Lord's Prayer cinema ad ban is ridiculous, says David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron has denounced as "ridiculous" the ban on a cinema advert featuring the Lord's Prayer.
The film, produced by JustPray.uk, shows the Lord's Prayer being recited by members of the public ranging from bodybuilders to children, and also features the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby.
The minute-long ad received clearance from the British Board of Film Classification and the Cinema Advertising Authority, but Digital Cinema Media (DCM) has refused to show it.
Asked for the PM's response to the ban, a Downing Street spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "He thinks it is ridiculous."
The spokesman declined to expand on the rationale behind the PM's view or to say whether Mr Cameron thought the decision should be reversed.
DCM, which sells advertising to some of Britain's biggest cinema chains, defended its decision to keep the advert off-screen, saying some ads could cause offence to people of different faiths, political persuasions or those of no faith.
The agency said it treats "all political or religious beliefs equally".
The London-based firm, which handles adverts for Odeon, Cineworld and Vue cinemas, responded as the Church of England (CoE) threatened legal action over the banning of the ad.
In a statement, DCM said: "DCM has a policy of not accepting 'political or religious advertising' content for use in its cinemas.
"Some advertisements - unintentionally or otherwise - could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith.
"In this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally."
Archbishop Welby said it is "extraordinary" that Britain's biggest cinema chains have banned the advertisement.
The CoE initially believed it had been approved and would be played before showings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens from December 18.
But they were later told that due to a DCM policy not to run adverts which could potentially cause offence, the film would not be shown.
When asked for a copy of that policy, the CoE was told there was no formal policy document but that it had been agreed with DCM's members.
A formal policy now appears on DCM's website, stating: "To be approved, an advertisement must... not in the reasonable opinion of DCM constitute political or religious advertising."
DCM did not immediately respond to reports that the document was only created last Friday - just two days before the Mail on Sunday revealed the ban.
Stephen Slack, the Church's chief legal adviser, has warned the ban could trigger legal action under the Equality Act, which bans commercial organisations from refusing services on religious grounds.
But Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society, accused the Church of being "arrogant" to imagine that it can "foist" its opinions on captive cinema audiences.
London Mayor Boris Johnson condemned the ban as "outrageous" and said he expected the decision to be reversed.
In a Twitter question and answer session, he said: " This is a prayer that is 2000 years old and informs our whole culture. Expect U turn from cinemas."
A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: "Freedom to hold a religion and freedom to express ideas are essential British values. We are concerned by any blanket ban on adverts by all religious groups.
"Digital Cinema Media have said an advert could cause offence to those of differing faiths. There is no right not to be offended in the UK. What is offensive is very subjective and lies in the eye of the beholder."
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "First the thought police curbed debate on our college campuses, and now they invade the sacred space of the cinema. This is a blatant breach of Article 10 of the Human Rights Act. DCM must think again."