Church of Scientology ad banned by ASA for 'misleading' claims over volunteer work

An ad promoting the Church of Scientology has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), for "misleading" claims that the organisation had provided aid to 24 million people worldwide.

The ad (which can be seen in full above) told viewers "our help is yours", with on-screen text stating: "The Church of Scientology works with volunteers from many faiths to help people [...] giving aid to 24 million in times of need" and was accompanied by images of two Scientology volunteers carrying a person on a stretcher and another Scientology volunteer with a stethoscope around her neck, holding a baby.

The campaign was created by Golden Era Productions, an agency which is operated by the church to produce promotional material. The company is staffed by members of the group's religious order, Sea Organisation.

The complaint, which challenged whether the claim could be substantiated, was upheld by the ASA which asserted that it had concerns around how the figure accompanying the imagery had been calculated.

The religious organisation said that the figure was based on the total number of individuals helped by its volunteer ministers between the years of 1998 (when it started keeping records) and 2014.

It further explained that at disaster sites, the aid provided by its ministers included providing medical assistance, food, water and shelter with volunteers undertaking such tasks as "rescuing people buried under rubble" and "reconnecting survivors with their loved ones". The regulator said that evidence to support these statements was "anecdotal".

"Because we had not been provided with suitable evidence to show how the specific figure of 24 million had been calculated and that it was accurate, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was likely to mislead viewers," said the watchdog.

The church has been warned not to show the ad again in its current form, and the ASA has urged the group to ensure they hold "adequate evidence for any claims that viewers were likely to regard as objective and capable of substantiation."

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