Digital Cinema Media (DCM) has banned an advert featuring the Lord’s Prayer, a decision the Church of England has said will have a “chilling” effect on free speech.
The 60-second film (above) shows people from all walks of life reading a line of the Lord’s Prayer, before ending on the tagline ‘Prayer is for everyone’ and encouraging people to use the hashtag #justpray.
After receiving clearance from the Cinema Advertising Authority and a U certificate by the British Board of Film Classification, The Church of England hoped it would run before the new Star Wars film across the UK.
However, DMC – which manages advertising which appears before films in cinemas including Odeon, Cineworld and Vue – said the advert could offend.
The body has a strict policy of not accepting political or religious advertising content in its cinemas. It said in a statement that "some advertisements - unintentionally or otherwise - could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith," and that "in this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally".
The Church of England described the decision as "plain silly" and that it would have a "chilling" effect on free speech.
The Reverend Arun Arora, director of communications for the Church of England, told the BBC: "We find that really astonishing, disappointing and rather bewildering.
"The prospect of many families attending the release of the new Star Wars film had seemed a good opportunity to launch the advert and a new website justpray.uk to promote prayer ahead of Christmas.
"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."