Warning: This post contains an (unpaid) advertisement posted for comment and analysis.
If you are offended by pictures of men dressed as bridegrooms and women dressed as brides, proceed with caution. If the words ‘I do’ seem ‘homophobic’ to you, you should not click through. If references to a poll distress you, read no further. If requests to sign a political petition upset you, please leave this blog immediately. 🙂
I cannot verify the ad’s accuracy. These may not be actual brides and grooms, who actually said, ‘I do.’ The poll may have been flawed, the petition may be imperfect. Read on at your own risk. 🙂
The following advertisement, when appearing on a blog, triggered an investigation by the Advertising Standards Agency due to allegations that it was ‘offensive’ and ‘homophobic.’
The blogger (language warning, and I do NOT endorse everything he writes) was told:
We intend to deal with the complaint as a formal investigation, which means it will be considered by the ASA Council. We will then draft a recommendation for the Council based on your response to us. Once the Council has made a decision, the adjudication will be published on our website.
…We require you to explain your rationale for the ad and comment specifically on the points raised in the attached complaint notification…
The required response has to include:
robust documentary evidence to back the claims and a clear explanation from you of its relevance and why you think it substantiates the claims. It is not enough to send references to or abstracts of documents and papers without sending the reports in full and specifically highlighting the relevant parts explaining why they are relevant to the matter in hand.
He was instructed to keep the investigation confidential, but refused.
Here’s the ad:
This is homophobic? The word has always been ill-defined, but this stretches it into meaninglessness. A semi-official “authority” is now a weapon against political opponents. As the blogger states in a later post, ‘the mere request is a formidable weapon of harassment in itself, sapping energy, time and money.’
A Case to Answer?
I would merely view it as out of control extremists and bungling bureaucrats if I hadn’t taken the time to check the ASA website, and their Broadcast Complaint Handling Procedures. So bear with me as I bore you with bureau-blather.
‘No additional investigation’ cases
20. The Complaints team does not submit to Council cases that it believes involve frivolous complaints or those that relate to ads that clearly do not breach the Code. The team closes those cases directly by writing to the complainant explaining that there has been no breach of the Code.
Key point #1: The Complaints team was incapable of recognising that this ad clearly does not breach the Code and that the complaints were frivolous. That alone is disturbing. ‘Homophobia’ is a magic word that unlocks all doors and shuts down all thought.
‘No additional investigation after Council decision’ cases
22. After assessing both the complaint and the marketing communication against the Code, the Executive will recommend to Council that there is no case to answer. If the Council thinks there is a case to answer, then the case will go forward for formal investigation (see below). If the Council thinks that there is no case to answer, the complaint will not be pursued.
Key point #2: Neither the Executive nor the Council was prepared to say, ‘There is no case to answer.’ Even at the higher levels, the ASA kowtows to the pro-homosexual bigots.
Not An Informal Investigation
It could have been an ‘informal investigation.’ Here’s the text on informal investigations (I used numbers 1-4 for clarity).
25. The Complaints and Investigations teams have the discretion to resolve cases informally at any stage of the complaint process. Reasons for offering/agreeing an informal resolution include but are not limited to if the teams consider an apparent breach:
- is minor and clear cut
- is unlikely to be of interest, in terms of indicating where the ASA draws the line, to other advertisers
- can otherwise be resolved between the parties promptly and with a view to quickly amending or withdrawing the marketing communication or
- has been remedied by an advertiser taking immediate and relevant action before or immediately after being contacted by the ASA.
This was upgraded to a formal investigation before they contacted the blogger or the advertiser to see if they would quickly amend or withdraw the ad (points 3 & 4). The ASA considered this a non-minor issue and wanted to set a precedent. This was not merely about this one advertisement.
