By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

BELFAST, December 9, 2008 ( – The British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has issued a decree banning an advertising campaign by a Presbyterian church entitled “The Word of God against Sodomy,” which communicates the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior.

The campaign, run by Sandown Free Presbyterian Church, featured an advertisement that denounced offensive behavior in last year’s “gay pride” march in Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

According to the church, marchers carried signs insulting Christ and exposed their genitals to those protesting the march that year.
  The advertisement, which ran in the Belfast Newsletter newspaper earlier this year, pointed out this behavior, and said that sodomy is an “abomination” and “God’s judgment upon a sin.”  It also opined that it is “a cause for regret that a section of the community desires to be known for a perverted form of sexuality.”

Although such statements are merely a repetition of the Bible’s condemnation of homosexual behavior, the ASA prohibited the future publication of the advertisement, and decreed that all future ads placed by the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church would have to be submitted to the agency for approval before being placed in publications.

The ASA reportedly admitted that the ad was “representative of the beliefs of a specific group and indicative of their opinion only,” but said that the text went “further than the majority of readers were likely to find acceptable.” The ASA also ruled that it had “caused serious offence to some readers” and should not be published again in its current form.

The decision was in response to complaints filed anonymously with the ASA.

Dr. Ian Paisley, recently-resigned First Minister of Northern Ireland and one of the founders of the church, said that the church would not comply with the order, even if it members are jailed.

“We believe the Bible is the written word of God – the infallible word of God, and it has to be obeyed, so we will obey God rather than men, and if it means there has to be court proceedings, if it means even that we are going to be jailed for holding on to this, then that’s a price we have to pay, and we are prepared to pay it,” he said to the press.

Rev. David McIlveen, pastor of the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church, was equally unyielding. “As a church we remain firm in our conviction that it is better to obey God than man; and that no counsel of man men and women (sic) can alter, dilute or remove the sincerely held views that are authorised through the message of the Bible,” he wrote in a recent statement publicized in the Belfast Newsletter (

“It has never been our intention to deliberately offend anyone, but we cannot deny that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ will by its very nature be a source of offence to those who rebel against its message and in turn despise its messengers,” he continued.

“By instructing the Kirk Session to seek the advice of their own copy team ‘before publishing future marketing material’ we see as an unwarranted interference into church affairs. It is totally unacceptable for any church to look to an outside body for their approval to print gospel tracts that are based on the word of God. This we cannot and will not do.”

  Contact Information:

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
  Mid City Place
  71 High Holborn
  London WC1V 6QT
  Telephone 020 7492 2222
  Textphone 020 7242 8159
  Fax 020 7242 3696
[email protected] 

  Rev D McIlveen
  Sandown Road Free Presbyterian Church
  Sandown Road
  Belfast, Northern Ireland
  Tel: 02890 797757

Related Information:

Statement by Rev David McIlveen