NEWS | Anne Lim
Monday, 23 November 2015
The Church of England says it is “bewildered” by the refusal of Britain’s leading cinema chains to show a 60-second commercial about the Lord’s Prayer in the lead-up to Christmas, adding that it could have a “chilling effect” on free speech.
The church dubbed as “plain silly” the decision by Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, which control 80 per cent of the country’s cinema screens, not to show the advertisement on the basis that it “carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences”.
The banned ad – which had receiving clearance from both the Cinema Advertising Authority and British Board of Film Classification – features the Lord’s Prayer being recited or sung by a host of people including refugees, weightlifters, a sheep farmer, a grieving son, schoolchildren and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby.
The ad was to have been shown in cinemas from 18 December as part of the ad reel before Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
It aimed to promote the church’s new website justpray.uk, which seeks to promote prayer in the digital age. The site provides advice on prayer and also provides a live feed of prayers being prayed across the globe via Twitter, Instagram and Vine.
The Archbishop Welby said he found the decision “extraordinary”.
“This advert is about as offensive as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day,” he said.
“Let the public judge for themselves rather than be censored or dictated to.”
Rev Arun Arora, director of communications for the Church of England, called the decision “bewildering and disappointing”:
“The prospect of a multi-generational cultural event offered by the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on 18 December – a week before Christmas Day – was too good an opportunity to miss and we are bewildered by the decision of the cinemas.
“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. Prayer permeates every aspect of our culture from pop songs and requiems to daily assemblies and national commemorations. For millions of people in the United Kingdom, prayer is a constant part of their lives whether as part of thanksgiving and praise, or as a companion through their darkest hours.
“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. There is still time for the cinemas to change their mind and we would certainly welcome that.
“In the meantime people should visit the site, see the film themselves and make up their own minds as to whether they are upset or offended by it.”
Or, you could just watch it here: