Identical video ads on the website www.mulberry.com and on YouTube, seen in November 2015, promoted Mulberry handbags. Both ads showed a man giving a woman a Mulberry handbag as a gift in scenes reminiscent of the Christmas Nativity story. Issue
Forty-two complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive to Christians because it replaced the baby Jesus with a handbag. The complainants objected that it undermined central messages of their faith; that the important scene was
being used for the purpose of consumerism; and that it was blasphemous.
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
The ASA noted that the ad was based on the bible story of the birth of the baby Jesus in a
stable, and the visits by the shepherds and the wise men bearing gifts. We noted that the ad had appeared in the month before Christmas and that the complainants had found the use of religious references for commercial aims offensive. We noted that the
ad began with the man giving the woman a gift with the words, I know we weren't doing presents this year, but ... , which we considered suggested a modern-day, present-giving context for what followed. Later on, after the shepherds and wise men
had admired the bag, the man said, Guys, it's only a bag , which we considered was likely to be interpreted by viewers as referring to the playful and ridiculous nature of the comparison with the Nativity story, and was more likely to be seen
as a humorous reference to consumerism than ridiculing the story. We acknowledged that the ad might not be to everyone's taste, but considered most viewers would understand it as a light hearted take on the Nativity story, intended to poke fun at the
effect of consumerism on Christmas rather than mocking or denigrating Christian belief. Because of that, we considered the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Deliver us from religious propaganda, For ever and ever, Amen.
The British press is kindly going with a news item about another religious advert refused by cinemas.
Previously A church of England advert about the Lord's Prayer had been banned by Digital Cinema Media (DCM), which handles commercials for the
Odeon, Vue and Cineworld chains.
Armed with the knowledge that the DCM refuses to accept religious adverts, and that the previous news story generated lots of free publicity plus lots of views on YouTube, a group called ChurchAds has decided to
try its luck for a repeat.
ChurchAds is an alliance of churches and Christian organisations funded and made the 45-second film as part of its annual Christmas Starts with Christ campaign .
The advert featuring a nativity scene,
was inevitably rejected as too religious by DCM.
But will this next attempt generate as much hype, and more importantly will it receive so many views on YouTube.
Ofcom gives its verdict on Jimmy Swaggart's christian preaching. But only gay people are protected from such abuse. It seems perfectly OK to label heterosexual porn viewers as living in 'a quagmire of filth'
Jimmy Swaggart The Classics SBN International, 7 July 2015, 17:00
Son Life Broadcasting Network International ( SBN International ) broadcasts on digital satellite platforms, primarily to a Christian audience. The
channel's content consists of music and sermons by Christian televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and members of his ministry.
A complainant alerted Ofcom to homophobic comments made during a 1985 sermon delivered by Jimmy Swaggart to an
audience in Texas, and included in this Jimmy Swaggart the Crusade Classics programme.
At about 17:52 Jimmy Swaggart moved to the centre of the stage and began his sermon. He said that the world, and more specifically the United
States, was being inundated by a variety of sexual sins . He stated, Our nation staggers under a quagmire of filth . He then listed the following as filth : pornography ; homosexuality ; paedophilia ; sexual
child abuse and incest, which runs rampant in the United States .
After referring to a Gay Pride event that had taken place in San Francisco, he stated that the Board of Deputies had issued a permit for this vile,
degenerate event to be consummated , and went on to say that homosexuals were sex perverts, that is the correct terminology . To applause from the audience he added that homosexuals were not gay, not alternate lifestyle, but sex perverts
. Describing scenes at the New Orleans Mardi Gras, he said that he saw repulsive looking transvestites , who had disgraced the floats with their obnoxious presence .
Ofcom considered its Rule 2.3:
In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context... Such material may include, but is not limited to...humiliation, distress, violation of human
dignity, discriminatory treatment or language (for example on the grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion, beliefs and sexual orientation).
Licensee Lancaster LLC stated that this programme was broadcast as
a result of human error :
The fact that this programme aired in the UK on 7th July 2015 was a scheduling error which should not have occurred. Lancaster LLC acknowledged that some of the terminology used at the
time this sermon was originally delivered might be considered offensive to members of the homosexual community in the present day, for which the channel sincerely apologizes.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 2.3
We first considered whether this content had the potential to cause offence. Ofcom noted that Jimmy Swaggart described a Gay Pride parade as a vile, degenerate event , homosexuals as sex perverts , and transvestites as
disgracing floats at a carnival by their obnoxious presence . Specifically referring to the San Francisco Gay Pride event, Jimmy Swaggart described it as the most obscene demonstration in the history of modern day nations [which] took place
uninterrupted in the city of San Francisco and a vile degenerate event to be consummated . Jimmy Swaggart did not specifically identify homosexual people as degenerate , but by referring to the Gay Parade event as a degenerate event
, and an obscene demonstration , viewers would have been left in no doubt that the participants in the parade were themselves being viewed as degenerate and obscene . Further, although he did not describe homosexual people as filth
, Jimmy Swaggart did include homosexuality in his list of sins which were filth . In our view this language was derogatory, homophobic and clearly capable of causing offence.
In Ofcom's view it would have been clear to
viewers from factors like the on-screen graphic and style of dress of participants in the programme that the sermon dated from many years ago. We recognised that Jimmy Swaggart's remarks may have been likely to cause a lower level of offence to some when
they were originally made in the 1980s. But we noted that when they were broadcast in this programme in 2015, they were much more likely to be understood by viewers as pejorative abuse, rather than remarks grounded in religious teaching. We noted that in
his sermon Jimmy Swaggart did make some references to scripture seeking to support of his statements, but in our view none of his Biblical references (as summarised by the Licensee) clearly provided support from the Bible for describing homosexual people
as sex perverts and homosexuality as filth . We concluded therefore that these comments were likely to have exceeded the expectations of the audience for this channel.
Breach of Rule 2.3
Shamefully Ofcom seem
perfectly ok with heterosexual porn viewers being labelled as people staggering under a quagmire of filth.
Deliver us from religious propaganda, For ever and ever, Amen.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has urged Digital Cinema Media to overturn its decision not to show a Church of England advert in cinemas
The Church of England advert, in which the Archbishop of
Canterbury Justin Welby and others recite the Lord's Prayer, was due to be shown before the new Star Wars film, which opens on Thursday.
But it has been blocked by the advertising agency owned by cinema chains Odeon and Cineworld who
understandably have rules disallowing all religious advertising, and the inevitable hassle that goes with it.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has urged the cinemas to reverse their decision. It also announced a major inquiry into the ban
and accused the chains of undermining a long tradition of free expression .
Chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said:
We strongly disagree with the decision not to show the adverts on the grounds that they
might offend people. There is no right not to be offended in the UK. What is offensive is very subjective and this is a slippery slope towards increasing censorship.
She also claimed people would not understand why a commercial
Christmas can be advertised but the central Christian prayer cannot .
[duh... that's because religion causes trouble where as a commercialised Christmas does not!].
A major new report on the role of religion and belief in public life has been criticised by the National Secular Society for calling for a multi-faith approach completely at odds with the religious indifference that permeates British society.
The NSS said the Woolf Commission is wholly misguided in calling for religious representation in the House of Lords to be extended to representatives of other faiths and denominations rather than calling for the abolition of the bench of
The report was convened by the Woolf Institute, a religious group which studies relations between Christians, Muslims and Jews. Patrons include the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Iqbal Sacranie, former general secretary
of the Muslim Council of Britain, and Lord Harry Woolf, the former chief justice. Its Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life was chaired by Baroness Ann Butler-Sloss.
Perhaps the most controversial and self-serving of the
Report's recommendations however is for the House of Lords to include a wider range of worldviews and religious traditions, and of Christian denominations other than the Church of England. Such a move could see a reduction in the number of bishops
and places given to imams, rabbis and other non-other non-Christian clerics as well as evangelical pastors.
Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society commented:
We completely reject this
recommendation. The United Kingdom is unique among Western democracies in giving religious representatives seats in its legislature by right. The vast majority have abandoned all links between religion and State, with no discernible adverse consequences.
The report also calls for the introduction of a statutory entitlement for pupils to learn about religions and non-religious worldviews. It also says attempts should be made to increase religion and belief literacy amongst
all journalists and says every newsroom should retain at least one religion and belief specialist . Indeed it would seem a wise move to try to understand better why it is that so much of the world's troubles, wars, violence and killing
is so closely associated with religion.
In fact the report speaks at great length of it's ideas to plant religious propaganda staff in news rooms. The report states:
Religion and belief literacy
Serious and ongoing attempts need to be made to increase religion and belief literacy among all journalists and reporters. Possible ways of achieving this include:
every newsroom retaining at least one religion and belief specialist, or subscribing to one specialist agency
short courses on political religion tailored to the needs of newsrooms
a core element in all media training courses to include world religions and the implications of the changing religious landscape
exposure to relevant resources on religious literacy in
the possibility of short placements in religious media outlets and organised exchanges of journalists in religious media with those in other outlets
commitment to funding such projects by relevant civil society bodies.
And alarming the report calls for a panels of religious censors to be created:
Consideration should be given to establishing a panel of
experts on religion and belief for the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) to use when there are complaints about the media. This may strengthen self-regulation of the media and help reassure the public about the quality of reporting on
religion and belief. The panel would also be responsible for publishing an annual index of religion and belief literacy which would identify media outlets with best practice as well as those who need to improve the quality of their reporting on religion
and belief. It should be noted that the Religion Media Centre is already working towards these proposals.
[Note the Religion Media Centre seems to be a research unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. The director is Abby
Day, a former journalist and academic publisher. She is the author of Believing in Belonging: Belief and Social Identity in the Modern World] .
The next proposal is straight of the book of 1984 Propaganda Annual:
It would be relevant and valuable to establish a prize (along the lines of existing prizes for religious broadcasting and for issues like mental health) which would recognise and
reward the best in religion and belief coverage in the print and social media.
Butler-Sloss concludes saying that the 144-page report's recommendations amount to a new settlement for religion and belief in the UK.
Porteous Wood responded:
Britain urgently needs a new settlement but, for the most part, this report doesn't represent a sensible way forward. Instead of a multiculturalist, multifaith framework, which has serves us so
poorly until now, we need a secular framework where everyone is equal before the law and where citizens interact with the state as equals, not as members of religious communities through a group identity. In a society as irreligious as ours, where
religious belief is declining and simultaneously diversifying, this is a vital principle. It offers our best hope of fostering a fair and open society in which people of all religions or none can live together harmoniously and as equal citizens.
Thankfully the government is not well impressed by the report, and even the Church of England is displeased. The Telegraph writes:
The report provoked a furious row last night as it was condemned by
Cabinet ministers as seriously misguided and the Church of England said it appeared to have been hijacked by humanists.
A source close to Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, described the report's recommendations
on faith schools as ridiculous . The source said:
Nicky is one of the biggest champions of faith schools and anyone who thinks she is going to pay attention to these ridiculous recommendations is sorely
The Church of England said the report was a sad waste and had fallen captive to liberal rationalism .
The Church of England has said it is disappointed and bewildered by the refusal of leading UK cinemas to show an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer. The Church called the decision plain silly and warned it could have a chilling effect on free speech.
The advert features the Christian prayer being recited or sung by a variety of people. It had hoped the 60-second film would be screened UK-wide before Christmas ahead of the new Star Wars film.
The agency that handles adverts for the cinemas
said it could offend those of differing faiths and no faith , presumably a politically correct euphemism for muslims.
The advert was passed uncut by the British Board of Film Classification and given a U certificate, as well as
receiving clearance from the Cinema Advertising Authority. The Church of England says it is disappointed and bewildered by the refusal of leading UK cinemas to show an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer.
