As battles erupted over U.K. movie theaters’ decision to ban a Christian advertisement encouraging prayer, supporters of the ad were joined by an unlikely advocate.
Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and prominent atheist, surprisingly came out in support of the Church of England’s angry response to the movie chains refusing the ad due to a policy that does not allow religious or political advertising.
Watch the banned video, below.
The church feared the ban would lead to a chilling effect on free speech and Dawkins, long a proponent of free speech, agreed.
“My immediate response was to tweet that it was a violation of freedom of speech,” Dawkins told The Guardian.”But I deleted it when respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgment on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue.”
The 60-second advertisement, due to be shown before the December 18th debut of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” was to promote a Church of England website, “JustPray.uk” encouraging people to pray.
But, in its communication with the church, Digital Cinema Media, which deals with most movie advertising in the UK, said its policy is “not to run advertising connected to personal beliefs, specifically those related to politics or religion. Our members have found that showing such advertisements carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences,” reported the Guardian.
Dawkins, who has drawn fire for his views on religion and is author of “The God Delusion,” defended the Church’s stand, believing that religious preferences were not reason enough for censorship.
“I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people,” he said. “If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”
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