A TV advert for the Church of Scientology has been banned for misleading viewers over claims it gives aid to tens of millions of people. An on-screen text during the commercial claimed the organisation "works with volunteers from many faiths to help people" and that it was involved in "giving aid to 24 million in times of need".
The advertisement also showed images of Scientology volunteers carrying a person on a stretcher and another with a stethoscope around her neck while holding a baby.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a complaint about the promotion challenging whether the number of people it helped could be substantiated and whether the advert was misleading.
The Church of Scientology, which was rejected UK charity status but receives tax exemptions, said the claims were based on figures of those helped by Scientology volunteer ministers between 1998 and 2014. They said volunteers were frequently sent to disaster sites where they distributed medical assistance, food, water and shelter.
However, the ASA said the evidence handed over by the organisation to prove what aid was given was "anecdotal". The UK watchdog also had concerns about how the data, in terms of number of individuals providing aid, had been calculated.
In a ruling published on 2 March, it said: "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. Furthermore, we had concerns that there appeared to be no checks in place to ensure that individuals who were given aid were not counted more than once towards the overall figure.
"The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told the Church of Scientology International to ensure they held adequate evidence for any claims that viewers were likely to regard as objective and capable of substantiation."