Christians will be dismayed by ad ban but unsurprised, says Presbyterian leader
The head of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland has backed a controversial Lord's Prayer advert that has been axed by leading cinema chains.
Anger is growing after the Church of England clip was pulled by the agency handling advertising for Odeon, Cineworld and Vue in case it caused offence.
Prime Minister David Cameron waded into the row yesterday, describing the ban as ridiculous.
Presbyterian Moderator Ian McNie said Christians were dismayed. Speaking after attending a prayer breakfast in Belfast, Dr McNie said it highlighted the importance of prayer.
"This event was in stark contrast to the banning of the Church of England's advert promoting the Lord's Prayer in cinemas in the run-up to Christmas," he said.
The 60-second recording of the Lord's Prayer was proposed to be screened ahead of screenings of the new Star Wars film before Christmas. It shows people from different walks of life reciting or singing lines from the prayer, and was released as part of the Church's launch of justpray.uk, a new website to "promote the renewal of prayer in a digital age".
But it was pulled by the Digital Cinema Media agency, which handles advertising in cinemas for the three major UK chains.
The company said it has a policy of not showing political or religious advertising in its cinemas as such adverts risked upsetting or offending audiences.
But Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: "This advert is about as offensive as a carol service or a church service on Christmas Day."
And Dr McNie said: "This prayer is used daily by billions of people throughout our world as a prayer thanking God for who He is, and the seeking of personal guidance and forgiveness for our lives in a fractured and turbulent world.
"Undoubtedly, many Christians will be dismayed by this decision, although not surprised. However, it is my prayer that this negative initial response from the advertising company will be turned into a positive appreciation and understanding of the importance of prayer.
"This decision takes on a more poignant meaning, especially at this time of year as we approach Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who encouraged us to pray in this way."
Asked for the PM's response to the ban, a Downing Street spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "He thinks it is ridiculous."
Professor Richard Dawkins, an outspoken critic of organised religion, told The Guardian: "I strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might 'offend' people. If anybody is 'offended' by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended."
The Church of England is considering legal action under the Equality Act.