Thinking Anglicans

Church of England “bewildered” by cinema ban on Lord’s Prayer

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 website for the campaign is here, and the advert itself can be viewed from here.

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.’

Updates

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:

BBC Lord’s Prayer cinema ad snub ‘bewilders’ Church of England

Guardian Cinemas refuse to show Church of England advert featuring Lord’s Prayer

Telegraph Ban Christmas ads if you don’t like religion, Church tells cinemas

…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.

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JCF
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JCF

Speaking only as an Ignorant Yank, if I saw this advertisement (rather lovely as a short video) in a movie theater, I would *cringe*. Perhaps a PSA (public service announcement) to “Just Take a Moment and Reflect” might be a message of value (to which not even savage capital could object!). But “Just Pray (the Lord’s Prayer)” is an admittedly *particular* prayer that is going to be objectionable to many [see re You Tube comments]. It amazes me that, in 2015, churches propose evangelism campaigns that act like there’s still a Christian hegemony in Western culture—as if you could just… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

Well, this Hoo-Ha will certainly draw more attention to the Lord’s Prayer, which can only be a good thing. I recall that when the then Bishop of Wakefield condemned Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure” sales rocketed. A cinema ban can hopefully arouse and stir up greater interest in the greatest prayer of them all. But why not stick to either traditional or contemporary language rather than mix up the twain? Justin starts off – “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be YOUR name”, then the next speaker comes in with “THY Kingdom come” one or the other per-lease !

victoria
Guest
victoria

Good try, in my opinion “Our creator”… would be an even better start.

Jesse Zink
Guest
Jesse Zink

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” and “give us this day our daily bread” have always “offended” the powers and principalities—as well they should.

Cassandra
Guest
Cassandra

This is becoming more mysterious by the hour. So, back in September, it was already clear that the ‘proposed’ ad would not be shown? But they went ahead and made it anyway and then decided to make a fuss now? Does anyone know whether this was funded from a special donation to Allchurches?

Cassandra
Guest
Cassandra

And while we’re at it, can anyone explain why below the justpray logo on justpray.uk there’s the address of ihopkc.org, who run such things as http://www.ihopkc.org/about/global-bridegroom-fast/?

Kate
Guest
Kate

Why did nobody check DCM would be happy with an advert like this before it was commissioned?

Spirit of Vatican 2
Guest
Spirit of Vatican 2

I too would cringe.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

I’m astonished that the church should be “bewildered” about not being allowed to advertise to a captive audience of all faith and none. It has nothing to do with free speech – no-one is banning the advert, it is freely available on YouTube and the Church is free to offer it to anyone who might want to see it, maybe in churches all over the land. It might have been different if they had got together with all the other major faith and humanists to make an advert about the power of peaceful belief and prayer/meditation. Today’s Songs of Praise… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

There is an old expression, freedom of the press belongs to anyone who owns one. Movie theaters don’t want to alienate their customers. The movie chains are probably inadvertently doing evangelical types a favor on this one. The promoters of evangelism may actually get the opposite result they desire by aggravating folks who came for the escapism of the show. You want to promote this kind of thing? Go get a soap box and stand on it in a public space, like the guy with the mega phone and the evangelical bluster out on the street in front of Primark… Read more »

Lorenzo
Guest
Lorenzo

Why are Arora and our Abp bewildered? We’ve just received a little booklet from the CofE, the EA and Hope called ‘Talking Jesus, Perceptions of Jesus, Christians and Evangelism in England.’ In it, I read that over 71pc of our contemporaries are left feeling awkward or ‘glad not to be a Christian’ by evangelism. I expect the movie people have read it too. The CofE spin on its own booklet? “Let’s prioritise… talking about Jesus… one in five is open to him.” 29 percent, to be exact.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

Many of us are genuinely ‘bewildered’ that marriage is banned for lesbian and gay Anglicans by the Church of England.

Could this be poetic justice ?

However, the following quotation demonstrates both lack ironic sensibility and very thin ice :

‘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.’

