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) 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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea