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Google Lifts Ban On Controversial Christian Institute Ads

Religious organizations can now use Google AdWords, as long as their ads don't shock people.

A United Kingdom evangelical Christian charity has settled a legal complaint brought against Google after the company agreed in an out-of-court settlement to allow religious groups to place factual ads related to abortion.

"As a result of the court action and other representations made to Google in recent months, Google has reviewed its AdWords policy to enable the Christian Institute and other religious associations to place ads on the subject of abortion in a factual and campaigning way," The Christian Institute said in a statement."The new policy will apply world-wide with immediate effect. This is an important issue of free speech and religious liberty and we are pleased with Google's constructive response to this matter."

Google said that the issue of abortion is a subject that stirs strong emotions and that the company does not take a particular side. "Over the last few months we have been reviewing our abortion ads policy in order to make sure it was fair, up to date, and consistent with local customs and practices," a Google spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. "Following the review we have decided to amend our policy, creating a level playing field and enabling religious associations to place ads on abortion in a factual way."

In March, Google refused to allow an ad from the Christian Institute to run. It read:

U.K. Abortion law
Key views and news on abortion law from The Christian Institute

Google said in an e-mail to the group, "At this time, Google policy does not permit the advertisement of Web sites that contain 'abortion and religion-related content.'"

In April, the Christian Institute's legal counsel informed Google Ireland in a letter that the company's policy violated section 46 of the U.K.'s Equality Act 2006. The letter notes that Google permits groups like "Reality Check" to promote contrary beliefs about abortion and that it permits anti-religious T-shirts that link to the search keyword "secular."

Google's AdWords Advertising Policies no longer prohibit abortion ads placed by religious groups.

"Under our new policy, religious associations will be able to put up ads on Google in a factual and campaigning way," explained a Google spokesperson. "This means that their ads need to aim to educate and inform, not to shock. The ads can refer to government legislation and existing law and the alternatives to abortion. But, they cannot link to Web sites which show graphic images that aim to shock people into changing their minds. In terms of campaigning, this means that the ads can link to Web sites which are taking a particular view on a piece of government legislation. But, once again, those Web sites cannot possess graphic images or language that aims to shock people."

The Christian Institute believes that the Bible "is without error not only when it speaks of salvation, its own origins, values, and religious matters, but it is also without error when it speaks of history and the cosmos."

The charity has campaigned in the United Kingdom against abortion, euthanasia, gambling, and gay rights. In 2004, it was criticized by a member of Parliament for spending money on political ads in The Times rather than funding charitable work.

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