Recently, a billboard was put up by the Napier Equippers Church in New Zealand carrying the message “Jesus heals cancer“, later accompanied by a tally of 6 representing those whom the church believed to have had their cancer healed by Jesus. 9 complaints were made to the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority about the billboard, which prompted an investigation.
The executive pastor of the church, Earl Joe, has said:
“We’ve seen, just recently, six people healed from cancer”
“Can Jesus heal cancer? Yes, we believe he can.”
“We’ve actually seen healings in the church, yes cancer, absolutely.”
He also said the church’s members believed that Jesus could “heal cancer, or the common cold, or the headache”.
Since the start of the investigation, the church has replaced the billboard with a very similar one. The new message reads “Jesus heals every sickness and every disease – Matthew 4:23”
I absolutely loathe seeing any promotion of the dangerously wrong idea that so-called “faith healing” can actually heal, especially in the case of terminal illnesses such as cancer. Faith healing simply doesn’t work, and promoting it in any way is irresponsible. Whoever’s idea this billboard was should be ashamed of themselves.
Even though there were complaints about this billboard, I think it’s a decent example of how criticising religion has become a social taboo. Jody Condin, who spoke to the Hawkes Bay Today about her outrage about the billboard, seemed to feel the need to defend her actions:
“If the church and its members truly believe that Jesus heals cancer, then fine, that’s their view and each to their own”
Imagine if a non-religious organisation had put up a billboard claiming to know that they have a treatment that can heal cancer, but in reality the treatment had no such effect, and it was trivial to discover this.
How does the fact that it would be a non-religious claim make that any more of an abomination than the religious claim put forth by the billboard? How much worse is it to claim that the same treatment can “heal any sickness or disease”? People should not need to feel guilty when speaking out about dangerous lies such as this.
In response to the first message Sue Chetwin, the Consumer NZ chief executive, said “Do we want regulations for this sort of thing? A sensible person would probably ignore it”.
Again, perhaps extending this response to an equivalent claim made by a non-religious organisation will demonstrate how absurd it is, and make the answer seem more obvious:
Yes, claims in advertising about what will and what will not heal sickness and disease, especially potentially terminal illnesses such as cancer, should be regulated. I would have hoped that would be obvious…
On the plus side, I now have a new reference passage that I can use to demonstrate some of the blatant falsehoods in the bible – Matthew 4:23.
(found via Friendly Atheist)