However, the Digital Cinema Media
(DCM) agency, which handles British film advertising for the major cinema chains, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, refused to show the advert because it believed it would risk upsetting or offending audiences. Presumably the group is understandably fearful of
the trouble that religion causes. In a statement, DCM said it had a policy of not accepting political or religious advertising content in its cinemas. It said that:
Some advertisements - unintentionally or otherwise -
could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith, and that in this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally.
The Reverend Arun Arora,
director of communications for the Church of England, said: We find that really astonishing, disappointing and rather bewildering.
Pressure is mounting on a cinema advertising group
to reverse a ban on an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer. Politicians and dignitaries have rallied to the War Cry.
David Cameron described the ban as ridiculous . Stephen Fry, a vocal critic of religion, said it was bizarre, unfair and
misguided while Boris Johnson condemned it as outrageous and advised people to expect a u-turn :
The Equality and Human Rights Commission also signalled its opposition to the ban claiming it undermined essential British
values . The commission said in a statement:
Freedom to hold a religion and freedom to express ideas are essential British values. We are concerned by any blanket ban on adverts by all religious groups.
Digital Cinema Media have said an advert could cause offence to those of
differing faiths. There is no right not to be offended in the UK; what is offensive is very subjective and lies in the eye of the beholder.
There is nothing in law that prevents Christian organisations promoting their faith
Of course nobody has asked the cinema goers whether they would like to be bombarded by religious nonsense. Phantom notes on the melon farmer's forum:
Of course they were absolutely
right to turn down this ad. But not because they allegedly bowed to a militant Muslim lobby, fearing the ad would cause offence. They simply knew that accepting this ad would unleash an avalanche of Ian Paisley style religious rants and images of aborted
foetuses on an audience which simply just wanted to watch the latest Bond movie.
The Church of England has now complained to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), warning that the decision by Odeon, Cineworld and Vue to refuse to show the one-minute film in the run-up to Christmas was discriminatory and an assault on
In a further escalation of the row, the Church also said it would use its shareholding in Cineworld to ratchet up pressure on the chain. The Church said that its financial arm would be writing to Cineworld.
statement said it was taking its case to the EHRC because it had a duty to protect the free practise of all faiths in this country . It added:
We believe DCM's decision raises issues of freedom of religion that
extend far beyond the circumstances of this proposed advertisement. We resist the idea that the refusal of services on the basis of religious belief is in any way acceptable.
Extract: There's no discrimination
going on here...move on please
The Equality and Human Rights Commission weighed in with a statement indicating their concern about blanket bans on religious advertising. The Commission's opinion concluded that there is nothing in law that prevents Christian organisations promoting their faith through adverts.
The statement did little, however, to answer the trickier question about whether there is anything that legally requires DCM to show the ad and whether the Church of England may have a cause of action.
The Equality Act 2010
outlaws discrimination on the basis of nine protected characteristics including religion or belief. It applies to any business that provides goods, facilities or services to members of the public, such as a cinema.
provides that a person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.
...a challenge to DCM's decision is likely to be unsuccessful.
DCM, by refusing to air adverts they reasonably regard as Political or Religious Advertising would be treating all religious organisations the same way and therefore not discriminating on the basis of religion or belief.
Update: National Secular Society gets to the bottom of the affair
Time for the Church to come clean on the Just Pray controversy
With a considerable media firestorm the Church launched a crafty piece of marketing for their Just Pray campaign -- centred on the accusation
that their Lord's Prayer advert had been banned because it was offensive . One week on, new facts raise significant questions about their claims.
About 200 people have compalied to the newspaper censor Ipso about a cartoon by Mac published in the Daily Mail. It featured caricatured refugees crossing the border into Europe, accompanied by rats scurrying across the floor.
The Daily Mail's
managing editor's office said in a statement that:
As should be blindingly obvious, Mac's cartoon is a comment on the terrorist atrocities in Paris. The rats were intended to depict terrorists smuggling themselves into
Europe amongst innocent refugees.
Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East, wrote to the paper's editor, suggesting that the animation:
Appears to liken immigrants of the Muslim faith to rats. To me, and
to many of my constituents, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, this cartoon appears to be Islamophobic,
And, what is more, comes at a time when our country's Muslim community - which was as shocked and saddened as we all were at the
unforgivable atrocities in Pairs - feels under threat of demonisation.
The letter was published by an unofficial group campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn to become UK Prime Minister (JeremyCorbyn4PM). The group tweeted:
Well done to @RichardBurgon for standing up to the @DailyMailUK over their disgraceful cartoon. Needed to be said.
The press censor Ipso confirmed it had received 200 complaints regarding the drawing.
There has been a bit of a debate in America about why Christianity, which would have formed a central part of the lives of the aristocracy in the early 20th century, is largely absent from the TV drama Downton Abbey .
Now the man tasked
with ensuring the historical accuracy of the series has revealed why Downton does not do God. Alastair Bruce, who serves as the show's historical advisor , said that executives in charge of the series had ordered producers to leave religion out of it
, for fear of alienating an increasingly atheistic public.
For instance, the Crawley family is never shown in the process of sitting down to dinner, with the action instead shown from part-way through the meal . This, Bruce said, was to avoid
having to show the characters saying grace. Bruce explained:
In essence you hardly ever see a table that isn't already sat at. We never see the beginning of a luncheon or a dinner, because no one was ever allowed to
see a grace being said , and I would never allow them to sit down without having said grace.
I think that the view was that we'd leave religion out of it, and it would've taken extra time too. I suggested a Latin grace, but they
decided that was too far, and no one would've known what was going on.
Bruce said that he was even banned from featuring napkins folded in the shape of a bishop's mitre, for fear of breaching the religious edict:
Everyone panics when you try to do anything religious on the telly. I still wish we could've got some decent napkin folds , but I was always left with my triangle.
Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television also
revealed that earlier in the year that the channel had considered renaming the series, because it featured the word Abbey in the title. He said:
I can remember discussions that almost seem comical now. We talked
about the word Abbey. Would people think it would have nuns or monks in it and be a religious series? But we satisfied ourselves they wouldn't and did a bit of marketing around it.
The Muslim Council of Britain held a conference this week entitled Terrorism and Extremism -- how should British Muslims respond?
And the response seems to be to call for the censorship of reports about the terrorism and criminalisation of
criticism of the extremism.
Calls were made for the UK's newspaper censor, Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), to censor press stories critical of groups of people rather than the current remit to investigate press stories that are
unfair to individuals.
The Muslim Council of Britain both called for that to change, amid what some claim is slanted press coverage of Islamic issues. The coincil had previously criticized media coverage of issues such as that of Muslim
grooming gangs , in which groups of men in areas such as Rotherham, Derby, Bristol and Oxfordshire were accused of raping thousands of children. Representatives of the MCB have said that linking the story to the Muslim faith was not fair.
Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, said that there is currently
no recourse under the press standards code when a particular group is attacked by the media:
There's been many examples in the media, where we've tried to go to the code but we've not been able to, he said. If
there is a way that a representative group can launch a complaint on that issue, that would be valuable.
One of the most high-profile cases in which IPSO rejected a claim of discrimination came last spring, and involved a column in
the Sun newspaper about the migration crisis. Controversial columnist Katie Hopkins suggested that Europe should use gunboats to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and compared those fleeing their home countries to cockroaches. But IPSO
rejected complaints over her column, because it did not refer to specific individuals.
The conference also discussed the restoration of blasphemy laws, abolished in 2008 after they had largely fallen into disuse by then, given that the last
successful prosecution was in 1977.
On the topic Keith Vaz MP, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told Al Arabiya News that he would have no problem with blasphemy laws being reintroduced"
It should apply to all religions. If we have laws, they should apply to everybody. Religions are very special to people. And therefore I have no objection to them... but it must apply equally to everybody.
