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  1. ITV Report

CofE 'bewildered' by Lord's Prayer advert cinema ban

The clip shows people from all walks of life in prayer Credit: Just Pray

The Church of England has hit out a "plain silly" decision by three leading cinema chains to refuse to screen an advert showing the Lord's Prayer on the grounds that it could cause offence to non-Christians.

The 'Just Pray' advert, which shows people from all walks of life reciting the prayer, was due to be shown to audiences before the new Star Wars film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

It has been rejected by the country's three largest cinema chains, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, who said it could upset people who follow different religions or have no faith at all.

A spokesman for the church said they were "bewildered" by the decision and warned that it could have a "chilling effect" on free speech.

We are bewildered by the decision of the cinemas.

For millions of people in the United Kingdom, prayer is a constant part of their lives whether as part 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.

– The Reverend Arun Arora
Justin Welby said the adverts were as 'offensive' as a Christmas church service Credit: PA

The Archbishop of Canterbury said it was “extraordinary” to reject the advert for prayer in the run-up to Christmas in comments to the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

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.

– Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

The Just Pray clip had received clearance from the Cinema Advertising Authority and British Board of Film Classification.

A spokesman for the Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency, which handles British film advertising for all three of the cinema chains involved, said in a statement quoted by the BBC that it did not accept any political or religious advertising.

"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," it said.

"In this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally".