Anti-gay advert in Belfast News Letter is banned

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned an advert which appeared in the Belfast-based daily News Letter, after seven readers complained it was homophobic.

The advert – headlined: “The word of God against sodomy” – was timed to appear ahead of the Belfast Gay Pride parade.

It stated: “The act of sodomy is a grave offence to every Bible believer who, in accepting the pure message of God’s precious word, express the mind of God by declaring it to be an abomination.”

The ASA received seven complaints about the advert saying that it was homophobic, and therefore offensive, and that it was likely to provoke violence against homosexuals.

The advertiser, the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church, said it could not be held responsible if readers were offended by the message of the Bible.

The News Letter told the ASA that the number of complaints it had received did not suggest that widespread offence had been caused.

It said that as a newspaper, it was felt appropriate to express relevant views surrounding this issue, despite the fact that those views may be abhorrent to some.

The News Letter said it had considered the ad carefully, but felt it would have been an infringement of freedom of expression on a matter of public interest if it had declined to publish it.

However, the ASA said that some of the text in the ad went further than the majority of readers were likely to find acceptable.

The regulator concluded that the advert had caused serious offence to some readers but said “the ad did not in itself incorporate language likely to incite a violent emotional response”.

The ASA ruled that the ad should not appear again in its current form.

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