Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Sunday, 3 August 2008 14:03 UK

Prayer healing advert criticised

A church has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for claiming a practising doctor could vouch people had been healed by prayer.

North Shrewsbury Community Church made the claims on a circular.

The ASA decided that the advert had been irresponsible and could discourage readers from seeking qualified medical advice.

The church said it was disappointed but admitted it should have made it clear that the doctor was retired.

Dr John Matthias had worked at the Albert Road Medical Centre until 2005 and had qualified as a doctor in 1968.

Cured by prayer

The circular quoted him saying: "In this issue you can read stories of local ordinary people who have been healed as a result of Christian prayer.

"I am a medical doctor with over 35 years experience, more than 20 locally. I have checked all the stories written here and can vouch that they are true."

Underneath were testimonials claiming that prayer had cured conditions such as sciatica, drug addiction, ME and low blood pressure.

The ASA said it had decided that the circular had been "irresponsible" in implying that church attendance could treat or prevent illness.

It also decided that the church had implied that Dr Matthias was a practising GP at the time the circular was published.

Church 'disappointed'

It ruled that the advert must not appear again and the church must not refer to medical conditions.

Phil Whittle, from the church, denied that the advert was irresponsible.

He said: "We certainly didn't mean to mislead anyone. (Dr Matthias) has been a doctor for 35 years, that's who he was.

"So in hindsight we should have said he was a retired medical doctor.

"But the first more serious point is that we were irresponsible by suggesting that someone could come to church and benefit from prayer for healing

"That we were disappointed by and disagree with."

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