Win against faith healing for NZ health group

A New Zealand church which advertised that a prayer session could heal health problems, including “incurable diseases”, has been told to remove the advertisement.

The newly formed NZ Society for Science Based Healthcare made a complaint to the NZ Advertising Standards Authority about a brochure from the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which contained a timetable of healing sessions.

The brochure says that its sessions work for “people who suffer with constant pain, deteriorating health, can’t work due to illness, incurable disease, doctors don’t know what’s wrong, dependent on pills, recovering from injury, weight problems, sick children”.

The New Zealand Herald reports that the church has been pushing olive oil as a part of its religious cure-all for everything from tumours and schizophrenia to relationship problems. It says its “holy oil” — olive oil purported to have been blessed at the sites of biblical miracles in Israel — has helped to cure tumours, mental illness, stomach and bladder problems, strokes and heart defects, and even marriage difficulties.

Bishop Victor Silva of the church, when responding to a previous ASA complaint regarding a direct mail advertisement, had promised that: “When we come to hold another similar event, we will take external advice as to the content of any promotional material to doubly ensure that it is fully compliant with all regulation and that there is no chance of another complaint of this nature.”

The SSBH says that, despite these assurances, within three weeks of this promise the church sent out another direct mail advertisement for a “chain of prayer” series of events. This advertisement claimed that “IT WORKS!” and that a “HEALING” session was for such cases as “When doctors and medicines are not enough” and “incurable diseases”. A majority of the complaints board agreed that “the advertiser had presented their religious beliefs in evangelical healing as an absolute fact, rather than opinion, and may mislead and deceive vulnerable people who may be suffering from any of the illnesses listed in the advertisement”. It therefore ruled to uphold the complaint.

These are the latest in a line of successful complaints about misinformation regarding healthcare, with the Society previously having complained to the ASA about ‘amber teething necklaces’, which are promoted with phrases such as “Traditional homeopathic treatment for teething babies”, and detox foot patches, claimed to remove ‘toxins’ and heavy metals “by stimulating the reflexology points and the blood circulation”.

The Society was only formed in June of this year, with the aim of protecting consumers’ rights to make informed healthcare decisions, and already has achieved significant results in promoting science-based practices. Some of the members of the Society are also members of NZ Skeptics.