

    Somehow, I imagine that if Mr. Streeter, Mr. Struker or Mr. Farron were to develop, say, a crushing pain in their chest this evening, they would be calling for an ambulance rather than heading to church.

    It is interesting to note that since the traumatic collapse of the footballer Fabrice Muamba the whole nation appears to be praying for a physical healing for him.

    Right, that must be why he’s still alive then. It had nothing to do with the team of medics attempting to resuscitate him for more than 30 minutes, or the fact that he was immediately taken to a specialist unit in a specialist hospital. One might wonder, if god has somehow aided his recovery, why god didn’t just not make him suffer a cardiac arrest in the first place and save himself the effort.

  19. 19
    Adam

    @ Ant Allan #12

    Yeah, I clocked that when I read the details more carefully and realised that it was a cross-party group of MPs.

    Note to self – read before posting…

  20. 20
    Sunny

    I have praying very hard for these nincompoops to go away; it does not seem to be working!

  21. 21
    Ken Pidcock

    We invite your detailed response to this letter and unless you can persuade us that you have reached your ruling on the basis of indisputable scientific evidence, we intend to raise this matter in Parliament.

    There is, of course, abundant scientific evidence that intercessory prayer has no positive effect on health, though you may, and undoubtedly would, dispute it.

    It is astonishing that the question is taken seriously by serious people. As the authors of this article note:

    From a scientific perspective, the a priori likelihood that prayer could be effective is extremely small, as it involves three assumptions that are all unlikely to be true. First, the existence of a god; second, that prayer can somehow travel in space and reach this god, or that it works through another mechanism unknown to science; third, that this god is responsive to prayer and can influence at a distance what would otherwise have happened. Most researchers would find it futile to perform randomised trials of the effect of prayer on those prayed for.

    From the “authors’ contributions” section of the same article:

    The idea of writing this paper started when PCG wrote a chapter on alternative medicine to a textbook of internal medicine and via healing stumbled across the Cochrane review on prayer that he first thought was meant to be a joke.

  22. 22
    Ant (@antallan)

    @ Sunny #20 I’m afraid you have to vote

    /@

  23. 23
    latsot

    Disappointingly, I am unable to get as angry as I’d like to about this story because I find the bit about god curing the MP’s poorly hand hilarious.

  24. 24
    ismenia

    I’m going with stupid, it’s not like they’re issuing threats. There is something pitiful about that letter, though. It displays a remarkable level of ignorance. Gary’s hand was healed, what does the ASA say about that? Well I suspect something like that is anecdotal evidence and totally untestable from their perspective.

    I would not want to live in a country where the ASA would accept any claim if those making it appeared to sincerely believe it.

  25. 25
    Grendels Dad

    Let’s see, he knows not everyone who is prayed for gets healed.
    And presumably he knows that sometimes (often) the body can heal itself.
    Yet he still thinks the prayers healed -his- hand.
    Yep, I’m going with stupid.

  26. 26
    Escuerd

    Tempting to say stupid, but don’t forget that many, many people think that science has to prove things, 100% beyond a doubt.

    Many people are idiots, and even many who are not still think incredibly stupid things.

  27. 27
    Marvin

    Tim Farron used to be my MP before I moved out of that constituency. He was well regarded as a local MP it seems a shame he has decided to mix himself up in this. I wonder what difference it would make if you left god out and just claimed “I can heal you as I channel cosmic love of Gomuku a tree frog of infinate goodness that resides in Cheadle Hume through my fingers” would these MPs be happy for me to make and advertise that claim. Similar to tis himself’s experience I had acne as a teenager and also touched myself quite a bit as a teenager and acne gradually diminished. Healing hands is the only explanation! If Gary Streeter had come to me we could have had a go at my healing hands healing his hands and possibly ended up with a catchy westend show tune as well.

  28. 28
    PaulJ

    Martin Robbins at the Guardian properly skewers these three twits:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science

  1. 29
    Prayers work, say British politicians « Headbutter of the Gods

    [...] Ophelia Benson Rate this: Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted on Wednesday, [...]

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