British cinemas refuse to show Anglican commercial; CoE is upset

There’s a religious kerfuffle in the United (?) Kingdom, one that probably wouldn’t occur in the U.S. According to the BBC, many cinemas in the UK are refusing to show a one-minute religious film that highlights the Lord’s Prayer.  The Church of England, which apparently produced the commercial, is miffed:

The Church called the decision “plain silly” and warned it could have a “chilling” effect on free speech.

It had hoped the 60-second film would be screened UK-wide before Christmas ahead of the new Star Wars film.

The agency that handles adverts for the cinemas said it could offend those of “differing faiths and no faith”.

The advert features the Christian prayer being recited or sung by a variety of people.

They include refugees, a grieving son, weightlifters at a gym, a sheep farmer, a gospel choir and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby.

Here’s the commercial; judge for yourself:

Well, it is the UK, but isn’t it some kind of violation of speech to refuse showing a religious commercial? I don’t think so. First of all, the UK doesn’t have a First Amendment (after all, they have a state religion), but even if it did, private enterprises such as cinemas are not forced to show religious commercials.

Indeed, although the commercial was passed by British Board of Film Classification and The Cinema Advertising Authority, the cinemas refused to show it because it violated their general policy to avoid showing religious and political commercials. The main agency for advertising in these cinemas, Digital Cinema Media (DCM), declared “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,” and “in this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally”.

I think that’s a good statement and a smart idea. For if they showed that Anglican ad, there would be no end of religious and political propaganda inflicted on innocent, entertainment-seeking moviegoers. After all, if the moviehouses showed one religious advert, then they couldn’t refuse any of them, and every faith might compete to proselytize the audiences. Besides that, who wants to watch political ads before a film? I’d choke on my popcorn if I had to see an ad for the Tories.

The Church is of course making growling noises about how this violates free speech, and is speaking darkly of possible legal action, but I don’t see this as a violation, any more than I’d see it as a violation if the cinemas refused commercials for atheism or humanism—so long as they also refused religious commercials. Theaters are private enterprises, not public spaces or government agencies, and can refuse certain genres of ads so long as they apply their standards consistently.

The Church of England’s pushback includes a statement by Justin Welby, who I’m growing to dislike more and more.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby said he found the decision “extraordinary”.

“This advert is about as offensive as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day,” he said.

“Let the public judge for themselves rather than be censored or dictated to.”

The Reverend Arun Arora, director of communications for the Church of England, said: “We find that really astonishing, disappointing and rather bewildering.

“The prospect of many families attending the release of the new Star Wars film had seemed a good opportunity to launch the advert and a new website to promote prayer ahead of Christmas.

“The Lord’s Prayer is prayed by billions of people across the globe every day, and in this country has been part of everyday life for centuries.”

He added: “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.”

Well, have they considered that the ad might be offensive to unbelievers and adherents to other faiths like Islam? Look at its title: “Prayer is for everyone.” It’s not for me! And really, would Welby want to see cinema ads featuring Qur’anic verses? And what about statements like the bus ads proclaiming that there’s probably no God and we should enjoy the one life we had? That would surely offend Welby, but if they ran the ad above, they’d have to run atheist ones as well. And believe me, the British atheists and humanists would insist on it!

I don’t recall ever having seen a political or religious ad in a US cinema, and I’m glad of it. Welby and his Anglican minions are simply upset that they can’t push their faith into people’s lives, even at the movies.

Or do readers think otherwise?

h/t: Geoff


  1. Randy Schenck
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I think you nailed with the part about the movies being a private enterprise and they are taking the correct way by not showing any religious or political stuff.

    Remember years ago when they use to show the movie tone news before showing the movie…

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      I agree Randy. The point is the cinemas have a policy, which they apply consistently and fairly to all.

      Whether or not the ad is offensive is irrelevant. It is religious, and there is a policy that religious and political ads won’t be played. End of story.

    • Filippo
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Permalink


      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted November 23, 2015 at 4:17 am | Permalink


    • slandermonkey
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      I don’t understand this idea that when something is a ‘private enterprise’ then you can throw out your constitution.

      Private or not, if you take any ads at all, you should have to every ad that doesn’t break the law. Free speech and all.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        It’s not a matter of throwing out the constitution; the Constitution restrains only governmental power.

        Indeed, by its terms (“Congress shall make no law …”), the First Amendment applies solely to federal legislative authority. Through court decisions it has been extended to the other two branches of government, the executive and judicial. And via the post-Civil War Fourteenth Amendment, it was extended to state and local governments.

        Nothing in the text or history of the Constitution would support applying the restrictions of the First Amendment to private entities of persons.

      • Richard C
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        Freedom of speech does not mean that you have the right to blast your message on someone else’s 7-story IMAX screen if they don’t want it.

        There are a whole lot of things you can legally yell on a street corner that no private venue will let you broadcast to their customers.

  2. eedwardgrey69
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Free Speech = Commercial Businesses HAVE to play our commercials!
    Sincerely – The Church of England.

    Also, I’d recommend another line:

    Praying. It’s for people who want to do nothing and still feel self righteously good about it.

    • Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      i said something very similar some years ago:

      “the power of prayer: for those times when you’re too full of yourself to offer real help.”

