Updated again Monday morning
The official press release with this headline is here:
The Church of England has said it is “bewildered” by the refusal of the country’s leading cinemas to show a 60 second advert of The Lord’s Prayer, adding that the “plain silly” decision could have a “chilling effect” on free speech.
The Church’s response follows its launch of a new website to promote the renewal of prayer in a digital age.
The website JustPray.uk creates a place for prayer with advice on what prayer is and how to pray. The site also provides a “live prayer” feed of prayers being prayed across the globe via Twitter, Instagram and Vine.
The Church has produced an advert promoting the new website to be shown in cinemas from December 18 2015 as part of the ad reel before Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The 60 second advert features Christians from all walks of life praying one line of the Lord’s prayer and includes weight lifters, a police officer, a commuter, refugees in a support centre, school children, a mourner at a graveside, a festival goer and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Church has announced today that the country’s three largest cinema chains Odeon, Cineworld and Vue – who control 80% of cinema screens around the country – have refused to show the advert because they believe it “carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences”…
The Daily Mail has detailed coverage of this story: Archbishop Welby’s fury at cinema ban on ‘offensive’ Lord’s prayer: Church threaten to sue after plug pulled on advert due to be shown to millions at Christmas.
Towards the end of the article there is this:
…At the end of August, a bemused Rev Arora spoke to Andy Edge, commercial director for Odeon and a board member of DCM, who agreed to try to resolve the issue.
However, in another email sent on September 16, DCM’s finance director Paul Maloney told Rev Arora: ‘Having fully looked into the matter, I am afraid we will be unable to take forward the proposed Church of England campaign … DCM has a policy not to run advertising connected to personal beliefs.
‘Our members have found that showing such advertisements carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences.
‘We at DCM had first-hand experience of this risk when we and our members received considerable negative feedback from audiences following our decision to allow both Yes and No campaigners to run adverts in the lead up to the Scottish independence referendum.
‘Having learned from this … the board of DCM took the decision not to run any advertising promoting any religion or political views.’
The Church’s chief legal adviser, Stephen Slack, then wrote to the UK Cinema Association, an umbrella organisation that took over the dispute from DCM, saying the decision was ‘extremely disappointing’.
He warned it could ‘give rise to the possibility of legal proceedings’ under the Equality Act, which outlaws commercial organisations from refusing services on the grounds of religion.
However, the Association’s chief executive Phil Clapp said the DCM was within its right to refuse to show the film.
Rev Arora said: ‘In one way the decision of the cinemas is just plain silly but the fact that they have insisted upon it makes it rather chilling in terms of limiting free speech.’ Last night Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: ‘Religious freedom is a cornerstone of British values. The public will find it surprising, particularly at this time of year, that cinemas have reacted in this way.’
Here is a link to the DCM advertising policy document. The key paragraph which prohibits all religious advertising is this:
Religious Advertising means… advertising which wholly or partly advertises any religion, faith or equivalent systems of belief (including any absence of belief) or any part of any religion, faith or such equivalent systems of belief.
Some further media coverage:
…Rev Arun Arora, the Church of England’s director of communications, told the Telegraph: “If they want to be consistent on not carrying any ads that have any connection with religious belief, I’d like them to cancel all ads linked to Christmas as a Christian festival.
“If they’d like to apply it consistently, ban every ad that mentions Christmas.”
He said DCM’s decision, which was condemned by atheists and other faith groups alike, was “chilling in terms of limiting freedom of speech”.
Yorkshire Evening Post Bishop of Leeds Bishop of Leeds: Lord’s Prayer cinema ban is due to “illiteracy of a liberal culture”
Guardian Giles Fraser Banning the Lord’s Prayer from cinemas is nonsense on stilts
According to a new article this morning in the Daily Mail
…Yesterday it emerged that DCM, which controls 80 per cent of UK cinema advertising and is jointly-owned by Odeon and Cineworld, was so eager to host the advert in July that an agent offered the Church a 55 per cent discount.
But on August 3, he claimed the cinemas would refuse to show the clip, saying ‘our hands are tied by these guys’.
Executives later said that DCM had turned the advert down because its policy prevented it airing trailers ‘connected to personal beliefs’.
Finance director Paul Maloney emailed the Church in September claiming DCM decided not to show any political or religious adverts following complaints during last year’s Scottish referendum, when it allowed both Yes and No campaign videos.
In an email on September 17, he said there was ‘no formal policy document’ on religion.
But yesterday DCM claimed its decision was based on its ‘policy of not accepting political or religious advertising content for use in cinemas’ – pointing to a document on its website as evidence.
Analysis by the Mail reveals this document’s creation date was last Friday – just two days before the farce was revealed by the Mail on Sunday.
DCM did not respond last night to questions about when the policy had been written.