A charismatic church cannot prove that its pastors can perform healing miracles, the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (Asasa) has ruled – and the church has to withdraw all such advertisements from e.tv.
The Christ Embassy is an international organisation headed by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome with branches in Cape Town and Gauteng and a number in other countries.
The church paid R2.6 million to have its 24-minute “faith healing” programme run on etv for 52 weeks where it claimed that people could be cured of illnesses and diseases such as Aids and cancer.
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) lodged a complaint with Asasa in November 2009 and on Wednesday the advertising body ruled that e.tv had to remove the programme.
The TAC lodged the complaint after a woman who was on tuberculosis medication stopped her treatment when she was “cured” by the church, but subsequently died.
The ruling stated that the programme was by definition an advertisement promoting cure by faith.
This is against Asasa’s code since the Christ Embassy did not register with the Medicines Control Council to offer a product or service which cures diseases.
Christ Embassy said it would appeal the ruling and is adamant that it can convey the message to people that “they will be cured by the grace of God”.
Sean Sim, attorney for Christ Embassy, said: “My client feels that people can be healed through the grace of God and that there is nothing wrong with conveying that message.
“We are not going to back away from this, there is nothing to apologise for and nothing untoward about the programme. My client maintains that people can be healed through faith.”
Sim said they had 20 days to appeal the ruling.
Etv, which is legally bound to the Asasa code, has been ordered to withdraw the advert. The Christ Embassy programme has run its course but the ruling applies to any similar programmes.
The TAC’s Nathan Geffen said although the contract between e.tv and Christ Embassy came to an end some time ago, the channel was still broadcasting the programme two weeks ago in which the pastor, Chris Oyakhilome, claimed to have healed a woman with a breast tumour.
At Thursday’s media conference Geffen said the Christ Embassy programmes were “life destroying”.
The TAC lodged the complaint after a Cape Town doctor notified it that one of his patients had stopped taking her XDR TB medication because she believed the Christ Embassy could heal her.
“She gave up her medicines because she believed Christ Embassy could cure her. She became ill again and died – but only after transmitting XDR TB to her children,” Geffen said.
E.tv’s spokesperson, Vasili Vass, said on Thursday that it would abide by the ruling and withdraw the programme. - Cape Times