LONDON — A British cinema firm has denied the request of the Church of England to run an advertisement featuring the Lord’s Prayer, stating that the content might cause offense to some viewers.
The 60-second commercial, which features a variety of everyday citizens reciting the words of Christ, was to play next month before “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name,” the video opens, showing the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby walking contemplatively along a path, followed by man kneeling at a grave site.
“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” it continues, showing police officers on the street, and moving on to various other scenarios, from a man lifting weights, to a farmer, to those partaking in a baptism and wedding. “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.”
The advertisement, which is part of the Church of England’s “Just Pray” campaign, was cleared by the British Board of Film Classification and the Cinema Advertising Authority, but Digital Cinema Media (DCM) rejected it because of its religious content.
“DCM has a policy of not accepting ‘political or religious advertising’ content for use in its cinemas,” it said in a statement. “Some advertisements — unintentionally or otherwise — could cause offense to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith. In this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally.”
The National Secular Society said that it agreed with the decision, opining that the Church of England was “arrogant” to place the prayer in front of a captive audience.
But the Church of England says that it is “bewildered” by the rejection, which it characterizes as the stifling of free speech.
“The Lord’s Prayer is prayed by billions of people across the globe every day and in this country has been part of everyday life for centuries,” Director of Communications Arun Arora said in a statement. “In one way, the decision of the cinemas is just plain silly, but the fact that they have insisted upon it makes it rather chilling in terms of limiting free speech.”
A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron also outlined at a press conference that he finds that ban to be “ridiculous.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission made similar remarks.
“Freedom to hold a religion and freedom to express ideas are essential British values. We are concerned by any blanket ban on adverts by all religious groups,” it commented to reporters. “Digital Cinema Media have said an advert could cause offence to those of differing faiths. There is no right not to be offended in the UK. What is offensive is very subjective and lies in the eye of the beholder.”