      • papalinton
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        Prayer is what you do when you can’t do anything useful.

        • Posted November 22, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

          Prayer: It’s the least you could do.

          • Diane G.
            Posted November 22, 2015 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

            That’s my favorite.

  3. John Hamill
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    The same cinema group also refused to show advertisements from the British Humanists. They have a policy not to touch anything relating to religion or lack thereof.

    It’s understandable. Some pretty unsavoury views might be classified as religious and if they accept one they’d have to accept them all.

    • divalent
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      Jerry said (and you concurred) “After all, if the moviehouses showed one religious advert, then they couldn’t refuse any of them, and every faith might compete to proselytize the audiences. ”

      I don’t believe this is correct. A private entity can chose to show just one religion’s commercials, or show some from some religions, but specifically refuse to show some from others.

      (This would be the case in the US (i.e., they would have to show all) if it was a goverment entity selecting what could be shown and they decided to air this particular commercial.)

      • nightglare
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think that’s right. If they took business from some religious groups but not from others they would be guilty of religious discrimination, which is against the law in the UK. Presumably having a blanket ban on all religious advertising does not fall foul of the law, because it does not single out any particular religion.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        As nightglare points out – IIUIC – in the US, if you do business with someone, then you have to do business equally with anyone who comes wanting to do business with you. So, no “we don’t serve niggers/ poofs/ commies in this here restaurant” debates. Serve one, serve all.
        In that respect, it’s nothing to do with free speech. It’s an even playing field for business and a ban on discrimination. Hence, for example, last year an Xtian family who ran several rooms of their family home as a “bed and breakfast” refused to accommodate married homosexual couples on the same basis as other people ; and they were duly slapped down by the courts and have left the industry. They tried a free speech argument, and were told by the courts “don’t apply here, mo-fos!” (I paraphrase).
        CoE probably think along the lines that “we don’t charge for the advert”, betraying a lack of appreciation of “opportunity cost” (IIRC) that also keeps them on our doorsteps trying to save our shoes when we’ve already told them that we’re our own cobblers. (I think that’s the line of cobblers they’re gibbering on about, but it’s hard to tell).

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

          “in the US, if you do business with someone, then you have to do business equally with anyone”

          I think you meant “in the UK” ?


          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted November 23, 2015 at 4:53 am | Permalink

            (It seems there are (is?) two of me. I though WP had lost my post so I re-posted but it seems more likely I mistyped my email address in the box the first time…


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

          “in the US, if you do business with someone, then you have to do business equally with anyone”

          I think you meant “In the UK” ?


          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted November 23, 2015 at 12:56 am | Permalink

            For this aspect, I think the two systems have pretty much the same effect.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted November 23, 2015 at 5:01 am | Permalink

              As Diane said, Hobby Lobby. I think they could be in trouble if they were located in UK.


              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted November 23, 2015 at 7:48 am | Permalink

                I knew of the Hobby Lobby case. But I thought that they got slapped down by the courts. Or am I mis-remembering? (Or, is it out to appeal, to the profit of several law firms?)

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 23, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

                Hobby Lobby took their case to the SCOTUS and won, 5-4.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted November 24, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

                And the trumpeted mass boycotts and bankruptcy … haven’t happened? So much sound and fury, signifying nothing? (Cue Ben’s trumpet.)
                Ah, democracy.

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 25, 2015 at 1:03 am | Permalink

                No one much gives a damn about women’s health care…except non-conservative women.

              • rickflick
                Posted November 24, 2015 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

                It seems it’s so often SCOTUS 5 to 4. What does that mean?

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 25, 2015 at 2:34 am | Permalink

                Of the nine justices, 4 pretty consistently lean conservative, 4 lean liberal, and Justice Anthony Kennedy is frequently the tie breaker.

                See interesting graphic here:


              • rickflick
                Posted November 25, 2015 at 3:20 am | Permalink

                That’s an interesting chart. I wasn’t aware of the specific numbers in this ranking. But, I was thinking more about what are the broader implications. The makeup of the court seems to reflect the polarization in the country generally. Democrats appointed the liberals, republicans the conservatives. A republican win in the coming presidential election would imply we’d probably see no more split votes like we have. It would be pretty much all one way. Gag. 😦

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 25, 2015 at 3:41 am | Permalink

                Precisely. 😦

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        Hobby Lobby.

        • noncarborundum
          Posted November 23, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          The Hobby Lobby case was about whether the company had to include coverage of birth control in its employee health plans (the Supreme Court said it did not). It had nothing to do with whether the company could refuse to do business with anyone.

          You may be thinking of the Sweet Cakes by Melissa case in which a bakery refused to provide a cake for the wedding of a lesbian couple.

    • eric
      Posted November 23, 2015 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      That seems reasonable then. The US first amendment, applied to this case just for fun, would say that if they have an open accommodation (i.e. allow in all sorts of advertising) then they can’t exclude the Anglican one. However if they consistently and evenhandedly don’t touch the subjects of politics and religion, then its perfectly okay for them to exclude this ad.

      So for example, its generally illegal in the US for a billboard company to allow churches to purchase space but not atheist organizations. You either let all such groups purchase space, or you let none of them do so.