This same section goes on:
The decision to resolve cases informally is likely to be taken only if:
- the number and/or seriousness of the complaints does not provide good reason to investigate the case formally
- there is complete co-operation on the part of the advertiser
- there is no obvious pattern of unwillingness or inability to comply with the Code
- the ASA has not incurred a significant expense through instructing an expert or seeking a legal opinion
- there is no pressing need to investigate formally to for e.g. establish a policy on the particular issue or to form a view of a particular marketer’s compliance to help inform CAP Copy Advice’s or Compliance’s work
- the advertiser has a good record of honoring previous assurances or
- the advertiser has fewer than four informal resolutions in the preceding six months (in exceptional circumstances, taking into account the advertiser’s business, this number may be higher).
So either ten complaints (point #1) of homophobia by a few militants triggers a major investigation and intimidating legal hassles, or point #5 is operative — the ASA wanted to establish a precedent. And that’s really the story here. This is not about one ad that someone didn’t like, it is about a complete censorship agenda in which the ASA willingly took part.
In 2010, only about one in 10 ASA cases were formal investigations. But this one made the grade, because someone wanted a precedent — any political opposition to the homosexual agenda is ‘homophobic’ and impermissible.
There has been some strong criticism of the ASA. They tried to back-pedal, issuing a misleading statement saying they were just trying to get views. The blogger in question begs to differ, and gives specific text from their threatening letter.
In all probability, they will back down. The complaints are absurd, their letter is absurd, and they were already getting bad publicity on this one — and it just got worse.
Meet Lord (Chris) Smith of Finsbury. The first openly gay British MP, he served in Tony Blair’s first cabinet. In 2005 he became a life peer. He is Vice President of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Four days ago the following video was posted in which he supports gay marriage and says he wants the option to marry another man.
Lord Smith is Chairman of the Advertising Standards Agency.
Conflict of interest? Stunning hypocrisy? His quasi-governmental agency, with no remit in political advertising, intimidated and harassed someone over a political ad. Meanwhile he (the Vice President of a group committed to an opposing political position) is personally making videos opposing the view of those his organisation is ‘investigating,’ an investigation which was upgraded to a formal investigation beyond any reasonable interpretation of their own guidelines.
I don’t usually get too involved in politics on this blog. It’s not always profitable, and sometimes negative for believers to get caught up in it. Too often, we are tempted to get angry about politics. We shouldn’t get angry or fearful, and we shouldn’t be surprised.
But neither should we be deceived. The current controversy is NOT about ‘rights’ in private matters. It is also about censorship, about silencing those who disagree. If you oppose the agenda, you will not only be labeled ‘homophobic’ and ‘offensive,’ you may have legal and financial harassment. It’s only been worse since the Blair government (of which Lord Smith had been a part) brought in civil partnerships. ‘Gay marriage’ will only make it worse, not better.
I DO see value for Christians in being aware of political matters, and we still have the right to speak out on them. But that isn’t my main point for writing on this today.
Why I Wanted to Discuss This
The political controversy, and the frequent tactics of trying to bully the opposition into silence, highlights the insecurity of the homosexual lobby. It isn’t enough to make their case — they have to censor the opposition. Homosexuals are desperate for acceptance, so they must silence those who don’t accept.
In 2002, in advocating civil partnerships, the Social Exclusion Minister, Barbara Roche, stated:
It would send a powerful message about the acceptability of same-sex relationships and about the unacceptability of the homophobia still far too prevalent in our society.
Everything in the homosexual political agenda is about sending ‘a powerful message about the acceptability of same-sex relationships.’ Why? Insecurity. But government can never send enough ‘powerful messages’ to solve that problem.
Romans 1 tells us within every person is a knowledge of God, a God you will have to face one day. You may suppress the knowledge, you may fight it, but it remains — and when that God-awareness surfaces, the person engaging in homosexual sin has a problem. So does every other kind of sinner, but in the homosexual community, it’s unanimous. They have a shared sin, and with it comes shared guilt and shared guilt-feelings.
