Right to Life Appeals BSA Decision on Offensive Powershop Poster

The Chairman,

Advertising Standards Authority,

Dear Sir

Re: Powershop Billboard Advertisement – Complaint 12/688

Thank you for your letter of 24 January 2013 and your decision on the above complaint.

I wish to appeal the decision on the following grounds:

  • There is new evidence of sufficient substance to affect the decision.
  • That it is in the interest of natural justice that the matter be reheard.

The Chairman refers to a previous Complaints Board Decision [10/488]. The Complaints Board was of the opinion that the caricatures were not representative of a group or groups of people.  I respectfully challenge that conclusion. Catholics make up one seventh of the population in New Zealand and are the largest denomination in this country.  To portray the Pope blessing a same sex marriage is ridicule firstly of the person of the Pope and secondly  the teaching authority of the Catholic Church that rests in the Pope and thirdly the belief of Catholics that the institution of marriage is exclusively between one woman and one man.

Catholics have a great affection for the Pope and closely identify with him. To ridicule the Pope is in effect to ridicule Catholics and their loyalty to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.    

The Chairman stated that showing the Pope blessing the marriage was another example of the Advertisers strategy of using irony and humour and in keeping with the advertiser’s campaign slogan of “same power different attitude.” There is a place for humour and satire in advertising there is however no place for ridicule. Bishop Pat Dunne, Catholic Bishop of Auckland, said in an interview with Radio NZ on 12th December that he was outraged by the offensive billboard which was “highly offensive”. He had written to Powershop and requested that the billboards be taken down immediately, they refused. Bishop Dunne was echoing the sentiments of the Catholic community.

Catholics are very conscious that in the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church there have been periods of intense persecution. Today this is happening  in Egypt, Iran and Iraq. This is marked with Catholics being driven from their homes, arson attacks on Churches and the murder of innocent people. Persecution starts with ridicule  and humiliation and can escalate ultimately to violence against persons and property.

On the issue of privacy, the chairman noted that the permission of the Pope was not needed as the image is a cartoon used for satire. Is it then permissible for the image of the Pope to be used for ridicule and humiliation without his permission as long as it is a cartoon?

The Chairman states while acknowledging the offence the advertisement had caused the complainant, the Chairman said the advertisement before her did not reach the threshold to be said to cause serious or widespread offence in light of generally prevailing community standards. 

I believe that the offending billboard breaches Principle 2 in that it portrays the Pope in a manner which has caused serious widespread contempt and ridicule.

I believe that this complaint is of great importance, if this complaint is not upheld it will be giving a very strong message to the advertising industry that the ridicule and humiliation of the Pope is acceptable. 

Yours sincerely

Ken Orr


For another view on Powershop’s Billboard click here


  1. Rhona says

    Given the former Holy Father’s recent resignation, perhaps it might be worth providing a tribute to his various acts of assistance to the pro-life cause?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *