Judge overturns ban on homophobic church ad

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A judge has overturned an Advertising Standards Authority ban on a church advert which railed against gay sex.

The ad, by the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church in Belfast, was published in 2008 in the Belfast News Letter ahead of Belfast Pride and was called ‘The word of God against sodomy’.

It contained verses from the Bible describing gay sex as an “abomination”, referred to “sodomy” and called gay people perverts.

After seven people complained, the ASA ruled that the ad was in breach of its code of practice. The church then won the right to a judicial review.

Today, a judge ruled that the ASA’s decision violated the church’s rights to freedom of expression.

According to the BBC, Mr Justice Treacy said: “The applicant’s religious views and the biblical scripture which underpins those views no doubt cause offence, even serious offence, to those of a certain sexual orientation.

“Likewise, the practice of homosexuality may have a similar effect on those of a particular religious faith.

“But Article 10 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) protects expressive rights which offend, shock or disturb.

“Moreover, Article 10 protects not only the content and substance of information but also the means of dissemination since any restriction on the means necessarily interferes with the right to receive and impart information.”

He added that it did not condone violence and was not likely to provoke it.

Rev David McIlveen, of the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church, said he was delighted at the “landmark” verdict.

Speaking outside the court with the Rev Ian Paisley, he said: “We want to make it clear we had nothing against the seven people who objected to the advertisement.

“This is a landmark now for future decisions. People can quote the Bible and that’s a freedom that we have sought.”