Britain’s biggest cinema chains have banned the screening of a film in which the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the public recite the Lord’s Prayer – because they say it could be offensive to movie-goers.
Odeon, Cineworld and Vue have refused to show the one-minute film the Church of England planned to run in cinemas across the UK before the new Star Wars blockbuster, which opens a week before Christmas.
Last night the Church of England threatened legal action against the cinemas, saying it was the victim of religious discrimination.
The astonishing decision to block the film was made even though it was given a Universal certificate by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) – meaning anyone, of any age, can watch it – and approved by the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA).
Last night Archbishop Justin Welby reacted with fury, telling The Mail on Sunday: ‘I find 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.
‘Billions of people across the world pray this prayer on a daily basis. I think they would be astonished and deeply saddened by this decision, especially in the light of the terrorist attack in Paris where many people have found comfort and solace in prayer.
‘This advert is about as “offensive” as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day.’
And see the ad for yourself below.
UPDATE: The Church has just gotten some support from a surprising source, renowned atheist Richard Dawkins.
The Church of England has received unlikely backing from the biologist and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins after the UK’s three leading cinema chains refused to screen its advert featuring the Lord’s Prayer. …He told the Guardian: “My immediate response was to tweet that it was a violation of freedom of speech. But I deleted it when respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgment on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue. I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.” Dawkins has been a long time advocate for free speech, arguing that protecting religious sensibilities is not a reason for censorship. And despite attracting controversy over his views on religion, the author of the God Delusion has previously described himself as a “cultural Anglican”.