Banning the Lord’s prayer – how outrageous (if it were true)

The tabloids do love a good moan about how Christians are persecuted in this country.  It’s lost on them that representatives of the faith enjoy a privileged position in our Parliament and national life. So today’s stooshie about the Church of England’s ad, or, even more sensationally, “the Lord’s Prayer”  being “banned” is an early Christmas Present for the tabloid editor.

Except nobody has banned anything as the subsequent prevalence of this short advert proves.. In fact, if the agency who runs the advertising for the three biggest cinema chains had accepted the ad, they would have been breaking their own policy, which is not to accept religious or political adverts. They were a bit burned last year when they received negative feedback after running independence referendum ads in Scottish cinemas and were understandably reluctant to repeat the exercise.

You have to hand it to the Church of England for playing this brilliantly. Without handing over a penny, everyone in the country now knows how to access their advert. It’s embedded into many news articles about the row, it’s on their website, it’s on You Tube, it is everywhere.  They have managed to simultaneously complain about it being banned while ensuring that many more people have seen it than would have done over Mockingjay and popcorn.

On balance, I’m quite comfortable with the DCM policy of not taking political or religious advertising. Frankly, on the politics side, when I go to watch a film, I don’t want to be bombarded with stuff that would make Fox News blush like people are in the States. We regulate our political advertising in this country so that the deepest pockets can’t buy elections.

I’m not particularly worried about being offended by adverts, so I’m not wildly impressed by their explanation.  I am offended by ads all the time. I’m always finding fault with ads – they might be sexist, gender-stereotyping, pushing the boundaries of what’s legal, mind-numbingly banal or nowhere near as good as they were when I was growing up  And then there’s money.  The ambrosic ale made by a micro-brewery may be a million times better than the market leader’s product, but they aren’t going to get a chance to advertise,  even if they wanted it, because they don’t have the money. It isn’t a fair fight. The government of the country is a great deal more important, even than beer,  and it shouldn’t be down to the highest bidder.  So, more to the point, is the EU Referendum.

 

 

With religion there is just as much potential for “negative feedback” that it’s hardly surprising that a company would want to avoid that firestorm. It would be lovely if we could all have a civilised conversation about religion but if we can’t even manage it within christianity, it doesn’t bode well. Also, the arguments around the richest organisations also apply as much to religion as to politics.

Unless you think that everyone should be invited to every meeting or that the Guardian should be compelled to publish every article or letter every sent to it, then I’m not sure that when you look at all this controversy, there’s very much to see.

What do you think of it all?

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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40 Comments

  • I think you are right regarding the issue of it being ‘banned’. It is such an emotive word, especially to a Liberal, and one that can cloud an issue within seconds. That they didn’t ban anything, just chose not to run the advert, is the point lost in much of the reporting (it is solid click-bait material, so the lure of Mammon – to keep it religious – yet again won the day over balance).

    Any private business should be free to show what they want and when they want, so long as the follow the relevant laws (and they are free to campaign to change the ones they don’t). If a customer is offended by a decision then they can chose not to go and if the Church wants to use over avenues , such a digital marketing, they are free to do so. And this, to me is the crux, of the issue – free speech includes the right of people not to include yoru view, you have no entitlement that your view must be listened to. Those who confuse that point are the ones who end up talking about being banned, when instead people are just chosing to look elsewhere.

  • What I thought is handily placed on my blog.

  • How is it not ok to refuse to sell a cake based on the point of view iced onto it, but simply a matter of choice not to sell an advert based on the point of view in the ad?

  • Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

  • Simon McGrath 24th Nov '15 - 8:09am

    ” The ambrosic ale made by a micro-brewery may be a million times better than the market leader’s product, but they aren’t going to get a chance to advertise, even if they wanted it, because they don’t have the money. It isn’t a fair fight.”

    Actually they are doing rather well :

    http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2014/oct/21/british-craft-beer-breweries-export

  • My favourite post of yours, Caren. Well done, exactly what I was thinking and I couldn’t have said it better.

  • I am an atheist but I do see Christians being marginalised. Banning people wearing a cross at work is one example while allowing other religions free rein to outwardly show which one they follow.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Nov '15 - 9:38am

    @liberachi: The first issue you mention is a clear breach of the Equality Act as it was discriminatory on the grounds of sexual orientation. The second is a policy decision not covered by law and applies to all members of that protected characteristic (i.e. religious belief) equally.

  • Actually, the DCM did NOT have a policy on religious and political ads before this incident. The members agreed to refuse them but had not formally adopted it as a policy (although they now have). As I understand it the CoE only found out about this ‘policy’ after they had submitted the ad. From prior conversations they had every expectation that the ad would be acceptable. I find rather offensive the suggestion that the church was playing a clever game.

