Mayor of Lon­don: Cin­ema ad ban will be re­versed

The Church of England - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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