Church bewildered by cinema decision on Lord's Prayer advert

Right Rev Dr Angus Morrison

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has said it is "bewildering" and "hard to understand" why three cinema chains are refusing to screen an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer before Christmas.

The Right Rev Dr Angus Morrison said he shared the Church of England's disappointment that it's 60-second film will not be shown by Odeon, Cineworld and Vue ahead of the new Star Wars film.

Digital Cinema Media, the agency that handles adverts for the cinemas, said it could offend those of "differing faiths and no faith".

The advert features the Christian prayer being recited or sung by a variety of people including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The advert was passed uncut by the British Board of Film Classification and given a "U" certificate, as well as receiving clearance from the Cinema Advertising Authority.

The Church of England says it "breaks no rules and seeks only to promote a conversation with God", describing it as about as "offensive" as a Carol service or church service on Christmas day.

Dr Morrison said: "The Church of England's fantastic idea perfectly complements our own new Advent campaign, which has seen myself and more than 20 other ministers make our own short videos to share on social media in the run up to Christmas.

"We share the bewilderment of our friends in the Church of England that the Lord's Prayer could ever be viewed as offensive.

"Initiatives like these are an excellent antidote to the rampant commercialism at this time of year.

"It's hard to understand why adverts persuading people to spend more money than they have or those that glorify sex and violence are apparently acceptable but one that calls for a peaceful, fair world are not.

"We will happily show this advertisement to all our congregations to complement our own Advent campaign and call on other denominations to do the same.

"It's ironic, but this publicity may actually ensure it is seen even more widely than would originally have been possible."

The Church of England, which is examining whether the decision contravenes the Equality Act, is hoping that the cinemas will reconsider their position because it argues that the world is a marketplace of ideas and religion has a stall.

Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch and convener of the Scottish Parliament cross-party group on religious freedom, described the cinema ruling as "bizarre".

"i do not understand how anybody could find the Lord's Prayer offensive," he added.

"The first part of the word Christmas is the word Christ."