  • Liberachi 24th Nov ’15 – 12:47am….How is it not ok to refuse to sell a cake based on the point of view iced onto it, but simply a matter of choice not to sell an advert based on the point of view in the ad?….

    That thought occurred to me.. Perhaps, Caron, you could explain the difference between this action and .Ashers Baking Company who were found guilty for refusing to make cake featuring gay pressure-group slogan?

  • I go to the cinema at least twice a week and I always turn up before the advertisements start (to avoid the “you’re sat in my seat” scenario – why don’t people understand allocated seating?!). I watch the advertisements each time and I have to question DCM’s consistency in the application of their own regulations. In addition to the independence referendum adverts in Scotland, I have personally witnessed advertisements from the Alpha Course and also the EU’s “So European” advertisement, which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNZmDrV_MpA. This was in the Cineworld chain of cinemas, which is regulated by DCM.

    As to whether or not I think DCM were right to not show this particular advertisement, I think they were correct. When you are in the cinema, it is not as if you can just choose not to watch or listen to an advertisement that is being shown in contrast to say, a street preacher, whom you can simply walk past. People should not be subjected to unwarranted, forced proselytizing from any religious person. Religion is a personal matter and should be kept as such, however as Anne mentioned, I have no problem with someone wearing an outward sign of their religion whether it be a cross, a turban, a yarmulke, a niqab etc.

  • Richard Church 24th Nov '15 - 10:02am

    The advertising agency has a policy not have political or religious adverts, that’s it, end of the story. It’s not about ‘I don’t want to be bombarded with x faith’.

    We are all bombarded with adverts every day, unless we are recluses, most of which are for things that we don’t want and don’t like, are bad for our health or might leave us impoverished. We see Christian adverts, even humanist adverts on billboards and buses. I’d rather see the humanist ones than the Christian ones, but I can’t complain.

    How is it OK to object to an advert about a prayer, but not to a fizzy drink that rots children’s teeth and leads to obesity, diabetes and early death?

  • Richard Church – see my comment above. DCM now has a policy but didn’t until this erupted. Otherwise why would it have allowed ads for the Alpha Course and the Scottish Referendum?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 24th Nov '15 - 10:39am

    @Mary Reid: This is directly from DCM’s policy and terms and conditions (effective from 1.1.15) on their website:

    http://www.dcm.co.uk/uploads/documents/1.FINAL_20847121_3_Digital_Cinema_Media_Limited_s_Advertising_Policy.pdf

    To be approved, an Advertisement must:
    have been cleared as compliant with the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising;
    have received any necessary classification (for example a film classification for age rating);
    not in the reasonable opinion of DCM constitute Political or Religious Advertising; and
    otherwise comply with DCM’s Terms and Conditions (effective from 1 January 2015), as published on DCM’s website (http://www.dcm.co.uk/).

    According to the Guardian article I linked to the policy was changed after objections to ads during the independence referendum.

    I stand by my point about the church – they have used the situation to ensure that many more people have heard about the ad than would have done otherwise. I find some of the language that they have used quite questionable, but fair play to them – they’ve got it noticed.

  • Well, I’m old enough to remember full cinemas just after the war and a mass dash by everyone to the exits when the credits started to roll up to avoid standing for the national anthem……………….. not a coincidence that there was a huge Labour landslide in 1945 ? Jeremy C. would probably have been first to the bus stop…..

    Flag wagging patriotism now seems to be confined to ‘heroic’ over paid footballers and the ex-pat non-dom proprietors of the right wing tabloid press (I include the Telegraph in that).

    As a semi-agnostic with Quaker tendencies The Lords prayer doesn’t offend me in the least nor is it likely to cause riots in the streets of London.

  • The change after the Scottish referendum was to remove the word “party” from in front of political so that the policy would in future cover stuff like the referendum adverts which were non-party-political but still brought in record numbers of complaints.

    This is not a new policy. As a film geek I have been aware of it for a long time. Yes, the wording has slightly evolved, but the basic policy hasn’t. I’m really sorry, Mary, but someone has been feeding you total lies.

  • The Church designed the advert knowing full well that it wouldn’t be allowed to run. They knew exactly that they would get far more publicity from the faux ‘outrage’ of the ‘banning’. They don’t have a director of communications for nothing. After all the image ‘pain’ we get in the media I’d hope people here might be a bit wiser.

  • The Dalai Lama’s response to prayers after the Paris attacks was reported in the Independent:

    “People want to lead a peaceful lives. The terrorists are short-sighted, and this is one of the causes of rampant suicide bombings.

