There’s always something in my Facebook Timeline to cheer me up. Sadly, there’s also always something to bring me down. This morning’s example of the latter was posted by a friend and linked to a BBC story entitled:  “Lord’s Prayer cinema ad ban ‘bewilders’ Church of England.”

Clicking on the link (see below) revealed a slightly different headline, the “ban” being replaced by “snub” a word a little closer to the reality to be found in the text.

The Church of England had wanted to show in cinemas an advertisement showcasing the Lord’s Prayer. The policy of the company was not to accept religious advertising. Fair enough. Except that the Church of England is said to be “bewildered” by this, “disappointed and bewildered” even.

Now, I can understand the church being disappointed but really they could have avoided that by looking at the advertising policy of the company concerned and which is to be found on its website (see below for link). (Later comment: One version of this story has the company originally encouraging the church to place the film with them, and only later refusing it. If, so that would better explain the bewilderment, but doesn’t alter the policy of the company which one assumes it didn’t decide after the fact.)

The relevant section of the policy reads:

2.1 To be approved, an Advertisement must:

 2.1.3 not in the reasonable opinion of DCM constitute Political or Religious Advertising; and

For the purposes of clause 2.1.3 above, Political or Religious Advertising means:

2.2.1 political advertising for the purposes of section 321 of the Communications Act 2003; or

2.2.2 advertising which wholly or partly advertises any religion, faith or equivalent systems of belief (including any absence of belief) or any part of any religion, faith or such equivalent systems of belief.

So. What we have here is this. An organization tries to advertise itself in a certain way. Company policy of the advertiser doesn’t allow that. Well, that’s not going to flog the papers is it? So. Let’s spin it a little. Ban on Christian advertising. Christian Britain under threat. Muslims are taking over.

To be fair to the BBC, they only said the first of those things. The rest, as a result of this poor journalistic practice, appears in the minds of those determined to see an Islamic plot or a politically correct conspiracy behind every reasonable act.

To be fair to the Church of England, it didn’t say any of those things but I’m not sure what their reason was for expressing a bewilderment that would have been assuaged by reading the company’s policy. It’s got the film lots of coverage on Facebook (and doubtless elsewhere) but I can’t believe this was a cynical ploy by the church to get airtime it might not have had otherwise.

However, I am disappointed by the comments of Archbishop Welby who said in the BBC article that he found the decision “extraordinary”. “This advert is about as offensive as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day.”  “Let the public judge for themselves rather than be censored or dictated to.”(As a by the by, some of our church services could do with being a bit more offensive in terms of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable” but that’s another story.) (Another later comment. I watched the BBC TV piece on this to discover that the ad company said “some adverts could cause offence to those of different or no faith.”That explains their policy. It does not say that it refused this ad because it found it “offensive.”)  

It is interesting that one Christian on Facebook saw the refusal to accept the advertisement as fair because she would be offended by an advertisement for another faith. The advertising company hastaken  a very reasonable decision to not accept political or religious advertising; fair enough in the context of entertainment media.

It is not an attempt to censor the church. It is not a ban on Christian advertising alone. It is not an attack on “our Christian rights”. It is certainly not an attack on free speech, as the director of communications for the church complained.

I don’t always agree with Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society (although probably more often than he might imagine) but he makes the very valid point that the church sometimes bans things from its premises that it deems inappropriate.

I am saddened that the BBC chose to headline this non-story in such an emotive way, especially as many don’t get past the headlines to the story beneath. All that has done is add fuel to the fires of division in our communities. At such times as we now occupy we need far better journalism from one of our senior media outlets.

From the church, and I include myself in this although not an Anglican, we need to be encouraging grace, charity and thoughtfulness in our dealings with the wider world, and not allow ourselves to be sucked into thinking that everyone’s out to get us or stop us speaking. This “story” doesn’t do any of those things.

In the end, there was no story here; nothing at all to get excited about. Move along, folks. There are better things to do.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34891928

http://www.dcm.co.uk/uploads/documents/1.FINAL_20847121_3_Digital_Cinema_Media _Limited_s_Advertising_Policy.pdf

A few more links:

To view the Lord’s Prayer film go to: https://youtu.be/vlUXh4mx4gI

To view the Just Prayer website go to: justpray.uk

For the Pilgrim Course on the Lord’s Prayer see: http://www.pilgrimcourse.org/

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