Church of Scientology advert played on ITV prompts complaints from viewers
Viewers were worried the advert was targeting vulnerable people
ITV has been criticised after it played an advert for the Church of Scientology in a prime-time slot on Monday, prompting viewers to complain to the UK’s advertising regulator.
The 30-second clip, shown at 7:30pm during the break between soaps Coronation Street and Emmerdale, asked viewers to: “Imagine science and religion connecting. Imagine technology and spirituality combining. Now imagine that everything you ever imagined is possible.”
The words 'spiritual technology' then morph to reveal: "scientology."
Founded in 1952 by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, the religion has been dismissed as a cult by some. But the group, which counts actor Tom Cruise as one of its most well-known followers, was given greater legitimacy earlier this year, when the Supreme Court gave the Church permission to solemnise marriages.
Since the advert’s airing on Monday, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has since received 24 complaints from viewers fearing it preys on vulnerable people.
One person with the Twitter handle @PoliticalEmma wrote on 12 May: “A dark day for British TV. ITV allow Scientology to advertise just before popular soap opera.”
Read more: Debate: Is Scientology a religion like any other?
John Travolta thanks Church of Scientology for helping him after the death of his son Jett
Meanwhile, a change.org petition set up to lobby the Advertising Standards Authority to ban the advert had received 82 signatures on Wednesday evening.
Petitioner Summer Regan posted on the website: “I was shocked when I saw an advert for Scientology on ITV; not only does it describe scientology as 'science and religion connecting' with no scientific evidence supporting the affirmations of Scientology, but it claims 'everything you've ever imagined is possible' as if it is fact, surely this is false advertising?”
A spokesman from the ASA told The Independent: “We carefully considered the complaints but decided that there weren’t grounds for further action. We considered that the ad was not targeting vulnerable people.
“We appreciated that some viewers might consider the ad in poor taste because they disapproved of the practices and beliefs of the advertiser, or because they believe ads for religious organisations should not be broadcast on TV," he said.
However, he added that as the advert did not push explicit statements of belief, or attempt to make viewers change their beliefs, it did not breach the ASA's advertising code.
Tom Cruise speaks during the inauguration of the Church of Scientology in Madrid (Getty Images)
Asked whether the line “Now imagine that everything you ever imagined is possible” could be classed as a misleading, the ASA explained its Code states that advertisers’ claims "must be backed by documented evidence”.
“If anyone has concerns that the ad was misleading then they could lodge a complaint with us,” the spokesman said, adding the regulator's role was to make sure adverts are not "misleading, harmful or offensive.”
The ASA did ban a religious advert by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in 2009, because it claimed a "blessed oil" had cured a person's heart problem.
Graeme Wilson, a spokesman from the Church of Scientology, told The Independent the religion has seen a spike in interest since the Supreme Court ruling in December.
"The purpose of the advert (which has been airing since February) is therefore to show people who are interested where they can find out more information about the Church," he said.
"The truth is that our Churches are open seven days a week, we welcome visitors to come in and browse our information displays and ask questions. We welcome any genuine interest to know what our religion is.
"Lastly, I don’t think viewers of Coronation Street and Emmerdale should be insulted and stigmatised as “vulnerable”, whatever that means," he added.
- 1 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 2 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 3 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...
£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...