Screencap from Just Pray video
News outlets reacted with confusion after the announcement that a new advertisement by the Church of England was rejected by UK cinemas. The 56 second ad opens with Archbishop Justin Welby walking down a tree-lined path, with a voiceover of the Lord’s Prayer, before it moves to a montage of a diverse and wide-ranging assortment of people speaking–and singing–the prayer. The people are depicted in prayer in a variety of situations, including visiting cemeteries, riding mass transit, exercising, herding cattle, providing emergency services, singing in choirs, and celebrating the rite of baptism.
The Guardian provided three takes on the controversy: the factual news account (from which we sourced this story), an op-ed by Canon Giles Fraser who calls the ban “nonsense on stilts” and an op-ed from noted atheist Richard Dawkins, who supports the Church in this matter and disagrees with the cinemas. Dawkins said anyone offended by this advertisement “deserve(s) to be offended“.
As did many, Dawkins initially responded by stating that this was a matter of freedom of speech, but later corrected his remarks; the cinemas are corporations and not State businesses, so they exercise their own discretion in choosing which ads to play, and government protected speech is not applicable.
Fraser suggests that the rejection of the ad is unseemly ground-work to let the cinemas ban less popular expressions of religious faith (i.e. ads by Muslim groups), noting that rejecting the ad on the grounds that it would possibly cause offense would similarly let them reject other religious speech on similar grounds.
The ‘Just Pray’ spot is an ad announcing a new website by the Church of England, justpray.uk.
Do you think the resulting publicity will put the ad in front of more people than if it had played? We wrote earlier this week on the lack of God in Downton Abbey; why do you think UK media seems leery about portraying religion? What do you think of the ad as an evangelical act?