An advertisement commissioned by the Church of England that was scheduled to air before the new Star Wars film was denied screen time in British movie theaters.
The commercial shows people in various scenarios reciting lines from the Lord’s Prayer. The New York Times writes that it was meant to promote a new website, Just Pray, that was made with the intention of supporting “the renewal of prayer in a digital age.”
Director of communications for the Church of England, Reverend Arun Arora said that the prayer is recited by billions of people around the world on a daily basis. “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,” he stated, adding that the movie theaters still have time to change their minds.
The commercial was rejected by Digital Cinema Media, a company that handles 80% of advertising in British movie theaters. DCM released a statement in four tweets explaining its decision:
Keith Porteous Wood, the executive director of the National Secular Society, told the Times that the organization did not believe the commercial was particularly offensive and has no problem with it being aired in theaters. However, he added that the DCM could be subject to legal action if chose to show to ad and then later on denied religious material from “controversial religions or even cults.”
According to the church, the commercial had already been approved by the Cinema Advertising Authority and the British Board of Film Classification. It has posted the video online and says that some independent theaters have expressed interest in airing it.