Anderson QC spoke on the topic saying he would not object to a public debate over the issue, although had doubts over whether such laws should be reintroduced:
Personally I'm not sure whether I would welcome a
blasphemy law, because I think we have to be free to make fun of each other. We even have to be free to offend each other, he said. [But] I would have no problem with the idea of a democratic debate on whether there is room for some kind of blasphemy
Miqdaad Versi said:
Muslim communities need to be able to respond to accusations Muslims, or against the Prophet, in a more effective way. Whether there should be legislation is something that
really is a more complicated question.
Comment: One religion's blasphemer is another religion's saint
Here's a spectacular illustration of the big problem with blasphemy laws: religions contradict, and therefore blaspheme, one another.
This Catholic web site presents, and accurately translates into English, criticisms of Muhammad and Islam made by a priest who
has been declared a saint. Notably, St john Bosco was a kindly and gentle old chap, deploring corporal punishment at a time when Dr Arnold of Rugby firmly believed in a good flogging in front of the assembled house. He observed:
"It would take too long to tell you all the stories about this famous impostor (...) Mohamed's religion consists of a monstrous mixture of Judaism, Paganism and Christianity. Mohamed propagated his religion, not through miracles
or persuasive words, but through the force of arms. [It is] a religion that favors every sort of licentiousness and which, in a short time, allowed Mohamed to become the leader of a troop of brigands. Along with them he raided the countries of the East
and conquered the people, not by introducing the Truth, not by miracles or prophecy; but for one reason only: to raise his sword over the heads of the conquered shouting: believe or die".
A man who threatened to blow-up a shop and stab its staff for selling French magazine Charlie Hebdo in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Shamim Ahmed sent an email to South Kensing ton's The
French Bookshop on January 17 with the subject line: 'Protect your neck while you are still alive. Ahmed accused the bookshop of selling the satirical magazine against Muslims and said they would face major retaliation if they continued to
stock it. He then made two threatening phone calls to the Bute Street shop on January 22, telling the owner:
I'm going to come and stab you, I'm going to come right away and blow up the shop. I'm not afraid of the
police, I'm a Muslim.
Ahmed was fined £1180, told to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and indefinitely placed under a restraining order which prevented him from contacting The French Bookshop or its staff, or encouraging others to
do so. He was handed a 20-week sentence suspended for two years.
The Message is a 1977 Lebanon / Libya / Kuwait / Morocco / UK historical biography by Moustapha Akkad. Starring Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas and Michael Ansara.
This must-see epic depicts the birth of Islam. In the 7th century Mohammed is visited by Angel Gabriel who urges him to lead the people of Mecca and worship God. But they're exiled in Medina before returning to Mecca to take up arms
against their oppressors and liberate their city in the name of God.
A Glasgow cinema that cancelled a screening of The Message, an Oscar nominated film portraying the life of the religious character Muhammad, has been urged to
reconsider its decision.
About 100 complaints were made ahead of a scheduled showing of 1977 film at the Grosvenor Cinema next month. The complaints about the film's content, such as the portrayal of Muhammad's close companions by non-Muslim
actors led to the cinema's decision to ban the showing. No doubt an unstated fear of trouble also played a part in the decision.
The Islamic Society of Britain has protested the Grosvenor's cancellation in the face of a small number of
objections, which came in the form of an anonymous petition signed by 93 people, according to the Herald. A spokesman for the ISB said:
As Scottish Muslims we believe in the principles of freedom of speech and have
worked for decades to promote the rights of people to make Islam relevant to British society. These protestors demonstrate the worst elements of our community, as they are imposing their beliefs on others.
We will not be bullied
by these people. We are also appealing for the Grosvenor to stick to the original agreement, and show the film.
The National Secular Society has also written to the cinema to express its concern at what it called a climate of
censorship brought on by the unreasonable and reactionary views of some religious extremists . NSS campaigns manager Stephen Evans said:
It's a sad sign of the times that such a small petition has forced the venue
to cancel. We hope the cinema will change its position and not allow the weapon of offense to be used to restrict its freedom as a cinema to screen films and the freedom of audiences to watch them.
SNP MSP Humza Yusaf also denounced
the decision, saying:
I am apalled that they have caved in the face of a few narrow-minded imbeciles.