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

It isn’t exactly a “ban” if they aren’t showing any religious or political ads. If they had some form of bias (running them for Jehovah’s Witnesses but not for the CoE) then you’d have a problem. But in this case it just sounds like a policy to avoid religion, beliefs, politics, etc. This is hardly the end of the world and no reason to stir up animosity among the public.

robert ian williams
Guest
robert ian williams

I am in total agreement..allow this and you will get the Mormons and all others promoting their creeds.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

Total joke.

Cinema chains are private, for-profit businesses, so free speech arguments don’t apply; no *person* is being discriminated against because of their beliefs; and religious freedom isn’t close to being absolute.

This, is short, the kind of entitled, bully-boy posturing that’s toxic to evangelism. Bravo, slow clap, drop curtain.

FrDavidH
Guest
FrDavidH

I agree with JCF that the ad is most likely to make people cringe. I’m all for freedom of speech, but there’s a time and place for prayer, and the cinema isn’t it. I would no more wish to hear the Lord’s Prayer before Star Wars than the proclamation Allahu Akbar. How crass.

Fr William
Guest
Fr William

I too would cringe for reasons given by others. The crassness of our leadership – also seen in today’s news about the ABC doubting God esp because Paris was such a nice place to live – beggars belief. “They are terrible and dreadful; their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves.”

Chris A
Guest
Chris A

Many of us are “bewildered” by the overt discrimination against good priests like Jeremy Pemberton and Jeffrey John. It’s a bit rich of Lambeth Palace to shout “discrimination” now. Welcome to the club!

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“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 . . . and the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

Why am I not surprised. Of course the ad had to feature the CEO.

And of course, per the Daily Mail, the CEO “reacted with fury” at a ban on the ad featuring himself.

Spirit of Vatican 2
Guest
Spirit of Vatican 2

And the video is pure rubbish. Has the C of E lost its bearings?

Father David
Guest
Father David

Thank goodness the Lord’s Prayer video includes weight lifters rather than shirt lifters as that would provoke yet another tsunami of comment on the TA Blog about – that sort of thing!

Kate
Guest
Kate

The church sees this as discrimination. I wonder if this might change their attitude to people who feel that the church is the discriminator when it comes to sexual orientation?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

What really worries me is how this links in with the plans to deal with the “demographic time bomb” described in the post above this one on TA. The Observer article includes the paragraph (I assume attributed to John Spence but I can’t be sure) that: Among the changes is a redistribution of funding, largely away from struggling rural parishes to churches in deprived urban areas and those seen as innovative and ***energetic in adapting to social change***. It troubles me that a church wanting to adapt to social change appears not to understand that change. This goes way beyond… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

It would be nice if the CofE would actually learn the meaning of the phrase “chilling effect”, too. It isn’t just a phrase to throw around when a private company declines to accept your paid advertising. Chilling effect is normally used to refer to the self-censoring that ensues from fear of legal action, even if the self-censored speech is lawful and the legal action likely to fail. Nothing like this at all.

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

‘He warned it could ‘give rise to the possibility of legal proceedings’ under the Equality Act,’

But surely the Church of England is exempt from the Equality Act? Oh no, that’s only when it wants to discriminate against LGBT people.

The video should certainly be banned on aesthetic grounds if nothing else. Is this really what our congregations are wasting their money on?

David Runcorn
Guest

Isn’t the bewilderment (‘fury’ is the media word for this) that it had all actually been agreed? It might still be the case that all of us here would have done it so much better (or not at all) but that is not the issue.

Eric MacDonald
Guest

I am astonished that church officials are bewildered at the response of the cinema chains! More surprised that Giles Fraser should call the refusal to show the video “nonsense on stilts.” He says, basically, that no one has a right not to be offended, which is true but irrelevant. It’s true that Bentham used the expression “nonsense on stilts” to pour scorn on the idea of human rights. Bentham lost that particular battle, but using rights language where it does not apply only reinforces Bentham’s reasons for calling human rights “nonsense on stilts.” Which is particularly clear in Giles Fraser’s… Read more »

Alastair Newman
Guest

“Thank goodness the Lord’s Prayer video includes weight lifters rather than shirt lifters”

Agh, Father David, you just made me cackle very loudly in my office!

