A pre-movie advertisement promoting an Easter church service was banned from local theaters because of its mention of Jesus.
Compass Bible Church in Aliso Viejo, Calif., created the 30-second ad to air for three weeks on 45 movie screens across Orange County starting April 1, paying more than $5,000, according to ABC.
The commercial posed questions about what some conspiracy theorists believed may have happened to Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. Claims like "the disciples stole the body" and "Jesus didn't actually die on the cross" were mentioned.
It asked moviegoers "Did it really happen?" And ended with "Why we actually believe in the resurrection."
But the money was returned and the ad was pulled for its "controversial" material, mainly its mention of Jesus, and its failure to comply with specific guidelines set by National CineMedia.
The agency for the national theater remarked that their constituents might be offended by such an advertisement.
Senior Pastor Mike Farabez of Compass Bible Church responded to ABC, "They told us the ad was great, it looked nice. It's just that we couldn't put the name of Jesus in the ad."
"There are certain things that they won't advertise, and there was no mention of Christ or Christianity or anything like that, that would preclude us from having an ad," stated Farabez to ABC.
Some of NCM's restrictions include nudity, alcohol, gambling, personal messaging including marriage proposals, and political advertising.
NCM Media Networks maintains sole discretion over what advertising content we accept in our FirstLook pre-show, stated an NCM Media Networks spokesperson.
"Compass Bible Church was made aware of our advertising content guidelines, and was given the opportunity to revise its ad accordingly to promote its Easter services in movie theaters. Compass Bible Church chose not to do so."
Speaking to The Christian Post, Farabez explained that NCM's proposed revision of the ad included only advertising the last frame, which stated where and when the service would take place. Everything else before that would have to be cut, which would negate the entire purpose for the ad.
"We were told we could promote our Easter services with a commercial that featured the date, time and place with some fun bunnies and eggs thrown in," said Farabez in a statement.
"But for us, Easter isn't about springtime fun," the senior pastor continued. "It's the most important day in Christian history, and we won't water that message down. It's unfortunate that what our country was founded on has now become 'too controversial.'"
"This wasn't a charity or a favor. This was a business contract," added Farabez to CP. "This wasn't even an evangelistic ad. We weren't telling anyone to trust in Christ. We weren't preaching or trying to convert anyone. It was just come to our service and learn about the resurrection of Christ."
Calling it a historically positive ad rather than an evangelistic one, the senior pastor wanted to give people the opportunity to study the historical evidence for Jesus Christ.
"What other historical figures will they deny us to research?" asked Farabez. "Muhammad? Buddha?"
All we're doing is looking at the central claim of the historic faith, he said to CP.
In a statement released by NCM, the agency reported that they regularly ran ads for local churches all over the country, including several ads that were currently promoting Easter services.
"In addition, our NCM Fathom Theatre Church division works with over 190 churches in 35 states to help congregations hold worship services in movie theaters."
In fact, part of the reason Compass Bible Church decided to advertise in their local theater, located just two to three blocks away, was because they knew that some church services were held there.
"It just seemed very discriminatory," expressed Farabez to CP. "It was a very narrow and unreasonable way to say 'if you mention Jesus you're not going advertise with us.'"
The church is promoting their Easter services elsewhere now. Their ad on Youtube features a warning at the beginning stating "the commercial you are about to view was deemed too controversial to be shown as a paid advertisement in our local movie theaters because the name of Jesus Christ was used. Please help us spread the word by forwarding this video on and join us for Easter at the Bren."
Compass Bible Church will hold their Easter service on Sunday, April 24, 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., at the UC Irvine Bren Center.