Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Atheist complaints make Christian bus ad 4th most complained about of all time

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The Guardian website reports that the Advertising Standards Agency will not be taking action against the Christian Party bus advertisements – which state "There definitely is a God. So join the Christian party and enjoy your life" – as the Christian Party's status as an actual political party means the ads are classed as "electioneering material", and therefore outside of the ASA's remit.

What's perhaps more interesting about this Guardian story is the fact that the ASA have received over 1,000 complaints about the Christian Party ad, making it the fourth most complained about campaign that the ASA has ever had to deal with (the Atheist Bus Campaign received a mere 326 complaints). According to the Guardian, "People complaining about the Christian party advert believe the claim "there definitely is a God" is misleading because it cannot be substantiated, while some individuals have also objected that the advert is offensive to atheists."

So it seems that when it comes to bus advertising, atheists are more easily offended than the religious. Seems like a bit of an own goal really – isn't complaining to the ASA about bus ads the kind of thing people like Stephen Green get up to? Can't we just stand by free speech instead of indulging in tit-for-tat advertising complaints?

18 comments:

Paul Chana said...

Hi guys,

I was interested to read this post, especially as i was one of the 1000 people who complained. What i considered much more interesting (although not covered in the post, maybe it was in the original article?) is the fact that the ASA is refusing to investigate the advert due to the fact that the Christian party is a political party. I quote from the letter the ASA sent me:

"It turns out that the Christian part is a political party so im sorry to tell you that we're unable to deal with the specific issues you raise".

They then explain that because its electioneering its exempt from the code. So im now researching how to make a complaint about a political advert!

Interestingly they then go on to quote two other similar adverts (Trinitarian Bible Society and Russian Orthodox church) both of which had similar tag lines and both of which had complaints rejected as they would be seen as

"simply reflecting the opinions of the advertisers and ... unlikely to mislead"

Paul Sims said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your comment. Very interesting to hear from someone who did complain. I'd be very interested to know what motivated you to launch a complaint about the ads? In what respect do you object to them? Do you think they should be removed?

In my own opinion, and I know many will disagree, I don't see why they shouldn't be allowed to run these ads. If atheists can, then why can't Christians? I know theirs has the statement "definitely" rather than "probably", but does this really matter? I just think it comes down to free speech. I have no objection to seeing Christian ads as long as atheist ads can run too, which we know they can.

mike said...

Surely the point is that the wording of the rational atheist bus ads had to be watered down with the word probably while the superstitious christians are allowed to state something as fact without having to qualify it. Seems like discrimination to me.

George Jelliss said...

I agree with Mike. The ruling on the other religious ads was "simply reflecting the opinions of the advertisers and ... unlikely to mislead". So why weren't the atheists allowed to say "There isn't a god"? Was that likely to mislead? No!

FishNChimps said...

The obvious response would appear to be to commission more ads by... The Atheist Party.

Add the word "definitely".

Travis Morgan said...

Let them say "definitely," and us say, "probably" because that proves who is and isn't being honest. By them saying "definitely" without being able to provide any evidence, they show their ego and lack of respect for honesty and truth. They are making themselves look bad.

Psychodiva said...

maybe some of the complaints were not by atheists at all- is there a breakdown somewhere of the afilitation or beliefs of those who complained? I would think some of them may have been by other religions or other beliefs- and some just mischief making- so to assume that atheists as a whole are more likely to complain is probably way off.

Neil said...

Some kind people are concerned that we atheists may be offended by the bus-borne word of god? I feel almost touched. Its more likely though that the complainers are people whose contortions in pursuit of political correctness put them at risk of disappearing up their own bottom or perhaps they're just taking the ....

Bibliophylax said...

What Neil said. I'm not offended, I'm amused. Shout as loud as you like, Mr Christian Party - I'm not buying it.

Garkbit said...

Mike & George: What are you talking about? Who is it you are alleging forced the atheist campaign to include the word "probably"? "Probably" was included because it describes the opinion of those who formulated it - there is probably no God, just as there are probably no leprechauns.

Anonymous said...

I find it telling that political adverts seem to be exempt from needing a basis in fact.

In this particular case though i believe thats 1000 people who should have better things to do.

Tom Morris said...

Well, it could be that the Christians were whining and we were having a laugh by complaining to the ASA. Most of the people I know who were complaining were doing it for the lulz.

Lainey said...

With regards to freedom of speech, isn't complaining about something exercising your free speech?


I complained about the ads, but not because I don't want them run. Only because I want my name added to the counter of people who think it's dumb and unsubstantiated, and for the people who ran the ads to realise that a lot of people disagree with them, as it's the only way I can think of to let them know.

They should be allowed to say it, and I should be able to complain that they're talking mince. What's the problem?

Owen said...

They should be allowed to say it, and I should be able to complain that they're talking mince. What's the problem?

Complaining about the ads in a general way is not a problem. On your blog, in a newspaper, to your friends, a radio phone-in. No worries.

Complaining about them to the ASA is another matter entirely. That's not exercising your free speech, that's trying to censor someone else's.

Joe Hayhurst said...

I think anyone who complained was just taking the mick out of Stephen Green and his ilk. And why not, they spend all their lives complaining about stuff. Maybe if everyone just complained to the ASA or a similar body every time something offended their sensibilities, we wouldn't have bombs on the tubes or planes into the twin towers!

Nobbin said...

I don't see the problem with complaining to the ASA. I complained, and I am an atheist. The Christian Party are selling a product, why does everything else have to provide evidence for that but not religion?

I'm not offended by the advent, I just don't think you should be allowed to sell things based on factual statements that cannot be substantiated. I don't see what free speech has to do with it.

I think many of you guys are sticking your head in the sand - "I wouldn't complain, and these atheists can't be serious / can't be atheists". I complained, and I was quite serious about it.

Owen said...

(Nobbin) I'm not offended by the advent, I just don't think you should be allowed to sell things based on factual statements that cannot be substantiated. I don't see what free speech has to do with it.

I realise it's not the done thing to behave like this on the internet, but still, I have to say it:

Fair point. I might change my mind.

Anonymous said...

I'm not offended, I'm amused. Shout as loud as you like, Mr Christian Party - I'm not buying it.

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