A newspaper advert taken out by Christian groups exaggerating the effect of the Sexual Orientation Regulations has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority.
PinkNews.co.uk led the campaign against the advert, which was published in The Times and Parliamentary title The House Magazine last November.
A group of Christian leaders calling themselves Coherent and Cohesive Voice used the advert to urge people to write to then-Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly and Equality Minister Meg Munn to oppose the new equality laws and seek religious exemptions.
Yesterday the ASA ruled the advert was “inaccurate and misleading.”
The advert claimed that the legislation would “force” a bed and breakfast to supply a room to a transsexual and make schools promote civil partnerships.
It also incorrectly asserted that the SORs represented an “act against freedom of conscience.” The full text of the advert is reproduced below.
A range of organisations, among them the Fire Brigades Union, the National Secular Society and the Gender Trust, as well as members of the public, complained about the advert.
The Sexual Orientation Regulations became law in Northern Ireland on January 1st and in the rest of the UK on 30th April.
Of the ten separate points put to the ASA, three were upheld:
1. The Civil Service Rainbow Alliance objected that the advert was inaccurate and misleading because it misrepresented the Government’s proposed changes to the legislation. It challenged whether the claims made about the effects of the new regulations could be substantiated.
2. The Civil Service Rainbow Alliance, the Fire Brigades Union, the National Secular Society and members of the public objected that the ad was inaccurate and misleading because it misrepresented the Government’s proposed changes to the legislation. They challenged whether the claims made about the effects of the new regulations could be substantiated.
3. The Gender Trust and members of the public objected that the reference to transsexual people in the ad was misleading because the proposed regulations related to sexual orientation and not to gender.
In their assessment, the ASA said:
“We concluded that the ad exaggerated the effect of the proposed regulations and was likely to mislead readers of The Times.
“We considered that although a parliamentarian readership would be likely to be aware of the content of the proposed SORs, the claims exaggerated their effect.
“We concluded that the ad was likely to mislead readers.”
The ASA has instructed Coherent and Cohesive Voice not to repeat the ad in its current format.
The Times told the ASA:
“Our view was that the ad was not likely to cause serious or widespread offence to their readers.
“The assertions and supporting statements made in the ad were entirely of the type that could be found in the editorial sections of some national newspapers.”
Former PinkNews.co.uk editor Marc Shoffman, who started our campaign against the advert, said:
“I am delighted that the ASA has seen common sense. It shows that they are taking these issues seriously. Congratulations to PinkNews.co.uk readers who mounted this successful campaign.”
To read the full adjudication click here.
THE CONTENT OF THE ADVERT:
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.
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 BB 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?
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.”