ASA accused of “sinister threat to freedom of expression”

The National Secular Society (NSS) has accused the advertising watchdog of “reintroducing the blasphemy law” following its decision to ban the Antonio Federici ice cream advert showing two priests about to kiss.

The secularists are calling on communications minister Ed Vaizey to investigate the Advertising Standards Authority’s decision to ban the ad which shows two men dressed as priests about to kiss with the strapline: “We Believe in Salvation”.

In a letter to Vaizey The National Secular Society says that banning the “mildly humorous and satirical” ads “represents something much more sinister”.

It goes on to say: “We have now reached the stage where any reference to religion that is not completely reverential is immediately branded as “offensive” and therefore unacceptable. This is an intolerable threat to freedom of expression that must be challenged.

The organisation adds that banning the campaign for being offensive to Catholics on the basis of six complaints equates to reintroducing the blasphemy law in Britain.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, says: “The Advertising Standards Agency – which is elected by no-one and seems to be answerable to no-one – has reinstated the law unilaterally.”

“Anyone who has seen the Antonio Federici ads knows that they are mildly humorous, in no way threatening, abusive or insulting. It is entirely wrong that these advertisements have been banned by such an unaccountable body, which needs to be reined in.”

The ASA had no comment.

It is the third ad campaign from the ice cream company that has been banned by the ASA. The others showed a pregnant nun eating ice cream and a nun kissing a priest.

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