The new “Star Wars” film opens next month, but the Force won’t be with the Lord.
In a snub to the Church of England, an advertisement that was planned to coincide with the new film “The Force Awakens” has been rejected by most UK cinemas due to fears it could be offensive.
Digital Cinema Media, the company that supplies advertising to Britain’s main movie houses, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, made the decision after reviewing its policy on political and religious advertisements.
The minute-long video features the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and other Christians reciting the Lord’s Prayer. The Church of England said it planned the ad to be shown before the “Star Wars” film because it is “a multi-generational cultural event.”
The Church of England is now considering taking legal action.
Arun Arora, director of communications for the Church of England, told CNN: “I am shocked by this wrong decision.
“We worked with DCM from the beginning. We said: ‘We are religious, we are the Church of England. Is there a problem with that?’ “
“They said, ‘no that’s fine.’ They were very happy and welcoming and even offered us a 50 percent discount on the price of advertising slots.”
The decision changed, according to Arora, after DCM reviewed complaints about advertisements during the Scottish independence referendum in September 2014. After this review, the board decided to ban not just political, but also religious ads from their cinemas, the Church of England claim.
Arora said: “Under the equality act, you can’t lump religious and political beliefs together. Political views are not a protected characteristic, but religious belief is.”
Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party — the UK’s main opposition — tweeted in surprise at the decision, noting that lawmakers recite the Lord’s Prayer at the start of each parliamentary day.
The ad had previously been approved by the Cinema Advertising Association, a body set up to “monitor and maintain standards of cinema advertising.”
It was even given a “U” certificate by the British Board of Film Classification, which gives the ad approval for people of all ages.
Why was it banned?
DCM were contacted by CNN, but has yet to respond. In an earlier statement, it said: “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” and that “in this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally.”
The campaigns manager of the National Secular Society, Stephen Evans, defended DCM. “Of course the Lord’s Prayer is not offensive, but I think banning the advert from cinemas is a good idea. It’s about not alienating paying customers. This is a commercial decision.
“It’s mock outrage from the Church of England. They’ve managed to get every national broadcaster to screen their advert.”
He added: “It’s been a very slick marketing job by the Church of England. I think they’ve been very clever, albeit somewhat disingenuous.
“They’ve created a false persecution narrative, which is very helpful to their cause.”
Other ads banned for religious reasons
This isn’t the first time religious ads have caused controversy in the UK.
In 2012, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson intervened to stop ads that promoted the idea that gay people can be converted to heterosexuality from appearing on the city’s buses.
And in 2009, London buses bearing the slogan “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” drew criticism from religious circles.