Mayor of London: Cinema ad ban will be reversed
THE MAYOR of London has predicted that the cinema ban on a Church advert will be reversed.
At the weekend it was revealed that Digital Cinema Media had declined a booking from the JustPray.uk group to show their advert on the Lord’s Prayer during the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens showings.
Church leaders and politicians united in their anger at the ban, amid suggestions that it could be open to a legal challenge.
Boris Johnson said on Monday: “This is a prayer that is 2000 years old and informs our whole culture. Expect U turn from cinemas.”
The Prime Minister said the decision was ‘ridiculous’, while the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the ban was “extraordinary”.
The advert, part of the JustPray initiative, features a selection of individuals each reciting a line of the Lord’s Prayer.
However, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue have all banned the advert from its planned schedule during the new Star Wars movie launch.
They said that their policies prevent adverts that are political or religious in nature.
They said the 60-second advert “carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences”. However, the country’s cinema authorities, including the BBFC and the Cinema Advertising Authority have given it the goahead.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, said: “I find it extraordinary that cinemas rule that it is inappropriate for an advert on prayer to be shown in the week before Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.”
He said that Christians would be astonished and ‘deeply saddened’ by this decision.
He denied that the advert, in which he makes an appearance, was upsetting or could offend cinema audiences.
“This advert is about as ‘offensive’ as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day.”
He issued a challenge to the cinema bosses: “I think people need to watch the film and come to their own conclusions as to whether it is offensive or upsetting. Let the public judge for themselves rather than be censored or dictated to.”
The advert has been created to back the launch of a new Church prayer initiative, JustPray.uk, that is intended to revi- talize prayer in the digital age. It is linked with Instagram, Twitter and Vine, allowing users to take part in a live prayer feed.
But Church leaders feel the cinema ban is both “plain silly” and could even have a “chilling effect” on free speech.
The Rev Arun Arora, the Church’s director of communications, said: “The prospect of a multi-generational cultural event offered by the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on 18 December - a week before Christmas Day - was too good an opportunity to miss and we are bewildered by the decision of the cinemas.
“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.”
The deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP, said: “At the start of each parliamentary day, MPs recite the Lord’s Prayer. Cinemas have refused to screen it.”
The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Steven Croft, while disagreeing with the decision, used a sermon to highlight the radical nature of the prayer, a view that was echoed by Northern Ireland Bishop Harold Miller: “Who would have thought that the Lord’s Prayer would be considered a radical?”
Paul Woolley, the deputy chief executive of the Bible Society, said: “There are layers of irony in this decision, since the films that people themselves watch in the cinema are full of religion and politics with which they engage with either consciously or unconsciously.
“The Star Wars film, which the adverts precede, asks whether technology is the greatest power in the Universe controlling human destiny or the ‘force’ – a spiritual gift harnessed by the Jedi.”
The Church also received support from Richard Dawkins, who said it was a matter of commercial judgement rather than a free speech issue.
“If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”
And Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: ‘I am flabbergasted that anyone would find this prayer offensive to anybody, including people of no particular religious belief.
Mark Russell, the leader of Church Army, however thought the row could be a blessing in disguise. He wrote: “This whole cinema ad hullabaloo has given the Lord’s Prayer the best air time since Kate and Will’s wedding!”
The Rev Giles Fraser observed that it was “interesting that the ad agency initially offered the C of E a 55 per cent discount to encourage the Lord’s Prayer cinema campaign.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson and the Archbishop of Canterbury in a scene from the advert