ASA: Jesus' mother sex billboard not offensive

The St Matthew-in-the-City Church billboard implies Mary is no longer a virgin. Photo / Supplied
The St Matthew-in-the-City Church billboard implies Mary is no longer a virgin. Photo / Supplied

An Auckland church is hoping its Easter message will prove "interesting" to the public, but doesn't expect it to match its controversial Christmas billboard, which led to complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ASA backed St Matthew-in-the-City, ruling that the Christmas billboard outside the Anglican church last December was not offensive.

The billboard, which attracted attentions overseas, showed a picture of Mary and Joseph in bed and carried the caption: "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow".

It was vandalised several times and, after a woman attacked it with a knife, the church removed it out of concern for public safety.

Spokesman the Rev Clay Nelson said the church was pleased but not surprised by the ASA decision.

"We feel our case was strong and they agreed," he said.

"We can move on now from Christmas and get ready for Easter."

Mr Nelson said the Easter poster was still being worked on, but "a good billboard is a hard act to follow".

"We hope it will be interesting," he said.

"We really don't try to provoke for provocation's sake, but if it's interesting, we're pleased, because it gets people talking."

However, the Easter billboard was unlikely to elicit the strength of reaction that the Christmas one did.

"We've been putting up billboards for some time and we thought some of them were equally creative but this one got the attention," he said.

"It would be wonderful if it's equally interesting as the last one, but I'm not holding my breath."

Among the complaints the ASA received was that the billboard was insensitive, blasphemous and ridiculing of Christian beliefs.

However, the ASA said the billboard might have been controversial, but it wasn't offensive.

It depicted no naked people or sexual acts, and "had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society".

It also said St Matthew's was entitled to put forth and advocate a message about the beliefs held by the church.

- NZPA

- NZ Herald

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