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Monday, April 12, 1999 Published at 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK


Church defends miracle cure campaign

David Gregg is helped up after being "cured"

A church that had its knuckles rapped by advertising watchdogs is standing by its claim that a man had a miracle cure at a service.

The BBC's Geeta Guru-Murthy: The ASA fears the advertisement could lead to false hopes
The church took out an advert in a local paper proclaiming that a man "half-dragged" into the church in pain and distress walked out two hours later healed by the power of Jesus.

The advert told people to go to the Peniel Pentecostal Church in Brentwood, Essex, to see "Music and Miracles" for themselves.

It said: "Five minutes ago David Gregg was half-carried, half-dragged into the hall.

[ image: David Gregg: I came out the church without any pain]
David Gregg: I came out the church without any pain
"Two friends laid him on the floor. He has not moved since. In two hours time he will stand unaided. Then, within a couple of minutes he will begin to walk. At the end of the meeting he will stride out of the hall completely healed by Jesus."

But a complaint about the advert, from a member of the public, has been held up by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Steve Ballinger of the ASA: We asked the advertisers to prove that it was true
The authority said the advert breached its guidelines because the church could not substantiate its view that the man's recovery was down to spiritual healing.

David Gregg gave a personal testimony in the advert, saying he had not taken a painkiller since the healing session.

On Monday he said: "All I can say is what happened to me, and I can't prove it one way or the other. I went into the church and I came out the church without any pain. I've got to believe what happened to me."

Services at the church regularly attract between 600 and 800 people. This is the third complaint to be made against it and the second to be upheld.

[ image: Services at Peniel Pentecostal Church attract up to 800 people]
Services at Peniel Pentecostal Church attract up to 800 people
ASA spokesman Chris Green said: "Any advertisement must be legal, decent, honest and truthful. It's fair enough to believe that miracles occur in the church, but if the advertisers are stating that they do and think that they can physically prove it we need evidence and we didn't see evidence."

An earlier authority statement said it was concerned that the advert could raise the hopes of vulnerable readers who might believe that they would be cured of physical pain or disability.

The church maintained that it was not guilty of exploitation because there was no financial transaction involved and worshippers could leave at any time.

Church spokeswoman Anne Brown said: "This is a matter of faith, it's a matter of Christianity. Jesus was raised from the dead, I think they'd have a hard time believing that as well."

Animal-rights lobby criticised

Meanwhile, an animal-rights group has also been criticised by the ASA for claims made in an anti-foxhunting ad.

[ image: The ASA upheld a complaint against an animal rights charity]
The ASA upheld a complaint against an animal rights charity
The authority upheld three complaints by the Countryside Alliance, the Cattistock Hunt and members of the public about the advert, which appeared in the national press.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare advert showed a photograph of a pack of hounds ripping a fox apart under the headline "RIP".

The ASA said that IFAW's accompanying claim that "one (fox) that died this way was found with lungs full of soil" was "an exaggeration".

The advertising watchdog also upheld an objection to the claim that hunts were "shooting 10,000 hounds a year because they're too old or too friendly to chase foxes".

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