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Belfast church to challenge ruling on ‘homophobic’ adverts

Jessica Geen April 9, 2009
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A Belfast church has said it will go to the high court to contest a ruling from the Advertising Standards Authority that its adverts were homophobic.

Sandown Free Presbyterian Church placed the adverts in the Belfast News Letter last summer.

The newspaper reports that the ads contained verses from the Bible describing gay sex as an “abomination”.

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.

It rejected the church’s appeal to have its adjudication overturned.

“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,” the ASA ruling concluded.

The ASA said it received seven complaints that the advert was offensive, while six asserted it was likely to provoke violence.

Sandown minister the Rev David McIlveen said he was “disappointed” at the ruling and will challenge the verdict.

Mr McIlveen said: “In attempting to address their flawed adjudication they have changed the emphasis: from concept of the advertisement causing widespread offence to the advertisement causing serious offence.

“At no time did the Kirk Session of Sandown Presbyterian Church set out to deliberately offend anyone.

“It should be remembered the advertisement was prompted by the carrying of a placard in the Gay Pride parade of 2007 stating ‘Jesus is a fag’ – a fact that both the ASA and the independent reviewer sought to ignore.”

He added: “We take great exception to the council’s conclusion that the advertisement implied that homosexual people were perverted and an abomination.

“The council clearly fails to appreciate that it was the act of sodomy in which our opposition was directed.”

Related topics: Northern Ireland

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