An advert featuring the Lord's Prayer has been banned from cinemas in case it offends people.
The Church of England said it had been left “bewildered” over the decision not to show the advert promoting Christian prayer in cinemas across the UK the week before Christmas.
The ad shows a number of people from different walks of life reciting or singing lines from the Lord’s Prayer, starting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, walking through a park. His words are followed by those of a police officer, a weightlifter, a farmer, a congregation at a wedding and class of school children, among others in the minute-long piece of work.
The ad was released as part of the Church’s launch of justpray.uk, a “new website to promote the renewal of prayer in a digital age,” and was due to be screened UK-wide in Odeon, Cineworld and Vue cinemas ahead of showings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens before Christmas.
But the ad has been pulled by the Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency, which handles advertising in cinemas for the three major UK chains.
The company stated it has a policy of not showing political or religious advertising in its cinemas as ads reflecting these personal beliefs risked upsetting, or offending, audiences, despite the ad having been approved by the Cinema Advertising Association and being given a “U” certificate by the British Board of Film Classification.
DCM said that “some advertisements – unintentional or otherwise – could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith,” adding that in this regard DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally.
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Archbishop Welby told the Mail on Sunday he found it “extraordinary that cinemas rule that it is inappropriate for an advert on prayer to be shown in the week before Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,” adding that the ad is “about as ‘offensive’ as a carol service of church service on Christmas Day”.
The Rev. Arun Arora, Director of Communications for the Church of England, said in a statement that the Church is “bewildered” by the decision, calling it “just plain silly” but “that fact that they have insisted upon it makes it rather chilling in terms of limiting free speech”.