'Healing' church faces ASA wrath

Johannesburg – A Christian church is facing action from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after repeatedly claiming to heal the blind, the lame, and people with HIV Aids or cancer.

This follows a complaint that the Johannesburg church, Solid Rock, is playing on the "desperation, ignorance and gullibility" of those who come to it, gathering large sums of money in the process.

The complaint, lodged in April this year by a member of the public, is not the first against the church.

The ASA has ruled on five previous occasions that Solid Rock has failed to substantiate its claims of people getting healed of diseases and broken bones, and has each time instructed the church to stop making them.

The latest complaint followed a church advertisement in the Northcliff/Melville Times saying: "Bring the blind, the lame, Aids and cancer victims. 43 Crutches! 25 Walking sticks! 2 White canes from blind people! Already left behind!"

The ASA said the church's pastor, Johan van Wyk, had submitted in response that the advertisement made no claims, and merely "encourages people to bring everybody. The crutches etc are hanging in its church so there is no false claim".

In a ruling released on Tuesday, the ASA rejected this.

Unsubstantiated healing claims

"The respondent is clearly continuing to make unsubstantiated healing claims despite an instruction not to do so," it said.

It said it was giving Solid Rock 10 days to make submissions on further sanctions.

Where an advertiser has "deliberately circumvented and/or flagrantly disregarded" the Advertising Code, the ASA may order that all future advertising be submitted for pre-publication vetting.

According to Solid Rock's website, Van Wyk is the son of a Dutch Reformed minister who rebelled, joined a motorbike gang, and learned to live "in a very ungodly manner" before being saved.

The website includes testimonies from people who have allegedly been healed of illnesses.

One of them is headed "testimony of Aids healing", from a person who claims to have been freed of HIV Aids through the power of the Christian god.

It is an integral part of Christian theology that it is possible for people to be miraculously healed of all sorts of diseases, and even to come back to life after being dead.
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