Thus, thankfully, ruled the ASA. The reaction of Solid Rock's pastor - former bike gang-member Johan van Wyk - has been rather amusing and more that a little risible. Despite the fact that the miracles bit is in their name and in their mission statement van Wyk told the ASA he's not "claiming anything in these advertisements. It just encourages people to bring everybody. The crutches etc. are hanging in its church so there is no false claim". Right... there are crutches hanging in my church, nobody ever reads between the lines in advertisements, therefore I am not a lying bastard... But why is van Wyk being so coy? Well, maybe it's the five previous rulings against his church. The ad in question, notes the ASA, bears a "striking resemblance" to other ads for which it has already been sanctioned. "As with all previous rulings," concluded the ASA, "the current advertisement promotes the church, under the auspices that it can cure various diseases or offer treatment for them. The respondent is clearly continuing to make unsubstantiated healing claims despite an instruction not to do so."
And van Wyk's reaction to the ruling? From the Sunday Independent:
"Look, for our members and for ourselves, miracles are very real," Van Wyk told the Saturday Star of the divine healing he claims happens at the Northcliff, Joburg, church come weekends. "Every weekend we experience miracles and hear testimonies. For us they're very real ...The person most blind is the one who doesn't want to see. Our business is not about proving miracles; it's to help people."Aside from the surprisingly post-modernist "for us", this is a fascinating insight into the religious mind. There is no room for careful consideration, for even a modicum of doubt, or even for expertise. ('A doctor attended services?' GREAT!). All we have is assertion, emotion, and a petulant demand to be believed. Think about it. If this guy really can cure AIDS, he has a moral duty to present the kind of evidence that would convince a skeptic. But all we're given is unsubstantiated anecdotes - testimony from the emotional and medically untrained, given to the emotional and medically untrained.
Most frustratingly, the bad publicity has likely done the church good:
The church, it seems, has reaped the benefits. "The lady (Phillips [who laid the complain with the ASA]), instead of stopping us, we've had so much publicity. If people will come because of that, we'll have to see.
"We don't advocate everybody will be healed here. But through all these years, only one person has ever complained. She (Phillips) is harming the sick people, not us."It's time for the ASA to put some bite in its rulings. Any organization that consistently flouts the ASA's judgments deserves to be punished - as severely as the law allows.