  4. Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I have another idea: when you go to the cinema you pay for seeing a movie and not for seeing advertisements. So they should skip all advertisements. If they however do allow them? Than I do not have any problem with the advertisment for praying (although I am an atheist and think it is a complete waste of time). 🙂

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Advertisers pay cinemas for the eyeball time of cinema goers. That’s why some cinemas repeatedly try to close the doors on customers ages before the actual film starts – they can charge higher eyeball fees then.
      Therefore, any cinema that displays this in the pre-feature slots is losing the money of the adverts that would otherwise be in that slot.
      CoE seem to not understand this.

      • Filippo
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        What little I go to the cinema, I try to arrive no earlier than the previews so as to avoid those bloody ads.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

          I do too – normally about 20 minutes after the posted start time. But routinely you get “little Hitlers” of ushers who try to prevent entry after the start of the advert roll. They normally back down when I ask them to accompany me to the manager’s office to explain why the manager is going to refund my tickets.

          • Posted November 22, 2015 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

            I stopped going to the cinema a long time ago. Because of the adverts, the collection of money for a good purpose and other obnoxious viewers. I prefer to see movies in my own home.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted November 23, 2015 at 12:55 am | Permalink

              I actually go to the cinema now a lot more than I used to. I watched Star Wars (the original, on it’s first run), and the next time I went to the cinema was in 1990. Then again to watch Memento (about 1994-95?), and these days it’s probably an average of once or twice a year.
              Did I hear a rumour recently that some deranged idiot was going to re-make Memento? Just because it’s popular (for certain values of “popular”), and they haven’t got any better ideas. And they call this a “creative” industry? I’m more bloody creative trying to plan oil wells so that they spell out rude words when seen from certain directions.

  5. John Crisp
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I guess the good old Church of England is worried about Jedi competition. I think that the Jedi came in quite high on “religious affiliation” in the UK’s last national census.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      There was an international movement to put Jedi as religion. In 2001 in New Zealand it came in at 1.5 percent, higher than many “genuine” religions.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        Btw, here, that was fourth in numbers that year behind only Christian 58.9%, No Religion 29.6% and object to answering 6.9%. All other religions had lower numbers than Jedi.

        So you could argue it was our second biggest religion.

        • Diane G.
          Posted November 22, 2015 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

          Diverse, aren’t we? 😉

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

          Think I’ll start a religion called Church of the Sacred Objector. One of our mantras will be “Object to answering”. That way I can instantly claim that 6.9% as belonging to our denomination. There’s gotta be a way to monetise this…

          (Hmmm. How about the Religion of No. Even greater potential…)


      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        Scotland turned in a significant Jedi contingent at the last skull count, though I forget the absolute numbers. The Js may even have topped out the Muslims, though I would have been surprised if that were the case. Nationally, at least.

  6. Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    the lords prayer is always such a weird thing, beseeching your god to not lead you into temptation?

    the ad does do quite a good job at showing that prayer is worthless and it takes people actually doing things to make a difference. It is curious that the church thinks it must advertise at all.

    • Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      Maybe they think they do have to, because they have some doubts about the allmightyness of God 🙂

    • Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      beseeching your god to not lead you into temptation?

      This is one of those not-brilliant translations. A better translation would be “trials” rather than “temptations”.

      For example, in the OT, God put Job through many trials and tribulations as a test of faith. The prayer is asking him not to do that!

      • Jamie
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        Trials or temptations, it’s all the same to me. Why should I have to ask a god to treat me well and not pull nasty tricks on me? Not my idea of “perfect love”.

      • Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        I can surely understand that one would not want to be put through that. The problem is that one would assume that praying for this god not to torment you when it wants to would seem to make the prayer rather pointless.

      • Posted November 22, 2015 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        I also wonder about howh one can have a “not-brilliant translation” funny how this god lets these things happen. one might wonder if it exists at all.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

        I can do without trials and tribulations, thanks. You can keep them.

        A bit of temptation, on the other hand, would be very welcome. C’mon God, you know my number. I’m waiting…


  7. barriejohn
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Did you also notice that the Archbishop of Cant claimed that the Paris attacks caused him to doubt the presence of god – but only momentarily, of course. It wouldn’t do to dismantle the edifice of religion which he and his type have spent centuries in constructing!

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      I notice that he doesn’t seem to be afflicted with similar doubts when Isis kill other Muslims in Iraq, or even when Boko Haram kill Christians. Maybe it’s because they’re further away.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Or the 20-odd who were killed in the hotel attack in Mali a few days ago : they were, AFAICT, mostly non-white and far away, so they probably didn’t count. (I think while I was flying above it and being rattled by some worrying turbulence. But I’ve not actually caught the date yet.)
        French and local special forces took the attackers out. Sending a pretty unmistakable message to the likes of ISIS – who’re very active in the area.
        I do feel the looming of a homewards trip via Addis Ababa. But, dare I put my religion (“atheist”) on a landing card?

  8. John Dickinson
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I’d like to read some discussion about how this differs from, say, a cinema run by Christians refusing to play an advert promoting tolerance of homosexuality, or a cake shop refusing to make a cake for a homosexual couple.

    • barriejohn
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      You obviously fail to grasp how “freedom of speech” works. (Irony alert!)

