The Advertising Standards Authority is investigating whether an advertisement placed by the Kirk Session of the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church in a Northern Ireland newspaper ahead of the Gay Pride Parade last week breached advertising codes.
The 540-word advertisement, which described homosexuality as an abomination, defined homosexuals as perverts and called on religious followers to maintain a very public stance against the gay community despite recent violent homophobic attacks, was placed in the News Letter on Friday, August 1, the day before the annual event.
In the advertisement, the church — led by the Rev David McIlveen — justifies its hostility towards the gay community by ‘quoting’ from the Bible and lambasts the need for a parade which celebrates a “profitable lifestyle”.
The church condemns recent homophobic attacks, but said some attacks may have been “provoked” by a section of the gay community’s “desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality” and called on followers to continue to protest against them despite these attacks.
“It is a cause for regret that a section of the community desire to be known for a perverted form of sexuality, which in certain incidences has provoked the unacceptable and totally unjustifiable response of violence.
“Such a response, however, must not intimidate the church into silence,” the advertisement says.
It certainly creates a climate of hatred. By defining people as perverts, it gives others licence to attack
“The act of sodomy is a grave offence to every Bible believer who, in accepting the pure message of God’s precious word, express the mind of God by declaring it to be an abomination, (Leviticus, ch18 v 22, ‘thou shalt not lie down with mankind, as with womankind; it is an abomination’.)
This unequivocal statement clearly articulates God’s judgment upon a sin that has been only made controversial by these who are attempting to either neutralise or remove the guilt of their wrongdoing.
“The issue of human rights is no longer a basis for this parade, as successive governments have legislated for the lowering of the age of consent, the authorisation of civil partnerships and the inheritance rights of a nominated partner.
“This parade is not a welcome addition to our city, neither is it a positive celebration of a profitable lifestyle flaunting a form of sexuality that generations of men and women have righteously resisted and by gods grace will continue to resist.”
So far the ASA has received five complaints about the advertisement and a spokeswoman said a judgment could be expected by the end of the week.
One of the complainants, Gareth, who withheld his surname, said he was shocked and disturbed by advert which he says was a vicious and dangerous attack on the gay community.
“It is very disturbing and distressing,” he said.
“It doesn’t define people as complex individuals who are brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.
“It defines people by a sexual act which is deeply offensive,” he said.
“It certainly creates a climate of hatred. By defining people as perverts, it gives others licence to attack.
“It’s divisive and goes against and undermines equality legislation. It’s also damaging to community relations.
“I think the ad does breach a number of codes on so many levels. I know for me I feel that it was a very public attack. The language is so strong and its disgraceful.”
The Belfast Telegraph contacted the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church for comment but no-one returned our calls.