ABC Executive Weighs In on ‘The Bachelor’ Religion Backlash

Season 25 of 'The Bachelor'

ABC/Craig Sjodin Matt James speaks with his contestants on 'The Bachelor.'

Matt James took a somewhat unique approach to his first toast as lead of season 25 of The Bachelor. Instead of addressing the room with a speech about the journey he and the 32 women in the room were about to take, James led the group in a prayer.

That moment was the source of some controversy that ABC executive Robert Mills didn’t see coming.

“I didn’t expect [the prayer] to be such a hot-button [topic] of interest,” Mills said in an appearance on Nick Viall’s podcast, Viall Files. “And I actually understand some of it, where it’s, ’What if this had been someone of a different domination?

“I have heard some say in a prayer, like, ‘Please either bow your head in the manner you’re accustomed or whatever.’ This is a guy, he just met 32 women. The fact that he didn’t tell people, like, ‘Hey, if this is not okay with you.’ I think he just was trying to … He truly didn’t make anyone uncomfortable.”

James, 29, put his faith at the forefront of his search for love, and the moment seemed well-received by the room. It even brought one contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, to tears.

“What you’ll get to know about me is any time I’m feeling nervous, I’m just constantly shooting up prayers just to put myself at ease,” James explained to the women.

Fans Had Mixed Reactions to the Prayer

While the reception to James’ prayer was unanimously positive among the women on The Bachelor (or at least as far as ABC showed), there were a few viewers who weren’t as impressed. Among those was comedian Nikki Glaser, who bashed the prayer on an episode of Viall Files.

“I think there should be a separation of church and date,” Glaser said. “I don’t really want prayer times. Why does everything have to be Christian?! I have no problem with Christians, but it seems like ABC to me is making a move here to include that part. I mean, it’s sweet…

“I would’ve been looking up, like ‘Is anyone else…’ Like I don’t know what to do. Do I say ‘amen?’ I would just go, ‘You know what? I’m gonna go, because you’re not going to like me if this is what we have to do before meals and things.’ It’s just a little exhausting.”

Other viewers felt as though the prayer was a bit exclusionary.

James Isn’t Opposed to Dating Someone With Different Beliefs

Before the premiere of The Bachelor even aired, James made sure to clarify that the prayer didn’t mean he’s only looking for a Christian woman. In an interview with Refinery29, he said he’s very open-minded to dating someone who doesn’t share his faith.

“My brother and I have very different religious views — and I would die for him,” James told Refinery29. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my brother. That goes to say, just because I don’t share the same religious view as somebody doesn’t mean I see them as any less of a person I could be compatible with. But I think it’s important that they know where my peace comes from and where my decision making is rooted in.

“We’re both trying to figure each other out. If that’s a dealbreaker for them, then I’d rather them know that about me so that I’m not wasting their time.”

Among the people who appreciated that sentiment was Ivan Hall, one of the final three men on the last season of The Bachelorette. Tayshia Adams said Hall’s religious beliefs was among the reasons she decided to end the relationship.

“With Matt opening things up with a prayer, I think that was a great move for him,” Hall said on Viall Files. “He’s Christian and that’s a big part of his life, so I think that was great for him to show that to the women so they kind of know where he stands with it a little bit. And hopefully that conversation about religion will come up a little sooner with Matt and his women.”

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