In a truly shocking move, Digital Cinema Media have declined to have major cinemas show an advert from the Church of England about prayer – truly shocking, because it flies in the face of the privileges the organisation currently enjoys with regards to prayers here in the UK.
The advert; intended to be shown to cinemagoers awaiting this year’s humongous blockbuster, Star Wars; features people speaking (and singing) individual lines of the Lord’s Prayer in succession, with the advert cutting between them as they are carry out various, everyday activities – but has fallen afoul a DCM policy not to accept adverts of a religious nature. DCM, which supplies adverts to Odeon, Cineworld and Vue cinemas (amongst others), explicitly requires that advertisements “must not in the reasonable opinion of DCM constitute Political or Religious Advertising“. Needless to say, this didn’t go down well with the Church.
However, given the advert is backed by the Church of England and encourages viewers to pray, it seems unlikely that they dispute the advert being in breach of DCM policy. The Church simply seems indignant that their advertisement; encouraging and celebrating prayer; is considered inappropriate for cinemas to show to paying customers. Frankly, as I see it, the advert could be a fantastic psychological primer for those about to watch the latest entry in the Star Wars trilogy of trilogies. I’d love for fans to draw parallels between the brilliantly imagined universe featuring an evil, manipulative, galactic emperor who has magical powers and the one they’ve just forked out an extortionate sum to see.
Leaving aside the relative merits of political and religious adverts at cinemas for others to discuss; the policy is at least a perfectly legal and non-discriminatory one. Adverts discouraging prayer due to its futility would suffer the same ‘ban’. For the Church though, this kind of institutionalised opposition to its proselytisation is quite a shock.
When you’re the country’s official religious body, when schools are legally required to hold daily collective worship of a broadly Christian character, when roughly a quarter of all state-funded schools are of the Church’s persuasion (thereby free to overtly teach children to pray) and when councils are free to enforce Christian prayers over their councillors as part of their official business (thank you Eric Pickles), it can come as quite a surprise to be stood up against and told “No, sorry, we don’t want your prayers here”.
Or, at least, it can come as a surprise when you actually have to listen – given that the majority of the UK are currently opposed to mandatory Christian worship in schools and faith-schools being funded by the state.