    We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.

    We need a systematic approach to foster humanistic values, of oneness and harmony. If we start doing it now, there is hope that this century will be different from the previous one. It is in everybody’s interest.

    So let us work for peace within our families and society, and not expect help from God, Buddha or the governments.”

    I suppose the approach the Dalai Lama is taking is similar to the one the majority would have towards those who would pray for an end to climate change! Clearly this is another problem that humans need to solve for themselves.

  • Stephen fry 24th Nov '15 - 1:48pm

    Today DCM tried to clarify its position on the timing of the policy’s drafting, saying it had been in place since 2008 but only recently published on its website.

    DCM said: “Digital Cinema Media has a long-standing policy of not accepting ‘political or religious advertising’ content for use in its cinemas, which has been in place since our inception in 2008.

    “However, we recently took the decision to make it visible on our website along with all our other terms and conditions.

    “This policy has been in place for many years and we are confident it is correct and fair.”

  • Helen Tedcastle 24th Nov '15 - 1:56pm

    This statement from the article struck me as rather strange on a website dedicated to liberal values of liberty, equality, community and of course freedom of expression:

    ‘ With religion there is just as much potential for “negative feedback” that it’s hardly surprising that a company would want to avoid that firestorm. It would be lovely if we could all have a civilised conversation about religion but if we can’t even manage it within Christianity, it doesn’t bode well. Also, the arguments around the richest organisations also apply as much to religion as to politics.’

    ‘With religion’ – what does this mean? Religion is not a monolith, it complex yes and it’s diversity is astonishing. Why does this mean an advert company should refuse to show an advert on the Lord’s Prayer?

    Who is ‘we’? We can and do have civilised discussions about religion on this website and elsewhere. It is going on now.

    It strikes me that this is the kind of argument put forward by those secularists who not only want to split church from state but also want to banish any meaningful discourse about religion to the private sphere. The former I have much sympathy with, the latter is worryingly illiberal and intolerant.

    The advert – I have seen it – is thought-provoking and does not seek to persuade anyone to join the Church of England. The advert company which controls 80% of the cinemas in the UK feared an advert on prayer might offend people of other faiths. As people of other faiths also pray, that’s unlikely. Those who might be offended are those worried their profits might take a hit before Christmas or the NSS and their supporters, who would prefer it if religious people didn’t make a fuss about being squeezed out of the public square.

    Of course we can talk about religion and religious issues. That’s what people do in an open, free and pluralist society.

  • Ben Jephcott 24th Nov '15 - 2:57pm

    Mary Reid is correct – the saga highlights why this whole affair is so disquieting. It seems clear that the rules were changed after the ad had been filmed and submitted.

    A liberal society is one which defends the right to the public expression of religious or non-religious belief and cultural praxis. The decision by this cinema chain runs counter to that.

  • @Liberachi (24th Nov ’15 – 12:47am) – The key similarity and difference between the two cases is published policy.

    The bakery had failed to have a written policy about what work it would or would not accept and hence the court decided that by not having a relevant policy they were, as a business, bound to accept the order.

    It seems that DCM implemented the amendment to their policy at some stage between the CofE commissioning the ad and them presenting the final ad to DCM.

    I suspect that if the CofE qualified for legal aid, someone might be tempted to take the case through the courts, but instead some degree of “common sense” was applied and the opportunity to exploit viral marketing was used to great effect…

  • Helen Tedcastle 24th Nov '15 - 3:37pm

    @ ‘Stephen Fry’ (funny, your famous namesake thinks it’s ridiculous to ban the advert).

    DCM (the company that made the decision not to show the advert in UK cinemas) said that it’s their policy not to show adverts from religious groups because “some advertisements – unintentionally or otherwise – could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith”. That’s a pretty clear explanation that the advert will not be shown in case it causes offence.

    In a free society, one which values freedom of speech, we should be concerned about this.

  • Geo
    “How would you react to a hard sell of Islam ?”
    When I lived in the Middle East I would turn the TV off when anything came on like that.

  • Helen Tedcastle 24th Nov '15 - 8:02pm

    Mary Reid wrote: ‘ Actually, the DCM did NOT have a policy on religious and political ads before this incident. The members agreed to refuse them but had not formally adopted it as a policy (although they now have). As I understand it the CoE only found out about this ‘policy’ after they had submitted the ad. From prior conversations they had every expectation that the ad would be acceptable.

    I find rather offensive the suggestion that the church was playing a clever game.’

    Exactly right Mary.