    • Sastra
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Christian owners of a cinema who refuse to play an advert promoting tolerance of homosexuality are within their rights — just as they can choose to run God Is Not Dead for 6 months straight if they want to. They can be mocked, boycotted, or complained about, but it’s not (and shouldn’t be)a legal issue.

      The cake shop is in a different position, however, since when it comes to the law gay weddings are the moral equivalent of Hindu weddings, black weddings, and marriages between the handicapped. They sell wedding cakes. A lunch counter sells lunches. “We don’t serve your kind” systems of apartheid don’t pass Constitutional muster.

      I think the cinema -owners self-imposed ‘ban’ on running ANY religious or political message is not only a prudent one, but respectful to the customers. These aren’t just symbols set to the side, like a Christmas tree. They’re persuasive arguments aimed at an audience which didn’t come for them. Politics and religion are more serious, divisive, and inappropriate than products and services.

      But no, I wouldn’t involve the courts in this.

      • John Dickinson
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:48 am | Permalink


        My concern is the following. Businesses operate in a regulated market place. There is limited scope for viable businesses. Some of those businesses provide channels for getting across messages. If you allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of message content (other than adhering to laws such as those against inciting violence) then those limited channels can be closed off based upon the whims of the people controlling the business. What if a town had, say, a Jewish minority and a majority of businesses in the town refused to give advertising space for the Jewish community to advertise their religion’s services?

        I know you said “But no, I wouldn’t involve the courts in this”, but I’m interested in the arguments that lead to laws that, for example, protect minorities.

        • Sastra
          Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          I agree that the matter of protecting minority rights can get dicey. But businesses discriminate all the time on ‘message content’ in that they are often focused on selling to particular clients. Christian owners of a cinema which caters to everyone only have to shift over to explaining that no, they are a Christian cinema which admits people of other faiths and now they’re no different than a Christian bookstore, coffeehouse — or church, for that matter.

          I think the specter of ALL the movie theaters in a small town suddenly becoming “Christian-family-friendly” is less disturbing than a government which forces Sonlight Books to carry The God Delusion.

          • John Dickinson
            Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

            Well, I don’t think it has to be ALL for something sinister and discriminatory to be going on. As for Sonlight Books being forced to carry The God Delusion, of course that would be repugnant. But in the case of the cinema someone is wanting to pay for a service they provide, not forcing someone to sell anything and everything. Again, I think they key thing here is the fact that within a regulated marketplace there is limited scope for businesses to survive by providing services for which they charge. If those businesses are provided with a lawful society in which they can operate and make a living for their owner, they shouldn’t be allowed to be discriminatory in who they will take as paying clients.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

              It’s not that simple. It may be that the business gets more customers by refusing political and religious ads, not less. I would certainly choose them in preference to one that showed such ads.

              And they may be prepared to take less profit for the sake of principle, which is a good thing, not a bad one. The worship of the almighty Dollar/Pound is not, imo, something to encourage.

              • John Dickinson
                Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

                Agreed (but not that I’m supposedly making the simple argument). They may also get more customers from taking an terrible ethical stance. But this is beside my point, which no-one has addressed. I’ll state it again. In a limited market place of services (and all services have a limited capacity for profitable operation), a business that is allowed to make a living for the owners and employees by providing that limited service, or part of it, should not be allowed to discriminate on who gets access to that service.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

                They’re not really. The CofE could presumably do an ad that doesn’t have a religious message.

                Should the theatre be forced to show, for example, a film from white supremacists saying white people are better?

                The theatre isn’t discriminatory towards particular groups of people, but particular products. They don’t show religious or political ads.

                It’s not really any different from a butcher being forced to sell flowers from his neighbour’s garden. The butcher can choose what they want to sell, and shouldn’t have to sell stuff they don’t want to. Remember, advertising is selling after all.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

          The cinema chooses what films to show. They absolutely could never be prosecuted for failing to show any particular movie, for whatever reason.

          Similarly, I think, with ads. They are not a public carrier like, say, anISP is.

          If the cinema refused admission to a customer based on the customer’s religion (or race, or politics) then they would be in trouble. That’s a closer analogy to the cake shop.


        • eric
          Posted November 23, 2015 at 8:14 am | Permalink

          In the US, businesses are allowed to discriminate on message or service but it has to be content-neutral, and it can’t be based on excluding a certain type of customer.

          Allowed examples: “no ideological messages on my cakes.” “No curse words on my cakes.” “No wedding cakes for anyone.”

          Contrasting illegal examples: “Christian-promoting ideological messages but not atheist-promoting ideological messages.” “F*ck Iran” allowed but “F*ck America” not allowed. Or “Wedding cakes for straights allowed, but wedding cakes for gays not.”

          Does this help you understand? I’m asking seriously not snidely. If my examples are unclear I’d be happy to try and do a better job explaining.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      The cake shop could have a policy “We refuse to make bran muffins under any circumstances.” They can’t refuse to serve particular customers who aren’t breaking any laws.

      They could refuse to serve drunk people, or people high on illegal drugs I assume.

