Complaints about a controversial Napier church billboard claiming "Jesus heals cancer" have been upheld by advertising officials.
The Equippers Church sign, which also displayed a tally of six to signify the number of people the church claimed had been healed of cancer caused outrage among many people, and sparked an investigation with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after nine complaints were laid.
The complainants argued the advertisement was offensive to people with cancer, misleading, as it lacked proof for the claim, and was socially irresponsible.
The ASA complaints board acknowledged the church had no intention of causing offence with the billboard and instead wanted to provide a message of hope.
However, it upheld the complaints, ruling the advertisement had "neither been prepared nor displayed with the due sense of social responsibility required" and, therefore, breached the code of ethics.
Equippers Church senior pastor Lyle Penisula said while the ASA decision was disappointing, it did not change their beliefs.
"It doesn't really change what our stance is, we still believe that Jesus heals cancer.
"I think it's a statement of belief and faith, and our statement ... Wasn't just a statement, it was a testimonial of healing," he said, referring to the tally of six on the billboard.
In its response to the ASA, the church said the original claim, "Jesus Heals Cancer" was an expression of Christian beliefs and was supported by results.
"Our belief is substantiated by the fact six people within our congregation have testified to Jesus healing them from cancer.
"It is also our passion to provide a place of support, hope and healing as we seek to build and encourage people in their relationship with Jesus."
The Equippers Church said it never intended to cause offence with the billboard, but acknowledged it may have done so to some members of the community and as a result it had since replaced the "offending" statement.
The replacement billboard displayed a summarised sentence of a Bible verse: "Jesus heals every sickness and every disease - Matthew 4:23".
Mr Penisula said what the ASA's response would be to a scripture reference on a billboard would have been interesting.
The billboard's claim particularly disgusted the Condin family, whose 3-year-old son is being treated for leukaemia.
As part of her submission to the ASA, Jody Condin described the sign as "offensive and upsetting".
"This is dangerous and deceptive as it could potentially offer false hope and lure in the vulnerable in their time of illness and sadness."
Mrs Condin said last night she was "pleased and relieved" at the decision.
"I understand that the church plays an important role in giving people faith and support during illness and in times of need," she said.
"But when writing their billboards the church needs to be more sensitive and thoughtful so as not to offend, hurt or mislead."
Had the original billboard simply stated "Jesus heals", she did not think there would have been an issue.