An ad for the Church of England, featuring people from all walks of life reciting the Lord's Prayer, won't be screened in theaters before the new Star Wars film, according to the Digital Cinema Media agency.
The DCM, which regulates film advertising for major British cinema chains, says the 60-second ad might offend "those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith," pointing to its policy of denying overly religious or political ad content on principle. Given recent events, we can see how this ad would run afoul of both guidelines.
The Church of England says it is "disappointed and bewildered" by the DCM's decision, calling the ad as harmless "as a carol service." It's also threatened to challenge the decision as a freedom of speech issue, citing the Equality Act, which forbids commercial interests from refusing services on religious grounds.
In response, National Secular Society president Terry Sanderson denounced the Church of England for assuming "an automatic right to foist its opinions upon a captive audience who have paid good money for a completely different experience," and pointed out that the Church has banned yoga, among other things, from its halls for religious reasons.
While it's not an offensive or didactic ad, screening it right before Star Wars is an exercise in futility. Judging by the fans we know, that audience has already made a spiritual choice: It's called The Force.