      • John Dickinson
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        Agreed. But isn’t the cinema refusing customers who are not breaking any laws? (The service they are providing, in a limited market place, is the service of advertising)

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

          No. The cinema has a right not to listen to someone else’s free speech. The cinema hasn’t prevented the CofE from making the ad, or broadcasting it elsewhere. Their policy doesn’t only apply to the CofE, it applies to all religious groups. The CofE isn’t being discriminated against.

          Their business isn’t playing ads, it’s playing movies, and even there they can choose which ones they show.

          • John Dickinson
            Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

            I refer you to my on-going discussion above. In a market place there are a limited number of businesses that can survive by providing a service. The businesses can survive and make a living for their owners and employees by being able to operate in a lawful society. I suggest it is wrong for owners of those businesses to be refusing access those limited services based upon the owner’s whims.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      It’s the CoE and the Archbish of Cant (I like the nickname!) ; therefore it’s in Britain under British law.
      This doesn’t differ from the gay bed or homosexual cake. End of discussion.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

      Here in the US, there are various statutes — federal, state, municipal — that prohibit places of public accommodation from discriminating against their customers on the basis of specific enumerated factors (usually race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and disability). These laws do not require that such businesses provide any particular products catering to those customers.

      Under public-accommodation laws, a theater cannot deny admission to a would-be patron on the basis of a proscribed factor. But these laws do not require a theater to run a particular advertisement (anymore than a theater that screens Religulous or The Color Purple can be required to present an equal number of showings of The Passion of the Christ or Birth of a Nation).

      Similarly, a grocery store cannot close its doors to customers based on religion or race or ethnicity — but such stores are not thereby required to have sections specializing in kosher or halal or Mexican or soul food.

      • eric
        Posted November 23, 2015 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        In the US case it would matter if the cinema chain had been accepting and showing ads from other religious organizations. If they have been showing ads for the Roman Catholic church or some local Mosque or even some local Atheist organization, then it would likely be illegal for them to refuse to show an Anglican ad. Our laws on public accommodation and open forum would likely kick in and say that showing customer A’s religious ad but not showing customer B’s religious ad is illegal.

        However it sounds like this cinema chain has refused all such ‘religious’ advertising from other organizations in the past, so even in the US they’d be in the clear here.

  9. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Here in the States we see television commercials promoting Mormonism, and commercials for other faiths all the time. These ads are paid for, just like any other advertisement on network television.
    I do not recall seeing such ads at a movie theater, but I am sure they could be done. I agree that canceling such an ad over here would result in a hugely negative reaction from the public.

    • C. Jones
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      And playing such an ad would give me yet another reason to avoid movie theaters. (The others being high prices, fake butter, volume is much too loud, and frequent talkers during the movie.)

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      On the other hand, here (OK, I’m a bit outside the technical borders of the UK at the moment, but …) the cinema are well aware that they’d get a strong negative reaction by playing it. In a strong parallel, after being smashed up and occasionally petrol- (or explosive-) bombed in the 70s, 80s and 90s, many pubs introduced a permanent policy of refusing to serve and ejecting ANYONE who wears the colours of ANY football team at ANY time. Because it leads to trouble. (Two sets of colours in particular, but the ban is normally for ALL “colours”.)
      Similarly there is a long-standing joke that the two subjects that you NEVER discuss in the bar are football and politics – stick instead to uncontentious ones like sex and beer flavour. There are no small number of pubs that maintain “swear boxes” for violations of this policy (and policies against flatulence) and I have seen this used as grounds to eject someone the bar staff wanted out, but didn’t want to exclude permanently.
      Nope, the cinemas are entirely within their rights on this, and have got a tourniquet-like grip on the pulse of the public too.

  10. Simon Hayward
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Ads for churches (as opposed to “religion”) were common before movies when I lived in Nashville. Just part of the general background noise, and a part of the reason to leave. I don’t recall seeing such things in San Francisco or Chicago (the other two places I’ve lived in the US). Could not imagine such a thing in the UK – and as long as all ads are treated equally I cannot think that the CofE would have a leg to stand on legally (although as the established church they may have a better chance than anyone else).

    • eric
      Posted November 23, 2015 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      I saw them in the bay area and now that I’m on the east coast, I see them here too.

      It never really bothered me but then again, I don’t think I’ve seen one that put up the money for a full minute video. Typically some local church pays for the 10-second still shot advertisements that occur 15+ minutes before the movie starts. You know, the time in the theater where they’re showing ads for ‘Bob’s Air Conditioning Repair, just five minutes south on Route 1’ or some local carpet cleaner.

  11. moleatthecounter
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Cinema’s (rather sensible) policy. End of story.

    A church that is running for its life, and one that is utterly bemused and aghast as to why it cannot keep and maintain its traditional privileges over us all.

    Good. This amuses me.

  12. Geoff Toscano
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    It’s ironic, isn’t it? As your article says, the UK has a state religion and, indeed, the monarch at any given time is both head of state and head of the Church of England. Yet here is a commercial organisation saying ‘we don’t want your business’.

    The US, on the other hand, is secular according to its constitution, yet were a commercial organisation there to take this line, well…

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Yet here is a commercial organisation saying ‘we don’t want your business’.