  • @Jennie
    “This is not a new policy. As a film geek I have been aware of it for a long time. Yes, the wording has slightly evolved, but the basic policy hasn’t. I’m really sorry, Mary, but someone has been feeding you total lies.”

    Some people from the CofE have made very specific claims that DCM had been actively trying to sell advertising time on its screens to the church :-

    http://www.christiantoday.com/article/was.the.lords.prayer.banned.by.cinemas.and.does.it.matter.if.so/71409.htm

    e.g. the Bishop of Chelmsford stated that “DCM had given positive encouragement & offer of discount until a few weeks ago. No policy then.”

    Either the Bishop is – as you claim – a liar, or DCM’s policy has been a lot more fluid than they are making out now.

    My view is that DCM should have the right to ban the ad, but the Church and others (including Richard Dawkins I see) are correct to point out that the ban is ludicrous and the reasons given for it are pretty contemptible. On the semantic point about whether DCM have really “banned” anything – of course they have. A ban does not have to be total to be a ban. Hence LDV editors have talked in the past about “banning people” from these pages. If LDV can ban people from their website, DCM can certainly ban adverts from their cinemas.

  • Stuart: from what I’ve seen since posting yesterday it may have been a case of the sales department promising something that was explicitly against policy. I’m sure most of us have seen sales people promise things they can’t deliver in our own work environments. I’m a little less inclined to be cynical about the CofE than I was yesterday, but only a little, because as well as showing that the fault was with the sales department the email chain I saw today (if real, and that’s a big if) shows they knew the advert wasn’t going to be run in August. So the fuss NOW drill seems a bit manufactured.

  • I think the point about equalities needs revisiting. It is a narrow view of religious belief that would suggest that DCM treat all religious belief equally. It seems to be clear that the secular capitalist promises of main stream advertising combine to make very clear claims about fundamental religious values ( e.g. the nature of the world; the individual; of happiness; and the path to human fulfilment). At this time of year they do so by hijacking a religious festival (albeit long before it starts, and declaring its finished the moment it begins). Ironically, this capitalist religion refuses “good money” to broadcast an advert that promotes a differing perspective. Indeed, capitalism is so insecure, it is the only major religion that places no value on quiet, stillness or contemplation; the last thing it wants to do is encourage people to pray when they could be desiring a new car, or feeling guilty about not buying their child an x-box.
    As a gay christian, I find the banishing of religion to the private sphere just as oppressive as when homosexuality was banished to the private sphere. Increasingly it seems that the main stream media either present religious views, and religious people in caricatures or, as in this case, simply hides us altogether.

  • Matt (Bristol) 25th Nov '15 - 5:27pm

    I have fairly strong religious views, have worked in the religious media in a lowly serf role and have to agree with the viewpoint that the Church has got more out of this in terms of short-term publicity than if the ad had been shown quietly and peacefully. I hope that was inadvertent, but am sceptical.

    The cynic in me suspects that if it had been shown peacefully, they would have released press releases trying to show that what they were doing was ground breaking and in some way ‘risky’ (I don’t know, drawing attention to the presence of skinheads, prisoners, whoever it was that seems controversial in the ad) in the hope that the Mail and Express might throw a bit of oil on the fire for them.

  • @Jennie
    “from what I’ve seen since posting yesterday it may have been a case of the sales department promising something that was explicitly against policy. I’m sure most of us have seen sales people promise things they can’t deliver in our own work environments.”

    Yes, it’s possible this was all a mistake. But given that DCM’s entire policy consists of only two rules and can be condensed to four words (“No politics, no religion”) don’t you think it’s pretty extraordinary that the sales people were apparently unaware?

    Alas, I’m probably paid a fraction of what the head of the DCM sales department is paid, and yet the first thing I would have done with any employees would have been to spend literally five seconds familiarising them with the policy.

  • David Evans 25th Nov '15 - 6:49pm

    Caron “We regulate our political advertising in this country so that the deepest pockets can’t buy elections.”

    Surely you jest!

  • Lynette James 28th Jan '16 - 6:14pm

    I can’t quite understand why nobody seems to be complaining about cinemas bombarding us all with adverts for products that can actually harm or even kill us. Why are we told by the government that we should not be consuming fatty foods, sweet sugary drinks, too much meat etc. and yet no one seems to complain about the cinemas promoting such products. Would a vegan not be highly offended by adverts from Burger King or KFC, a struggling alcoholic by adverts for beer or whisky and a father or mother struggling with financial problems being shown endless adverts for designer clothes and a myriad of toys they can’t possibly afford? All these can potentially cause harm whereas a film about prayer cannot. Which should be banned?

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