ASA response to ‘There definitely is a God’ complaint

Posted: February 24th, 2009 | Filed under: Politics | 2 Comments »

Like I’m sure many others did I filed a complaint with the ASA about the advert on London buses from The Christian Party.

Yesterday I received a letter:

Dear Mr Pouncey

Your complaint about The Christian Party

Thank you for your recent complaint.

It turns out that The Christian Party is a political party so I’m sorry to tell you that we’re unable to deal with the specific issues you raise: we’re unable to investigate complaints about advertising which aims to influence voters in elections or referendums. To do so would be to interfere with the democratic process. (The relevant clauses in our Code are 12.1 and 12.2 and you can find the Code at www.cap.org.uk).

The ASA Council has seen the ad and confirmed that because its primary purpose is to promote The Christian Party, it is electioneering material and therefore exempt from our Code.

You may be aware that there were similar bus ads appearing for the Trinitarian Bible Society (which stated “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Psalms 53.1″) and the Russian Orthodox Church (which stated “There IS a God, BELIEVE. Don’t worry and enjoy your life”). The ASA Council assessed these ads but concluded that both were likely to be seen as simply reflecting the opinions of the advertisers and were unlikely to mislead readers.

Although we will not be pursuing your complaint, thank you for taking the time to contact us.

I’m quite pleased about this response. I’d rather the balance be towards freedom of speech than not. I am curious about how far the exemption of political parties from scrutiny goes, and I plan to ask for more information on this.