Church alters Jesus heals cancer sign

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2012
Jesus heals cancer billboard
ALTERED: The Advertising Standards Authority is likely to continue its probe into a Napier billboard that claimed "Jesus heals cancer", despite its removal.

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The Advertising Standards Authority is likely to continue its probe into a Napier billboard that claimed "Jesus heals cancer", despite its removal.

Last week, the Equippers Church in Tamatea unveiled the sign and added the number 6 in reference to the number of people it claims to have been healed.

The sign drew a heated response from several residents, including mother-of-two Jody Condin, whose 3-year-old son Toby is having treatment for leukaemia.

Yesterday, the church removed the words from the billboard, despite still defending the claim, replacing them with the Bible quote: "Jesus heals every sickness and every disease – Matthew 4:23".

Ms Condin said she was happy that the word cancer had been removed, as that was what had hurt her the most, but still disagreed with the latest message.

"I understand that the church plays an important role in giving people faith and giving support during an illness, but they can't cure all ... There are so many things they could say without picking on the vulnerable and sick."

An advertising authority spokeswoman was not aware of the new sign, but confirmed 28 complaints had been received about the original one.

Usually, when a sign that had been the subject of complaints was removed, the case was considered settled.

But because the Equippers Church had erected a different sign and still supported the notion of the original, the authority chairman would rule whether to present the case to the board, she said.

Pastor Lyle Penisula said that, although the cancer billboard had been changed so as not to "divide the community", the church still wanted the authority to rule on the original.

"Jesus heals cancer" was a message of hope and life and he had seen six people healed of cancer while at the church, he said.

One was a 4-year old boy in a similar situation as Toby, who had leukaemia and developed a hole in his heart that miraculously closed.

"Religious advertising and freedom of speech are vital components of a free and democratic society," Mr Penisula said.

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- The Dominion Post

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