They can silence Bible-believing Christians. We don’t have enough political power to stop them. Others may be persuaded to aid their agenda, and powerful forces are actively working to persuade. Every significant voice in society today affirms homosexuality. Government, entertainers, major news media, sports figures, even many religious figures, everyone is campaigning against ‘homophobia,’ which is defined loosely enough to label just about anything (even wedding pictures).
But you can never silence the voice inside you. You can suppress it, but it doesn’t go away, it just hangs on. Any time anyone speaks up and says, ‘Wait a minute,’ that voice is louder in your ear than all the public megaphones proclaiming, ‘This is acceptable’ — because deep inside, you know it isn’t acceptable. Even if the time comes that you’ve won every political battle, and no one ever says it anymore because those who do have all been thrown into prison, that voice will still be there inside you.
That voice is the reason so many homosexuals commit suicide, and suffer so many mental problems. It’s the reason substance abuse is such a problem — if only you could silence that voice. Profligate promiscuity is rampant, because you are looking for something, someone, anything, anyone, who will make you feel good about yourself, some way to silence that voice.
The Real Solution
The thing that is driving the political agenda, the motivation behind attempts to silence anyone who disagrees, is a real need. And it is REAL.
Homosexuals NEED acceptance…
…but they do not need exoneration.
Homosexuals do not need to be mocked, criticised, or called names. They need the Gospel. They need love, real love, the love of Christ who died for them. They don’t need a silly ‘I’m ok, you’re ok’ exonerating kind of ‘love’ that says that it doesn’t matter what you do. Of course it matters what they do. They need the love that says that ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8), the love that says it does indeed matter and calls us all sinners, but loves anyway, loves all the way to the Cross.
All the inner turmoil, the suicidal thoughts, the despair, the fear, the rejection, the desperation and loneliness that so often leads to promiscuity in the search for some kind of love, all of that can be handled by a love that died for us. It’s a love that says it doesn’t matter what you are or were, what matters is what you are going to be when you follow Christ, what He is going to change you into. He takes sinners and makes them saints, takes homosexuals and makes them holy, takes the lost and lonely and makes them lovely in His sight.
None of us need exoneration. We all have our sins, we all have our guilt, whether homosexual or heterosexual or other kinds of guilt. We all need to acknowledge our rebellion against God, and come to Him accepting His loving forgiveness, and follow Him.
The deep yearning in the heart of all people for love, for acceptance, will never be found by trying to pretend that something is ok, when it isn’t. It doesn’t matter how many voices say it is ok, when it isn’t. It doesn’t matter how few are willing to say it isn’t ok, when the voice inside you won’t be quiet. It doesn’t matter if you can even silence the voice inside you most of the time, because God has said it isn’t ok, and you’ll never silence Him.
The answer is in turning to a God who loves us before we are ‘ok’ and begins to change us and make us ‘ok.’ He proved how great is His love, by sending His only Son to die for us. It’s not a selfish love, like so many others who supposedly ‘love’ you. It’s not a dishonest love, pretending that things are ok when they aren’t. It’s a life-changing love.
Until they find that kind of love, homosexuals will continue to be political activists. They’ll still search for more and more acceptance, more political concessions, more restrictions of the freedom of B&B owners, printers, churches and anyone else who disagrees with them. It’s not a cause for fear or anger, but for sadness. Christ is the answer, but they aren’t asking the right questions.
” And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” 1Cor 6:11 Before this verse is a diverse list of sins, and yet Christ can rescue from them all. The most “offensive sins” are rarely our own. Which is why we are so agreeable that they are offensive. Proverbs 6 lists other” abominations” that are much more “acceptable in church” and yet separate from God just as well. Good article and emphasis Bro Jon. No politics can save the world, ONLY JESUS.
Thanks, Patrick. We do indeed tend to be more offended by the sins of other than by our own. That doesn’t mean we cease to speak truth about all sins, but it does mean we do so humbly, acknowledging freely that we were saved by grace, not by our own merit. Not one of us deserves salvation.