Matt James is still looking for love... but it's not all roses.
The Bachelor lead recently kicked off his journey, and while many are eagerly tuning in, there was one moment that caused quite a bit of controversy. In the season 25 premiere on Jan. 4, the 29-year-old star opened the cocktail party with a prayer.
Religion has been a frequent subject in the Bachelor Nation world, but fans expressed mixed feelings over Matt's prayer.
One Reddit user shared, "He should have worded it in a more inclusive way. It came off as centric to his belief system, and in a diverse group like this, where he pretty much doesn't know any of them, it may be viewed a little insensitive or even arrogant."
"I'm Jewish," another user noted, "If I'd been in that group I would not have been comfortable. I actually muted the TV."
ABC executive Robert Mills candidly discussed the moment with former Bachelor lead Nick Viall.
"I didn't expect [the prayer] to be such a hot-button of interest. And I actually understand some of it," Robert told Nick on the latest podcast episode of The Viall Files. "I have heard somebody say, in a prayer, like, 'Please bow your head in a manner you're accustomed to or whatever.'"
Robert explained that Matt "didn't mean" to offend anyone and he was most likely getting accustomed to his new role as The Bachelor.
"It's just a prayer, it's not going to burn you," Nick interjected, adding that Matt's prayer "set the stage for whatever is important to him."
"If that's something that's a big part of his life and he wants [it] to be a big part of his relationship, it makes sense," Nick shared, before conceding, "It also would make sense if it does make someone uncomfortable...but that's a discussion maybe [they] will have."
Most of the contestants on night one were moved to tears over Matt's prayer, and many expressed just how touching it was during their confessionals. Though it's unclear if anyone felt uncomfortable by it.
Earlier this month, Matt told Refinery 29 that his faith is sacred to him. He also made it clear that religion isn't a deal-breaker for him, but if it is for anyone on the ABC dating series, he'd "rather them know that about me so that I'm not wasting their time."
"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," Matt said. "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."
Matt hasn't been the only one in recent seasons to bring his faith into the competition. Fans were surprised to learn Tayshia Adams eliminated Ivan Hall on season 16 of The Bachelorette due to differing beliefs.
According to Ivan, the two didn't see eye-to-eye on religion, which he claimed was a deal-breaker for her. "All the girls I have dated in the past, it never ended because of religion or anything, but I know that's something that's important to you," he told Tayshia onscreen.
He later shared more details of their conversation on the Off the Vine podcast, saying, "I knew we were going to have to talk about it eventually because I could tell she was, at least, Christian."
"But we hadn't talked about it in the past. But she said maybe once to me that she relied on her faith a lot," he continued, adding The Bachelorette star brought up the topic in the Fantasy Suite. "Tayshia was like, 'So what do you think about raising kids with religion and what not?' And that's when we dove into it. And I kind of explained to Tayshia, 'Listen, I'm agnostic. A lot of people confuse it for being an atheist. Atheist is not what I am.'"
He added, "She wanted to date someone who is Christian. And that's completely fine."
Despite how sensitive a subject religion is, Robert told Nick they won't shy away from it if any of their leads feels it's important to them. Simply put, "If people want to discuss religion, they should and we absolutely should air it."