The Church of England said on Sunday that it was “bewildered” by the decision of Britain’s major movie theater chains to refuse to run an ad encouraging Christian prayer over concerns the ads could "cause offense."
The 60-second ad titled “Just Pray” – which shows Christian men and women from all walks of life reciting the Lord’s Prayer - was targeted to run before screenings next month of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
The Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency, which books ads for the major movie chains in the U.K. including Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, said in a statement reported by the BBC that its policy is to reject political and religious advertising.
"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," the statement read.
"In this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally,” the agency said.
In a statement Sunday, the Church of England blasted the decision, noting that the cinema chains involved control 80 percent of screens nationwide.
The Rev. Arun Arora, communications director for the Church of England, said that the church is "bewildered by the decision of the cinemas.”
"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,” he said.
The ad includes people of all walks of life — including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, weight lifters, a police officer, a man on a train, refugees and schoolchildren — reciting the Lord’s Prayer, followed by the onscreen message, “Prayer is for everyone #justpray.”
The Church of England said it was hoping to reach the huge audiences forecast for the pre-Christmas opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in an effort to encourage prayer.
"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,” the church spokesman said.
“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,” he added.