The Church of England is receiving some unlikely support from outspoken atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins after U.K. movie theater chains refused to run a Christian ad encouraging people to pray.
The explanation by the Digital Cinema Media agency, which books ads for major theaters throughout the U.K., was rooted in a policy that rejects religious and political ads for fear of offending, but Dawkins — a frequent critic of religion — said that he strongly disagrees.
"My immediate response was to tweet that it was a violation of freedom of speech," Dawkins told the Guardian. "But I deleted it when respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgment on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue."
Richard Dawkins, founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science promotes a book at the Seymour Centre on December 4, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Don Arnold/Getty Images)
Still, Dawkins remains opposed to the decision by the Odeon Cineworld and Vue movie theater chains.
"I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people," he said. "If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended."
Others like Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative Party member of parliament, tweeted, "As a gentle atheist, I’m not offended by Church screening gentle cinema adverts; we shouldn’t reject our deep cultural roots in Christianity."
As a gentle atheist, I'm not offended by Church screening gentle cinema adverts; we shouldn't reject our deep cultural roots in Christianity— Sarah Wollaston MP (@sarahwollaston) November 22, 2015
The Church of England was using the ad, which features men and women reciting the Lord's Prayer, to advertise JustPray.uk, a website encouraging people to invoke God.
See the ad below:
As TheBlaze previously reported, 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.
Read more about the initial controversy here.
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