I’m currently sitting at my computer just after 2330 hours on Sunday 22nd of November 2015, positively steaming at what I’ve just been listening to on the Stephen Nolan Show on Radio Five Live.
Having gone to bed even earlier than normal (1940 hours), I awoke not long ago and decided that of the alternatives of (1) lying in bed thinking about trying to get back to sleep (and – 95% certain – failing) and (2) getting up, making a coffee and beginning a trawl of the newspaper websites and/or perhaps attending to some email replies, I’d opt for the latter.
The issue of the moment [or should I say ‘of the moment on the Stephen Nolan Show’?] is that of the recent media story about the Digital Cinema Agency (or ‘DCM’) refusing the accept a Church of England advertisement based around a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in its cinemas showing the new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens – see here – THE INDEPENDENT
Let’s be completely open and fair about this before I start.
I’m personally an atheist but I respect the right of anyone (and all people) who hold different views to mine to believe – or not believe – anything they want … and that applies whether they be agnostics, followers of any faith, or even deluded adherents of quasi-religious sects, cults or movements, or even those who dress up as Star Wars characters and/or record themselves as followers of Jedi in British censuses [according to Wikipedia some 0.8% of the UK registered themselves as Jedi in the question on religion in the 2001 Census, making it the 6th most popular religion in the country at that time].
As an aside, as far as I am concerned this story is a complete storm in a teacup and – if I didn’t know better – I’d go so far to suggest that it might even have been deliberately ‘got up’ by the Church of England PR/marketing department as a means of promoting its cause.
But that isn’t the reason for my indignation this evening.
As I dressed in whatever clothes were closest to hand in order to paddle along the corridor to my kitchen, a Christian woman came on the line to Stephen Nolan to complain about the ‘ban’ on this advertisement.
[In my following comments I am doing my best not to question her IQ, her religious beliefs and/or her ability to reason or indeed deploy any supply of innate common sense she possesses].
During her call she told of how for periods she had worked in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries. She commented on how intolerant of other religions Saudi Arabia was and gave the example of a container of Christmas trees sent from America that was not allowed in. In response, the Americans took the ship with said container on board back a few miles out to sea, re-wrote the signs on the container to say ‘Fir Trees’ and re-docked at the same Saudi port, whereupon the Saudis allowed it in without demur.
She was trying to make a contrast between the intolerance of Saudi Arabia and the ‘tolerance’ of the UK, in which all religions were allowed to say openly what they wished.
Her point was why couldn’t the C of E place this advertisement (after all, we’re a Christian country)?
My irritation at the implications (or contradictions) of this statement almost prompted me to break the habit of a near-lifetime by lifting my phone and calling the programme.
What I couldn’t work out – and what I would have liked to ask her – was whether she was claiming that her faith and country was tolerant … or that (by implication) it wasn’t, or indeed shouldn’t be.
On the face of it she was seeking to suggest the former, but I wonder.
To repeat myself – it had sounded as though she was trying to claim that C of E should be allowed to advertise itself if it wanted to because the UK is a Christian country.
I would have liked to ask her whether in fact she’s as intolerant as the Saudi Arabian regime she was criticising – in other words, she would like to have a situation in which the C of E could advertise in the UK but no other religion could.
My point to her would be this:
“Okay – so you believe that the C of E should be allowed to place advertisements in UK cinemas. And you say you’re a tolerant person [her thrust on Saudi Arabia was that Saudi Arabia wasn’t, in contrast to the Church of England]. So you wouldn’t mind if, in any given cinema, an advertisement on behalf of Islam followed the C of E advertisement … and then one on behalf of Buddhism …. and then Hinduism … and then one by a bunch of atheists … and so on?”
I’d love to have heard her answer.
The point is, almost certainly, the DCM made the policy decision that it wasn’t going to allow religious advertisements precisely because – if you allow one religious advertisement – you logically you would have to allow all religious advertisements … including those perhaps from Scientology etc. You’d soon be in the realm of having to decide [as a commercial organisation, mind!] which religions or cults were religions under this definition and all the complications that would follow, including potentially litigation from those who got turned down because they weren’t deemed to be.
They’ve presumably taken the decision they don’t want to get into all of that and that therefore it’s far simpler to ban all religious advertising. They have a right to take such a ‘commercial/practical’ decision … surely it’s partly their right to do so under ‘freedom of expression’ in our supposedly-perfect Western, tolerant, society/country?
And just what the hell is wrong with that?