      Hardly unprecedented though. I recall the sheer bemusement with which the MoD greeted the return of an order for something like a year’s production of certain plastics. “We don’t want your business. You’re the military.”
      The company’s founder (also the man who gave the company to it’s workers) didn’t make a big deal of being a Quaker, but his ethics remained with the company’s workforce years after they became (severally) the owners. And mightily were the forces of violence confused by people who saw their coin and didn’t want to take it.

  13. Posted November 22, 2015 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Forgive me. My attention got derailed four words into reading this with the sighting of kerfuffle. Kerfuffle’s one of those words that brings instant amusement and pleasure despite meaning a fuss. I couldn’t resist plunking it into the American Heritage Dictionary to check out the etymology. They provide a quote of Dawkins’s. Of course, right? Do good writers have a stash of such words? They reach in a grab one and plunk them down in sentences just to make the rest of us smile.

    I’ll read the rest of this post after my statistical conference today.

    • Sastra
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      So you’re making a kerfuffle about Jerry’s vocabulary.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        To the tune of … something from Gilbert and Sullivan …
        “When vocabulary duty is to be done (to be done) /
        A lexicographer’s lot is such a happy one (happy one) …”
        I’ll go back to my rocks.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Kerfuffle is a word we’ve always used in my family. I grew up hearing it. I love the word, but I was unaware it wasn’t used commonly. Interesting comment.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      That’s a nice lagniappe around the subject. Get two more and you’ll have a trifecta.

  14. Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    they made the commerical, no one stopped them

    they do not have any right to distributed speech

    free speech is not limited to first speech, so the Cinema companies are allowed to say no.

    it’s their free speech

    • John Dickinson
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Would it be Facebook’s right to refuse humanism groups?
      Is it a cake shop owner’s right to refuse to bake a cake for a gay couple?
      (Sincerely interested in people’s perspective.)

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        It is different, because your argument is about the people being served. While a cinema can refuse a particular category of advertising (such as religious and political) they can’t refuse admission to customers who happen to be vicars or politicians, as long as they’re not doing anything illegal.

        If the politician got up and disrupted the movie by making a political speech, then the cinema management would have every right to ask them to leave.

        Same with a bakery. Gay marriage is legal. So while the bakery could refuse to make all wedding cakes no matter who wants them, they can’t refuse to make one for a particular marriage.

        They could refuse to make one for a marriage where the bride is a child, because child marriage is illegal.

        • John Dickinson
          Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

          The argument about category seems to me to be the best. I’d really like to be comfortable with the CoE not getting their JustPray proselytising shown. But I’m not.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

            It’ll be playing elsewhere I’m sure, just not in these theatres. Afaik, there are other theatres that are taking the ads.

            The theatre owners have a right to their policy, as long as that policy isn’t discriminatory imo.

            They want to please their customers, which is also the best way of maximising income. I suspect if such an ad was produced in NZ, the theatre in my town would play it because there’s only one theatre.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

            Isn’t it clear from the words of the (cinema advertising) trade body speaker : NO religious advertising gets shown. Whole category – struck out.

      • Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        shops that serve the public may not cherry pick in providing goods and services – there is a difference between denying dignity to a person than to an organization seeking to advertise it’s own services.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 22, 2015 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

          A business open to the public cannot cherry-pick which members of the public it will serve. But it can certainly cherry-pick which goods and services it chooses to provide to the public.

          • Posted November 23, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

            there is also a difference between delivering passive views vs captive audience

      • Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        the UK has the largest number of identified Jedis so this is a religious attack on another religion.

  15. Richard
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Good post and good comments. I especially liked the one from eedwardgrey69: “Praying. It’s for people who want to do nothing and still feel self righteously good about it.”

  16. Sastra
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    “This advert is about as offensive as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day,” he said.

    You mean a carol service or church service in a church? Maybe that’s the part you ought to consider more thoughtfully.

    Religious ecumenicism often tries to pass itself off as humanism — noncontroversial, widely-shared values and preferences which can safely be assumed to be part of the general human condition. Freedom is good, love is good, art is good, everyone wants to be happy, everybody needs respect, everybody believes in God … deep in their heart.

    We’re supposed to nod at the glittering generalities and let that last one in without examination. Yeah — atheism is just a loony extreme. It is known.

    So who’s being left out? The Lord’s Prayer is inclusive of ALL spiritual beliefs!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      “This advert is about as offensive as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day,” he said.
      You mean a carol service or church service in a church? Maybe that’s the part you ought to consider more thoughtfully.

      Actually, I suspect that he means carols and services held in public too, and particularly ones on MY doorstep.
      Clearly, he’s never had me answering the door with a rungu in my hand and a command to “get off my property!” on my lips. He would not have forgotten the experience.
      Unless I’d hit him with the business end of the rungu (which I’ve never actually needed to do. They’re fearsome weapons, designed to break bones and inflict depressed fractures to the skull.

    • Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      indeed. The argument that “surely no one finds this offensive and everyone agrees with us” is often trotted out by Christians. It’s great way to whitewash the religion.

