by Patrick Devlin

In America, where Christians have the hobby of lobbying the courts and their legislators for all kinds of special treatment, the faithful, with little green papers stamped with the words “in god we trust” in their pockets, listen to all sorts of self-appointed (and often finely appointed) ministers who advise the poor and sick that god really wants them to be wealthy and healthy, and who promise they can be all helpy – while separating the faithful from their dollars in a manner that’s stealthy.

In New Zealand, where the government attempts to encourage even those who claim spiritual motivation to make honest representations as they ply their wares (or scares, as the case may be), the governmental agency that monitors advertisers’ claims, the Advertising Standards Authority, has ordered an evangelical church to cease advertising so-called “healing sessions” due to the fact that there is no medical evidence that prayer is capable of healing the health problems that their adverts suggest it can.

The Universal Church for the Kingdom of God in New Zealand passed out brochures promising that the praying to the universe’s head doctor in their chapel will bring relief to “people who suffer with constant pain, deteriorating health, can’t work due to illness, incurable disease, doctors who don’t know what’s wrong, dependent on pills, recovering from injury, weight problems (and) sick children.”

The Advertising Standards Authority’s Complaint Board ruled that the church’s claim as absolute fact, as opposed to an opinion, that prayer can cure or mitigate disease and sickness violated the country’s advertising standards and ordered that the church discontinue its advertising blitz.

The church pointed out to the government authority that it only conducts prayer ceremonies and that they believe, “God can heal the sick, and it is He who heals.” The church also reminded the governmental authority that the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God was “no different from any other church in this regard.” The authority found, however, that the church’s claims could quite possibly “mislead and deceive vulnerable people who may be suffering from any of the illnesses listed in the advertisement.”

The authority received a complaint from an organization called the Society for Science Based Healthcare, that advised the government that the church’s claims violated New Zealand’s Therapeutic Products Advertising Code, thereby “failing to uphold the high standard of social responsibility” required under the law.

At the time of publishing, Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn were unavailable for comment as they were spending the day at Florida’s “Holy Land Experience” theme park enjoying rides on the “Immaculate Conception” water coaster and noshing on “Last Supper” funnel cake.

God also could not be reached for comment, as she was at her doctor’s office for her yearly physical.