Thursday, 12 April 2012


No, that's not a typo for Hot Baths.

HOTS Bath has been in the news of late, whereas I don't recall hot baths making the headlines - unless perhaps on a water-shortage-drought-restrictions kinda story.

I have only become aware of this group in the past few days, even though they operate on a regular basis a short walk from my home. "HOTS" stands for "Healing On The Streets" and is an evangelical Christian group who choose to engage with the "hurting" (their word) public by inviting them to be healed of an enormous variety of physical and mental ailments and illnesses. That long list includes some pretty serious conditions including cancer.

The redoubtable Hayley Stevens initiated a complaint about them to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on the sole basis that they were making unsubstantiated claims to be able to heal medical conditions in a way likely to mislead the public. Not, as Hayley has made clear, that they hold a belief that God (or Jesus, or whatever apex of the trinity seems to work, I suppose) can heal, or that they were simply declaring their beliefs. She has made it perfectly plain that she is not hostile to Christians in words understandable to the meanest intelligence.

The substance of the complaint was upheld by the ASA and they have substantially modified the wording on the leaflet which they hand out to the passing (and hurting?) public.

Today I went to observe HOTS in action. There they were. There was their vertical blue banner emblazoned with the single word HEALING. There were the folding wooden chairs, all in a nice neat row. There were the team members: some laying on hands and praying, some mooching about the crowds with a silly half-smile, handing out leaflets. I took my place on a bench nearby and watched. After about 20 minutes, one of the team approached me and handed me a leaflet. I said something like, "What's this all about, then? What are you claiming to be able to do?" The reply was well-briefed, I feel. "We are not claiming to do anything." Then some blether about God's love and I have to admit I kinda switched off a little bit here. "Think about it," the kind lady said.

Like the fool that I am, instead of keeping my own counsel, I confessed that I had already given their activities quite a lot of thought, that I felt they were preying on the vulnerable and that some of their material could be argued to breach the criminal law (specifically the 1939 Cancer Act). She wandered away, leaving me to my thoughts.

After a short stroll to clear my head, I hovered around them again. To my completely unsurprised horror, a couple of these people had now begun to work on two children, which they had sat on two of the nice wooden chairs. They were two boys of about ten or eleven I would guess. They seemed to be getting the full-on prayer stuff (but no laying on of hands; these guys are clearly au fait with the law!). Now this got me really angry and outraged. When this nonsense was over, one of the boys was visibly upset (or moved by the holy spirit or crap like that).

Then I walked up to one of the women team members and calmly and politely asked what they were doing to those children. This really put the wind up, and she assured me that their work with children was only with the accompanying adults' consent. A few more words were exchanged before she called over the team leader. He said that they were aware that I had a "few issues" with them today. I made my views perfectly clear that they were making claims to heal, that they were preying on the vulnerable and that some of their promotional material (on-line, including YouTube clips) was arguably in breach of the criminal law, and I quoted the Cancer Act. One of their clips on YouTube clearly headlines cancer at about 3:38 in. I reminded them that holding a "belief" is no defence of a criminal act and that it may be advisable to bear the Cancer Act in mind when providing material or when engaged in acts of street healing. The exchange was serious but courteous on both sides, and my advice was given not because I would love these people to wind up in the criminal courts, but simply because I would like them to comply with a law written, let's face it, to protect the frightened and vulnerable.

If you Google "hots bath" their links are at the top, including a sub-link to their Training Manual (or Manuel, as they say within). This makes fascinating reading, especially if you search within it for the word "cancer".

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post, for your actions and your pointing to the "Training Manuel" -- I'll certainly be taking a look.