  17. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I admit to being a little torn about the decision. Let me try to convey my feelings on why I do not fully agree with their reasoning — though it is their decision and it should be legal.
    Although I like to see the decline of religion as much as anyone (around here), the thing about not showing the ad because it “could cause offense … to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith” has a whiff of over-anxiousness about political correctness and providing safe spaces and all that. It is just a commercial, folks. Many viewers will have a different religion and others will not identify with any religion, but so what? Sometimes I have to sit through commercials about erectile dysfunction with my kids and my mom. I would loooove to see a commercial about Mormonism instead!
    As for the Pandoras’ box of letting in other religious commercials, well, it has not been a big deal here in the U.S. These interests have to compete with other advertisers who also pay $$$ for the time slots.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted November 23, 2015 at 5:14 am | Permalink

      There’s an assertion that much of the ‘traditionalist’ Muslim teaching and preaching in the UK is funded by Saudi Arabia. I don’t think money would be a limiting factor if they chose to buy advertising time. Adverse public reaction and the ‘contamination’ of the messages being played in unacceptable (to traditionalist Muslims) locations might be.

  18. Nell Whiteside
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Methinks this is a desperate measure by the CoE to counteract waning membership numbers in the UK. To pair the prayer advert with the new Star Wars movie is rather hilarious!

    People in the UK are mostly well informed – they have excellent education, TV, social services, etc. compared with Africa where CoE membership numbers are rising.

    I do hope they do not consider sending the advert to Africa which is already super-saturated with missionary activity.

  19. EvolvedDutchie
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Does the archbishop wants to hasten the demise of his church? Research has shown that talk of christianity is more likely to give people a negative view of God than a positive view.

  20. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    “I don’t recall ever having seen a political or religious ad in a US cinema”

    No, but I have seen in mainstream cinemas preview trailers for “God is not Dead” and a film that played for only two days on the Virgin Mary.

    If one must have such an ad, I would have preferred an ad for some sort of religious charity.

    In no sense is the rejection “chilling” or “censorship” given this is a privately owned cinema chain.

    Since the Brit government runs both the Church of England and the BBC, maybe that’s the place for it.

    • GrahamH
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Important point. The government does [B]not[/B] run the BBC, though it would like to. The BBC is supposed to be independent but the current government is trying to destroy it.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

        The BBC is supposed to be independent but the current government is trying to destroy it.

        … or to take it over, to avoid the difficulties of having to destroy it. Destroying Auntie Beeb would rather reveal the iron fist that Murdoch spends so much time trying to draw a velvet glove over.

    • Henry Fitzgerald
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      A trailer strikes me as a completely different kettle of fish from any other kind of ad. As a regular cinema patron I think any trailer for any upcoming film falls into the “fair enough” category. That’s what I signed up for. Any other kind of advertising is not what I signed up for – it’s rather something I put up with – and if the cinema is prepared to exclude any ad on the grounds that it might detract from my experience, I’m on their side.

  21. Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    I think the cinemas should agree to show the COE commercial, as long as COE agrees to play the Star Wars trailer before the Sunday service.

    • barriejohn
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      That’s a brilliant idea. I seem to remember church services being moved back in the 60s when The Forsyte Saga was being shown on Sunday evenings!

  22. Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Note that you are invited to post your own “prayer” at the CoE website (click on the Live Prayer link).

    Not all of the prayers are notably pious.

  23. Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    The Empire State Religion vs Jedis … Honestly, you can’t buy publicity like that.

  24. rickflick
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    As the church sees attendance falling year after year, I’m sure this ad was a reminder and an encouragement to come back into the fold. Sorry, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

  25. Posted November 22, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on aspiblog and commented:
    A fantastic analysis of the attempt by the Church of England to get a commercial about The Lord’s Prayer into cinemas.

  26. Graham
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I want to know where all the censors were when Cliff Richard was making it into a song!

    • barriejohn
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      Where’s the Like button?

  27. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    “This advert is about as offensive as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day,” he said.

    Well, *I* get offended by in-my-face mentioning of carol service or church service on Yule Day, which is a holiday shared by all.

    And christianists expropriated the time honored secular or pagan, ~ 6000 yrs old [!] by archaeological finds, holiday twice in my country, by catholics then protestants. War on Yule, indeed. That makes their take-for-granted presence even more offensive.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      I should add that I got the 6 kyrs date from a much honored national science reporter that claims there are prevalent structures across Europe to fix the date of the solstice. That coupled with later descriptions of festivities makes the evidence so-so. Still…

  28. Tom
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Since everybody here in the UK is not only a christian but a member of the CoE who is there that can possibly be offended by this advert?
    The cinema chain management must be immediately excommunicated or we all risk the wrath of god and our island being overwhelmed by flood and plague (or something like that) as in the good book

  29. Posted November 22, 2015 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    #justpray or #usetheforce?


  30. Scientifik
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Good call on the part of UK cinemas, but what is happening in Sweden is bewildering to say the least.

    Swedish church removes crosses to make Muslim migrants feel welcome

  31. Posted November 22, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on perfectlyfadeddelusions.

  32. zytigon
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Why would anyone pray for a god’s will to be done if that god is planning a nasty end for most of humanity ?

    Don’t try praying, many generations have gone before us and shown it doesn’t work.

    Try not praying, use the time more fruitfully, try reading Jerry Coyne’s blog for a start, climb mount improbable and enjoy the view from the top.

