Sunday, 13 December 2015

EHRC statements on cinema advertisement ban

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission issued the following statement on 11 December:

Statement on Freedom of Expression and the Lord’s Prayer

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has today announced that the issues raised by Digital Cinema Media’s (DCM) decision not to show a Church of England advert about the Lord’s Prayer in cinemas, will be examined as part of a major Commission report.

This report, examining the adequacy of the law protecting freedom of religion or belief, will be published early next year. The DCM decision has generated significant public concern about freedom of speech.

The Commission, the national expert in equality and human rights law, has also offered its legal expertise for the purpose of intervening in the case should the Church take legal proceedings against DCM.

The Commission has written to DCM to highlight the importance of Britain’s long tradition of freedom of expression and to reiterate its concerns about the justification for not showing the advertisement being that it risked offending audiences. There is no right in Britain not to be offended, and respect for people’s right to express beliefs with which others might disagree is the mark of a democratic society.

Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath, said:

“We strongly disagree with the decision not to show the adverts on the grounds they might ‘offend’ people.
“There is no right not to be offended in the UK; what is offensive is very subjective and this is a slippery slope towards increasing censorship.”
“We also understand why people were confused that a commercial Christmas can be advertised but the central Christian prayer cannot. We will therefore examine the issues raised by this case as part of our major review into the law protecting freedom of religion or belief, and publish our findings in the new year.”

Earlier, on 23 November, the Commission had issued this statement: Commission comments on Christian advert being banned from cinemas

Commenting in response to a Christian advert being banned from being shown in the cinema, a Commission spokesperson, said:

“Freedom to hold a religion and freedom to express ideas are essential British values. We are concerned by any blanket ban on adverts by all religious groups.
“Digital Cinema Media have said an advert could cause offence to those of differing faiths or without belief. There is no right not to be offended in the UK; what is offensive is very subjective and lies in the eye of the beholder.
“This does not mean groups or individuals are free to express themselves without restriction. Freedom of expression can be and is restricted but only in order to prevent violence, abuse or discrimination for example. There is nothing in law that prevents Christian organisations promoting their faith through adverts.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 13 December 2015 at 2:55pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | equality legislation

What nonsense from people who should know better.

Cinema chains are private businesses, to which free speech protections don't apply. Churches have no more right to dictate what theaters show than theaters have the right to dictate the content of sermons. (Though it'd likely be an improvement if they did!)

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 13 December 2015 at 9:42pm GMT

I think the ECHR have really lost the plot here. I think they are now saying that cinemas and others are obliged to take anything and cannot give thought as to whether people will be offended or not on grounds of freedom of expression. OK. Can we now start counting down from 10 until all manner of stuff now has to be beamed onto cinema goers in the name of being offended to prove we have freedom of speech - Satanists, atheists, pro and anti abortion and all manner of unusual religious groups will surely avail themselves of their right to offend others with private entities having no recourse. Yes there is the right to offend on occasions but surely not a duty to do so.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 13 December 2015 at 11:45pm GMT

@ James Byron. Agreed. Freedom of speech is not honored when governments, or bureaucrats, or established religion can tell a media outlet what they must carry. The church is a bit of party crasher on this one, no? Can't get a crowd at evensong, so let's muscle in on the Star Wars crowd and harangue them.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 14 December 2015 at 1:17am GMT

If government is about to determine what adverts cinema chains must accept, let's abandon all pretense and let government dictate which movies may be shown as well.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 14 December 2015 at 5:34am GMT

"Cinema chains are private businesses, to which free speech protections don't apply"

Not sure why being a private business has much to do with whether the law applies to you or not. It didn't work as a defence for the 'gay cake' bakery.

And there are much better reasons (as this thread already shows) for cinemas not to allow religious advertising. I think it's good for free speech for the 'someone might be offended' excuse for banning religious content to be given a decent burial.

Posted by: David Keen on Monday, 14 December 2015 at 10:15am GMT

In total agreement with James Byron. This is a nonsense. A private business can show what the hell it wants in its own chain of cinemas, to please and satisfy its customers as it sees fit.

The equivalent would be to insist that Satanists should be allowed to have a slot in church services to promote their beliefs, 'because they have a right to offend'.

Not that I am having a go at Satanists.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 14 December 2015 at 10:31am GMT

James Byron does not seem to realise that the cinemas first accepted the Lord's Prayer video and even offered to show it at a discount. Their censorship was an afterthought.

It will be interesting to see what advertisements will now be run alongside Star Wars, and what values they promote.

Posted by: John Barton on Monday, 14 December 2015 at 11:48am GMT

David: free speech protections in particular don't apply to theaters, since free speech is protection from government coercion, and no business, not even Trump Tower, has its own dungeon.

John, if the cinema chains caused the Chruch of England to lose money by making then withdrawing an offer, the church may be able to sue for breach of contract, or something similar. Free speech is simply irrelevant.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 14 December 2015 at 2:50pm GMT

"There is no right not to be offended in the UK"

There is in the advert reel shown before a U, PG or 12A film, because small children are legally entitled to be there and the adverts must be compatible with the certificate of the main feature. For 12A films then usually the front matter is certificated at U. It's unusual for adverts and trailers to be certificated at PG or 12A, because those (in theory at least) rely on parents reading the certification material; you don't get that choice before being shown adverts or trailers. So any advert of trailer shown prior to a film certificated at 12A (as The Force Awakens is) will itself be at U. It's hardly difficult to make the argument that in a multi-cultural society, running adverts for religion X to children being raised in religion Y could cause offence, and in a way which parents have no way to deal with (as you aren't told in advance which adverts there will be).

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 14 December 2015 at 3:19pm GMT

Yes. Please, whine and get offended. That'll show 'em how the Christian faith is different and able to weather insults.

I mean, really! In the face of something this egregious, this horribly anti-Christian, what are persecutions in the Middle East, or even beheading, crucifixion, or being burned to death on a metal grid? You had your advertisement pulled! And in the Christmas season, clearly indicating how Christianity has been allowed no place at all in the public forum!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Tuesday, 15 December 2015 at 7:48am GMT
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