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Giles Fraser writes great columns. This is not one of his better ones. Cinemas are not public spaces. They are private property housing a business. Theaters are no more required to screen the ad than Starbucks is required to put the baby Jesus on their coffee cups. However, part of the fun in these kinds of controversies is to be found in nuance and detail. Here is a much more interesting ad controversy. A judge in New York has ruled that the Metropolitan Transit Authority has discriminated by refusing to carry “Muslims are Coming” satirical ads, which are sponsored by… Read more »

Fr William
Guest

But, Rod, Starbucks uses the image of the Queen of Heaven, do they not?

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

The cinemas are exercising their freedom of speech — by deciding not to run the ads. Generally speaking, “freedom of speech” refers to freedom of speaking — without THE GOVERNMENT censoring it. I don’t know which “one line” is being repeated over and over again by weightlifters and archbishops, along with weighty bishops and arch lifters, but if this ad runs for one minute while I’m eagerly waiting for that Star Wars’ signature opening chord, I’d be driven batty, and less inclined to think highly of the CofE, Christianity, and the idiot who produced the ad. I detest TV or… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

‘What seems to me genuinely appalling is the use of the Lord’s Prayer to advertise Christianity’. It is not. Not sure how many here realise this is part of a much bigger, creative initiative to encourage people to pray – whoever and wherever they are. http://www.justpray.uk. Quite a Christian thing to do I think.

Fr William
Guest
Fr William

Surely it’s a Jewish prayer?

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

As usual, and from the usual suspects, there is only attempt to deflect, to play martyr, to decry liberal straw men, rather than to ask the only question that should concern us as Christians . . .

How far has the Church sunk, how much has the Church failed humanity, if a simple ad about prayer has become offensive, and what must change so that we no longer make Christ vile in the mouths and minds of humanity?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David Runcorn, I presume that in the new spirit of business clarity the CoE has conducted proper research to establish whether a prayer advert to a captive audience of people of all faith and none is more likely to attract people than it is to turn them off. After all, the “Talking Jesus” report has just shown that far more people think their way of evangelising is received positively than is actually the case. And quite a few recipients of that talk reported that, on the contrary, they were put off by the conversation. Bearing in mind that: – many… Read more »

Eric MacDonald
Guest

Well, David, you and I are fated to disagree. I find it in poor taste. Nor do I find the proposed video in the slightest lovely. ‘Kitschy’comes to mind. And the response to the ‘ban’ (it wasn’t actually a ban, it was a corporate decision – or corproate decisons – not to show the film) by the ABC and others borders on the absurd, making them look ridiculous.

Fr Andrew
Guest
Fr Andrew

‘Do we know who researched the likely responses? And what the result of that research was?’

Erika, I’m sure you don’t actually think someone in Church House actually bothered to do some proper research? Any institution that could propose to squander millions of pounds chasing current evangelical fashion on the back of ‘Anecdote to Evidence ‘[sic] is not going to bother to investigate possible responses to a few thousand blown on a cinema ad is it?

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

@ Mark Brunson re the making of a vile Christ, interesting point, but somewhat flattened out. Vile is a strong word, though it likely describes how many people feel about organized religion of all types. It’s not just prayer that is greeted negatively. For example, if I pay good money for a movie ticket I’m not interested in watching a commercial sponsored by atheist cranks. I particularly don’t want to line up to see Spectre only to have to endure some rhetorical rant from someone like Richard Dawkins. Popcorn is indigestion enough, thank you. But, then I resent all ads… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

Erika I struggle with the idea that a cinema audience is ‘captive’ in relation to any adverts. Everyone knows film starts with them. And how do we know this ad will make people feel preached to? It’s a prayer not a sermon. Don’t you think people can tell the difference? And the evidence is that spirituality is one of the most natural connecting points with people beyond formal church. The Talking Jesus findings have rightly been questioned. ‘If we assume its validity it shows that Committed Christians who speak openly about their faith with friends and colleagues are three times… Read more »

John Roch
Guest
John Roch

And now we are to witness the farce of a question in the House of Lords.

