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Ian Paisley to meet with standards agency about homophobic advert

Tony Grew January 7, 2009

The former first Minister of Northern Ireland is to meet with the Advertising Standards Authority to discuss their ruling against an advert placed in a local paper by a Belfast church.

Ian Paisley is a former moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church and the MP for Antrim East.

Sandown Presbyterian Church took out a 540-word advert in the Belfast News Letter just before the city’s Pride event in August.

Last month the ASA ruled that the church’s advert, which called gay people perverts and called on “religious” people to publicly oppose gay rights and Pride events, broke their rules on decency.

“We considered that some of the text used in relation to homosexuality, for example, “… declaring it to be an abomination …”, “… God’s judgement upon a sin …”, “… remove the guilt of their wrongdoing …”, “… a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality …”, went further than the majority of readers were likely to find acceptable.

“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.

“The ad should not appear again in its current form,” according to the ASA ruling.

“We told SFPC to take more care in future to avoid causing offence.”

The ad claimed Pride in Belfast “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.”

The church has appealed the decision to the independent reviewer, Sir John Caines.

The advertiser and complainant have the option of appealing an ASA ruling to the reviewer within 21 days.

The ASA told that where there is new evidence or further explanation of the case, the reviewer will agree to examine the ruling.

In 2007 Sir John reviewed 15 rulings and in four cases asked the ASA to re-examine their ruling. In all cases they decided to do so.

The ASA said that a letter has been received from Dr Paisley requesting a meeting and the director-general will meet with him in the near future to explain the Sandown Church ruling to him.

Mr Paisley has been a longtime opponent of equality for gay people.

He founded the “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign in the 1970s, in an attempt to prevent the decriminalisation of gay sex in Northern Ireland.

More: Northern Ireland

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