The advertising standards watchdog has rejected a claim that a controversial advert reporting increased homophobia, and depicting the Bible next to a pool of blood, implied that the teachings of the Bible were responsible for violence against gays.
It also rejected claims that the advert fuelled prejudice against Christians.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) did however agree that some Christians would be offended by the advert, because it implied that Christians were the perpetrators of the reported incidents.
The national press ad placed by the Gay Police Association in The Independent newspaper was headlined "In the name of the father".
It reported that in the last 12 months, the Gay Police Association had recorded a 74% increase in homophobic incidents, "where the sole or primary motivating factor was the religious belief of the perpetrator."
"Verbal abuse and physical assault against gay men and women is a criminal offence and should always be reported to the police. Discrimination against gay people in the workplace is also unlawful and should be reported to employers, who have a duty of care to prevent it. Homophobia can never be justified and must never be tolerated" the advert said.
Following the publication of the advert, a letter writing campaign was launched by several conservative Christian groups to trigger a public prosecution against the Gay Police Association. However the campaign failed to bring about a public prosecution.
Other groups such as the Evangelical Alliance also wrote to the Advertising Standards Agency saying that the advert implied the teachings of the Bible and Christianity were responsible for and condoned violence against homosexuals.
In a judgement released yesterday however, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rejected the claim.
"We recognised that the juxtaposition of passionately held iconography, such as the Bible, alongside the image of blood, was likely to be deemed inappropriate by some" their judgement stated.
"While we appreciated that the imagery might cause concern, and notwithstanding the GPA's argument, we considered that supporting text clarified the context of the images and headline: we considered that, overall, the ad did not imply Christian teaching was responsible for, or condoned, homophobic incidents."
The ASA also rejected the claim made by the Evangelical Alliance and several members of the public that the ad was irresponsible because it singled out Christians for vilification and discriminatory stereotyping, which could incite violence towards people of faith and fuel prejudice, particularly against Christians.
"Although it featured only Christian artefacts, given the context of the ad in a supplement of the Independent dedicated to the issue of diversity, we considered it unlikely to be interpreted by most readers as inciting violence towards people of faith or fuelling prejudice against Christians" their statement said.
The ASA however did agree that the advert would be found offensive by some Christians. It also found that the ad wrongly implied that all homophobic incidents were violent.
The regulator also said it had not seen enough evidence to support the statistics quoted in the advert, a claim which Kevin Boyle from the GPA denies.
He told PinkNews.co.uk: ìThe GPA never refused to supply any material, we made it clear to the ASA that as there was a criminal investigation underway so we could not supply the material.î
The ASA told the GPA to ensure future campaigns are not presented in a way that could cause undue offence and also reminded them that they should ensure the use of imagery did not send misleading messages to consumers. They were also asked to ensure any statistics could be substantiated and reminded them to show supporting data to the ASA upon request.