A Napier church has taken down a controversial billboard that claimed Jesus heals cancer and replaced it with one claiming Jesus heals all sickness and disease - a quote from the Bible.
The Equippers Church billboard which displayed the phrase 'Jesus heals cancer' caused outrage amongst many, and sparked an Advertising Standards Authority investigation after nine complaints were laid.
The sign bore a tally of six to signify the number of people the church claimed had been healed of cancer.
The church has now replaced the sign with a new billboard displaying a summarised sentence of a Bible verse: "Jesus heals every sickness and every disease - Matthew 4:23".
The original billboard's claim particularly disgusted the Condin family, whose 3-year-old son is undergoing treatment for leukaemia.
Taradale resident and mother of two Jody Condin said she saw the new billboard yesterday.
She felt the replacement was still misleading.
"I'm pleased they've taken it down but I don't think the new sign is much of an improvement.
"I still think that that could bring harm to those who haven't been cured from every sickness and every illness. I still think that's giving false hope. I believe that [the church] can heal the soul, but I don't think they can heal every disease and every illness."
She had watched an Equippers church-goer who explained his belief the church had helped cure his cancer on television, but felt he came across as believing his religion had mainly helped him spiritually.
"He'd had surgery and medication so how does he actually know that Jesus healed him? There's no proof really. It's giving false hope that Jesus alone can heal."
Ms Condin had previously emailed the church several times, but received no response. When she visited the church, she was told staff were too busy to talk to her.
Her unhappiness was not with religion, she said, but against the thought of false hope around an emotional issues such as cancer or disease in general.
"It's nothing to do with anti-religion, and totally to do with morals.... It's not as black and white as they say.
"[The sign] just comes across as really arrogant and ignorant. In trying to give a message of hope, it's hurting people, so why would they want to do that?"
Ms Condin struck a nerve since going public with her opinion, and has received emails and phone calls from fellow supporters across the country, some of whom had lost loved ones to cancer.
Ms Condin now hoped the billboard would be replaced by a message of hope or positivity.
Equippers Church Napier senior pastor Lyle Penisula could not be reached for comment today but said in a statement that the church never intended to create offence, division or contention with the original billboard.
"Our passion as a church is to provide a place of support, hope and healing as we seek to build and encourage people in their relationship with Jesus Christ," he said in a statement.
He said the 'Jesus heals cancer' statement was more than just a statement, as the church had seen six people healed of cancer.
The new sign was created in an effort to not divide the community, he said: "Therefore we have removed that emotive work cancer."
"Religious advertising and freedom of speech are vital components of a free and democratic society and to try and rule against this form of advertising using the measure "truth in advertising" cannot and should not apply for faith based or religious advertising."
Mr Penisula said the church would now write to the Advertising Standards Authority informing them the billboard had been renamed.
- APNZBy Hayley Hannan Email Hayley