Banning of Phones4U ‘miraculous Jesus’ ad a chilling ruling for free speech

In an adjudication published today, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld complaints against Phones4U over an advertisement depicting a cartoon version of the Buddy Christ from the comedy film Dogma, along with the tagline ‘Miraculous deals on Samsung Galaxy Android phones.’ The British Humanist Association (BHA) has called the ruling ‘completely ridiculous’, and argued that the ASA is ‘chilling the free mockery of beliefs which is vital in a free society’.

In its adjudication, the ASA found that ‘although the ads were intended to be light-hearted and humorous… [they] gave the impression that they were mocking and belittling core Christian beliefs. We agreed that the ads were disrespectful to the Christian faith and were likely to cause serious offence, particularly to Christians. The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 4.1 (Harm and offence).’

The ruling is reminiscent of the prevention of the BHA’s adverts for its Census Campaign which the Committee on Advertising Practice (the ASA’s sister organisation) recommended in March, if taken to adjudication, were likely to be banned. This recommendation prevented the adverts from even being published in the first place.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘This completely ridiculous ruling represents a further encroachment on free speech in our society, tantamount to a reintroduction of blasphemy laws by the back door. The ASA have shown themselves to be absurdly hypersensitive to the possibility of religious offence and are chilling the free mockery of all beliefs which is vital in a free society. They seriously need to review their line on cases of this sort. It is an embarrassment in an open society to have this sort of regulation.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07534 248596.

Read the ASA Adjudication on Phones 4 U Ltd, 7 September 2011.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on free speech, and the banned Census Campaign advertisements.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.