Advertisers supplying Britain's major cinema chains have sparked a furor by banning an ad featuring the Lord's Prayer in case it offends people from being screened in theaters after earlier agreeing to do so.
The Church of England said Nov. 22 it is "bewildered" by the refusal of the country's leading cinemas to show the 60 second advert of The Lord's Prayer.
The Anglican church said on its website it is a "plain silly" decision that could have a "chilling effect" on free speech.
The 60 second ad starts with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, walking through a park.
It features Christians from all walks of life praying one line of the Lord's prayer and includes weight lifters, a police officer, a commuter, refugees in a support centre, school children, a mourner at a graveside and a festival goer.
The church announced that the country's three biggest cinema chains Odeon, Cineworld and Vue that control 80 per cent of theatre screens around the country - have refused to show the advert.
The Church of England said it had been told the decision is because of the belief it "carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences."
Those taking part in the ad are people from different walks of life reciting or singing lines from the Lord's Prayer.
Welby is followed by a police officer, a weightlifter, a farmer, a congregation at a wedding and class of school children, among others in the minute-long advertisement.
The ad was released as part of the Church of England's launch of justpray.uk, a "new website to promote the renewal of prayer in a digital age."
It was due to be screened throughout the UK in Odeon, Cineworld and Vue cinemas ahead of showings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens before Christmas.
The Rev. Arun Arora, director of communications for the Church of England, said:
"The prospect of a multi-generational cultural event offered by the release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on 18 December - a week before Christmas Day - was too good an opportunity to miss and we are bewildered by the decision of the cinemas.
"The Lord's Prayer is prayed by billions of people across the globe every day and in this country has been part of everyday life for centuries.
"Prayer permeates every aspect of our culture from pop songs and requiems to daily assemblies and national commemorations.
"For millions of people in the United Kingdom, prayer is a constant part of their lives whether as part thanksgiving and praise, or as a companion through their darkest hours."
The Church of England said it has threatened legal action against the cinemas, saying it was the victim of religious discrimination, The Mail online reported.
The decision to block the film was made despite it receiving a Universal certificate by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). That means anyone, of any age, can watch it – and approved by the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA).