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Cinemas reject WW1 Bible Society short film

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It emerged this week that Empire Cinemas has rejected a short film produced by the Bible Society which highlights the comfort some first world war soldiers found in the Bible. The three-minute film explains that all British soldiers were given a Bible as part of their kit and that this was a source of hope to many. Empire Cinemas explained that they do not take adverts from any religious groups. This is not the first time that Christian films have been blocked by UK cinemas.


Three-minute film

The three-minute film opens with footage of soldiers in trenches. A caption explains “All British soldiers were given a Bible as part of their kit.” Captions continue: “To many it was a source of hope. For eternal peace.” The film then moves to clips of contemporary people, often in their workplace, reciting Revelation 21: 1-7. These include a farmer, a fisherman, a hairdresser, a soldier, and a chef. The concluding captions state: “The Bible. Still giving peace and hope today.”

The film was intended to be shown in 125 screens at 14 venues across the country in the run-up to the armistice centenary this weekend. The Bible Society is reported to have reached agreement with cinema advertising company Pearl and Dean for the distribution of the film. Pearl and Dean later emailed to say that Empire Cinemas had vetoed the film because they do not accept religious or political advertisements.  Kathryn Jacob, chief executive of Pearl and Dean explained: “At no stage had we said that acceptance was guaranteed.”

 


Film portrays historical facts

Paul Woolley of the Bible Society said: “The Bible is not a ‘religious’ document, just for Christians or just for ‘religious’ life; it’s a book for everyone. It’s an historical fact that the Bible was a core part of a British soldier’s kit and that, to many, it was a source of hope.

“Of course Empire Cinemas is free to decide what they want to show or not. But we are saddened their customers won’t get a chance to reflect on the role of the Bible, past and present.”

An Empire spokesman is reported to have said: “Whilst we are sure the Bible Society is disappointed by our decision . . . it actually has less than 20 seconds of First World War footage, with the remainder being a recitation of scripture against a background of modern Britain. We stand by our decision not to screen advertisements from any religious groups.”


Not the first time Christian films blocked

Earlier this year, Vue Cinema banned a film with testimonies of several ex-gay people from being shown at one of their cinemas. The film “Voices of the Silenced” was somewhat ironically silenced by Vue.

Back in 2015, the Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency which handles advertising for Odeon, Cineworld and Vue cinema chains, refused to show a 60 second advert from the Church of England featuring the Lord’s prayer. This decision was widely criticised at the time, including by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and by David Cameron who described the ban as “ridiculous”. The ECHR said at the time that freedom to hold a religion and express ideas were “essential British values. We are concerned by any blanket ban on adverts by all religious groups”.


Anything challenging secularism is silenced

Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern commented:

“Bans on Christian films have a chilling effect on free speech. These bans are preventing Christians from promoting the Bible or Christianity, even with historical facts reading of famous passages.

“It is a matter of historical fact that British soldiers were issued with Bibles and that many found comfort from the text.

“The denial of any religious advertising amounts to an enforcement of a secular perspective. Anything challenging secularism is silenced. This is not how a free society functions."

 

Links:

Guardian: Empire Cinemas rejects first world war short film by Bible Society. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/08/empire-cinemas-rejects-first-world-war-film-bible-society?CMP=share_btn_tw

The Times (£): Empire Cinemas reject film showing how Bible helped comfort soldiers. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/cinemas-reject-film-showing-how-bible-helped-comfort-soldiers-w56t7wncq

Bible Society 3 minute film about the Bible and World War One. https://www.biblesociety.org.uk/what-we-do/england-and-wales/world-war-1/

Christian Concern: Vue Cinema bans ex-gay film. https://www.christianconcern.com/press-release/vue-cinema-bans-ex-gay-film-response

Guardian: Cinema company that banned Lord's Prayer advert lashed by many tongues. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/23/cinema-ban-for-lords-prayer-ad-is-ridiculous-says-cameron

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