Lord's Prayer: Christian ad ban in cinemas draws ire of clerics
Senior church figures in Northern Ireland have lambasted a decision by Britain's biggest cinema chains to ban an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer because it might cause offence.
The Church of England has threatened legal action against Odeon, Cineworld and Vue cinemas and has said it is the victim of religious discrimination after they were told the minute-long video could cause offence.
The advert, produced by JustPray.uk, shows the Lord's Prayer being recited by members of the public, ranging from bodybuilders to children, and features the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
It was due to be played in cinemas from December 18 before showings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Canon Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, said he expected many people would be dismayed by the ban.
"I believe that all faiths should be permitted freely to advertise their beliefs and acts of worship in a responsible manner," he said.
"That is part of belonging to a free society. I believe that prevailing secularist attitudes are sadly becoming increasingly overbearing in nature. What appears to have happened is a case of unparalleled political correctness."
Former Presbyterian moderator Dr Norman Hamilton described the decision as "both bewildering and hypocritical".
"As leading cinema chains they are seeking to reap the commercial benefits of the Christmas season, whilst avoiding the reason for there being anything to celebrate at all. Sadly, they are not alone," he said.
"This case highlights once again the intense difficulty that our increasingly secular world has in relating to real faith of any kind."
Fr Patrick McCafferty of the Catholic Church said: "The Lord's Prayer gives voice to the most deeply-felt emotions, needs and longings of human beings, of all religious beliefs and none.
"The petitions in the Lord's Prayer can be legitimately expressed by every good, kind and human being, believer and non-believer. Is this not the current need of all humanity?"
Methodist President Rev Brian Anderson said he was "mystified by the decision."
"I wonder if those of no faith, or other faiths, would be offended by a prayer that requests forgiveness,acceptance and a measured life?" he asked.