Bid to block ‘faith healer’

2010-08-07 00:00

THE Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has warned that it will pull out all the stops to prevent e.tv from broadcasting the international Christ Embassy Sunday morning faith programme.

The TAC says that church leader Pastor Chris Oyakhile is misleading people in his programme by saying he can faith-heal a number of diseases, including HIV/Aids.

The church has branches in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The TAC lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASASA) on November 22 2009.

In June this year ASASA ruled that the content was sponsored programming and therefore it doesn’t have jurisdiction over it.

In a statement sent to The Weekend Witness yesterday, the TAC says the Embassy programme is quackery and a threat to public health.

By claiming to heal life-threatening conditions, this church is leading people to believe that they no longer have to adhere to treatment or seek appropriate medical care, reads the statement. The Reverend Teboho Klaas, a member of the TAC’s secretariat, said many religious organisations are playing a critical role in the fight against HIV and TB in the country by providing spiritual and emotional support to people with these conditions.

“What is expected of religious groups is to encourage people to adhere to their medication and have faith. Even doctors feel that faith in patients makes it easy to work with them as it prepares them to deal with the consequences of the disease.

“This church makes people believe that they don’t have to take their medication any more, thereby putting their lives and their loved ones at risk.

“A number of people have died already after stopping their medication, [who] went to the church,” said the Rev Klaas.

A Christ Embassy member, who asked not to be named, said she had seen “gravely sick” people being healed at the church.

The Johannesburg-based member said it is not Pastor Oyakhile who does the healing, but God.

“All the pastor does is instil belief in people and God does the rest. Some people come here with proof that they are HIV-positive and after being here for a while they get healed,” said the member.

Channel e.tv stands by its decision to continue airing the programme, with its spokesperson Vasili Vass saying that there had been no ruling against doing so.

“The Christ Embassy is our advertiser. They have bought the air time on Sunday mornings between 7.30 am and 8 am and we strictly adhere to the advertising standards and broadcast regulations by which we are governed.

“In the event that there is a ruling against any of our programmes or advertisements by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa, and the Advertising Standards Authority, e.tv will comply with such a ruling. No such finding has been made against this advertiser-funded programme by the ASA,” said Vass yesterday.

The TAC is appealing the ruling.

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