    Satire on Justin Welby saying that the Paris terrorist attacks made him doubt the presence of god: I was praying as I walked the streets, I said, “Dear God I must confess that at times like these I doubt whether you exist.” but then there was this incredibly long pause, I didn’t know what to make of it but then it dawned on me that I had probably offended his feelings and I said, “God I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, of course I know you’re there, it’s just that sometimes I’m a bit slow to understand your mysterious ways, Lord forgive me” but then there was just another long awkward silence and I figured that He was in the huff with me. Then I’m sorry to say that I just got slightly irrational, I don’t know what came over me but somehow the words, “fuck it, be like that then, probably you’re not real anyway, if you were you wouldn’t let suffering like this happen. You know I’m done, I’m through with you. I’m fed up of always having to make excuses for your failings, bye” came out, I felt a bit guilty but also curiously liberated. I’m not sure where this will lead.

  33. Henry Fitzgerald
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Can I put in a word on behalf of cinema patrons? We’ve paid to be there, and if cinema managers are prepared to disallow ads they think will irritate a large section of their audience, good for them! Looking out for our experience ought to be their primary concern. Yes, I understand they need the advertising revenue and I don’t begrudge them, but advertisers shouldn’t think they have any kind of right to annoy us if the cinema is prepared to forgo the money.

    And in fact I don’t think cinema gatekeepers go far enough. At the moment the Australian Government is paying for altogether too many public health ads to be screened in cinemas, with the aim of persuading us to stop smoking, lay off the soft drink, avoid using ice (the drug, that is). To this end they show us no end of revolting footage of damaged flesh, diseased lungs and CGI rendering of internal fat… Why am I being made to see this stuff during my leisure hours? I don’t even smoke, drink Coke or use ice. I just want to watch The Dressmaker. Leave me alone!

    And, perhaps only people who go to Palace Electric in Canberra will have the slightest idea what I’m talking about, but if I never again see another of those Hotel Hotel ads, it will be too soon.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 23, 2015 at 12:07 am | Permalink

      Oh you’ve touched a nerve. All those ‘public service’ ads (on TV) piss me off even more than the genuine ones selling crappy products at inflated prices.

      I agree about the often-revolting medical ones, but the ones that really get me are the ‘road safety’ ones that go on and on and on and repeat three times a night. I frequently end up yelling at my screen “Die! Just fucking die already!”

      And they’re counter-productive in that if I think of them when I’m driving (which is fortunately not often) my driving becomes instantly more… enthusiastic.


  34. Posted November 22, 2015 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    I think I can offer you a very good rule of thumb.

    If a business venture refuses service based on

    (A) the customer’s characteristics, it is unlawfully discriminatory.

    (B) the requested service’s characteristics, it is a rightful expression of liberty.

    IOW: Only discrimination against people is unjustified (and unlawful). What you offer, you offer to anyone.

    If a muslim goes into a butchery and asks for non-halal meat, the butcher can’t refuse service because he doesn’t want to sell his non-halal meat to moosles.
    However, the butcher can refuse to add Halal butchering to the services he provides, or infact refuse to sell Halal meat at all, regardless of how easily he could obtain it or produce it himself.

    If a gay couple goes into a bakery and wants to have a cake for their gay wedding, they must be allowed to buy any cake the bakery offers for sale. If the bakery offers to put a list of certain decorations on the cakes, these must be available for the gay couple to buy as well.
    However, the baker is not mandated to put a decoration on the cake which he hasn’t decided to sell in the first place. If the baker offers a man/woman figurine as decoration to be placed on the cake, he is not mandated to offer a man/man or woman/woman figurine as well. This is not discriminatory, because the refusal to provide the service is not based on the characteristics of the customer, but based on the characteristics of the requested service. The baker has decided not to offer such an item, regardless of whether the requesting couple is gay or not.
    (And I’m afraid, that what the american courts got wrong in this rather infamous case)

    What do you think of this rule?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

      I would agree totally with your analysis.

      I would just change the example slightly though – if the bakery offers an option, express or implied, for ‘customers choice of figures’ on the cake and man/man is practical (i.e. two ‘man’ figurines) – then they are IMO obligated to accommodate the customer’s wishes. But if all their figurines come as ‘couples’ then they don’t have to change their range to accommodate the customer. Nor would they have to ‘get in’ a muslim couple figurine if they didn’t want to.

      ‘Not available’ is a perfectly valid position (though it may not be very good business).


  35. Richard C
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the theaters. I pay good money to relax and have a fun time watching a movie, and I’m okay seeing ads for other movies before it starts. But I don’t want to pay them to sit there and be preached at, no matter how innocuous the message may be.

    It sounds like their standards are being applied equally and fairly.

  36. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted November 22, 2015 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    An *advertising* agency showing judgement and turning down ads on grounds of offending the audience.

    That’s new.


  37. Posted November 23, 2015 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    Richard Dawkins and others are unexpected allies of the CofE.


  38. Mike
    Posted November 23, 2015 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Could you imagine sitting in a Cinema during an Election Cycle and having to sit through competing Party Political Broadcasts followed by competing Religious Broadcasts ? I fear the Cinema would have emptied before the main Film started. Keep your Religion in your House or Church and do not proselytise.

  39. J.Baldwin
    Posted November 23, 2015 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Religious advertising at U.S. cinemas is commonplace. Here in the south, the Baptists run lots of ads.

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