James Byron
Guest
James Byron

“So which is more important? To try – or not to try at all?”

Crucial thing is *how* you try, David. If direct evangelism alienates people — and it’s hard to see how it wouldn’t: how d’you respond to the knock from Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses? — then other methods should be tried, such as evangelizing indirectly via social action and justice campaigns.

Show, not tell.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

David Runcorn, “And how do we know this ad will make people feel preached to?” That’s exactly my question. Did we research how it might make them feel? After all, this advert will have cost a lot of money. And it will have been made with the genuine desire to encourage people to pray. It would have been nothing but common sense to commission proper research to find out whether it would further mission or cause ill feelings. “So which is more important? To try – or not to try at all?” To research first. Otherwise it comes too close… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest

Erika – yes like you I presume this was researched beforehand. James – ‘direct evangelism alienates people’. Evidence please? It has been part of the way faith has been passed on since the beginning. I am grateful to those who were direct with me. But by ‘direct’ I assume you mean methods no one here is seriously advocating – or me? Sensitive and thoughtful but actually audible – inviting the conversation. Yes. I for one want the CofE to discover an unembarrassed evangelistic backbone – and that of course means the risk of getting it wrong. And now, looking back… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

Surely it’s a Jewish prayer? — Posted by: Fr William on Tuesday, 24 November 2015 at 6:25am GMT Very much so. First, Jesus of Nazareth was Jewish, the Gospels say so several time, not least because he was born to a Jewish mother. He didn’t worship himself. But, looking at the prayer itself: “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed is your name.” The traditional response line to the Jewish Sh’ma prayer praises God’s holy name. “Your kingdom come, your will be done.” The same response line to the Sh’ma invokes invokes God’s kingdom. “Give us this day our daily… Read more »

IT
Guest
IT

What would be the response if this were a Muslim prayer? A Hindu one? Or an anti-theist’s screed?

Do unto others…..

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

The church might take some advice from rocker Neil Young,

“Ain’t singin’ for Pepsi
Ain’t singin’ for Coke
I don’t sing for nobody
Makes me look like a joke
This note’s for you.

Ain’t singin’ for Miller
Don’t sing for Bud
I won’t sing for politicians
Ain’t singin’ for Spuds”

Hallowed be thy name indeed. Nothing like hawking your God’s name at the local schlock fest to encourage converts.

MarkBrunson
Guest
MarkBrunson

@Rod Gillis – That wasn’t really my point. Of course, we’re willing to “put up with” vileness. That’s part of being a Christian. It’s required. Kind of basic. My point, however, was that something as innocuous as prayer is likely to offend. While it may be convenient to bemoan secularization or commercialization, or try to share out the blame with other religions, the simple fact is that we fell down – in fact, the Christian faith, in its organizational form, has been falling down a flight of stairs for close on 1500 years. Why is it that it’s become almost… Read more »

June Butler
Guest
June Butler

As I read the comments, I laughed out loud more than once. To have my opinion of the idea to use the poorly executed video as an ad in the cinema and the brouhaha that followed the ban so humorously confirmed was great fun. At first, I was puzzled and wondered if the video and the story might be a spoof, but I soon realized it was all too true, alas.

David Runcorn
Guest

‘if this were a Muslim prayer? A Hindu one? Or an anti-theist’s creed?’ … if it is as sensitive and gracious as this offering, why not?

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“if it is as sensitive and gracious as this offering, why not?” I think this is where my deep uncertainty lies. I have long since recognised that there are many things I find offensive that others don’t find remotely offensive. And that there are many things I see absolutely no problem with, or that I even see as entirely positive, and then I’m surprised by the strength of public feeling against them. I watch in horror what others will tolerate. And I watch in amazement what they cry out about. I have learnt that my own understanding of things is… Read more »