The Church of England has warned of a "chilling" effect on free speech, after leading U.K. cinemas refused to show an ad for the Lord's Prayer, citing it could offend people of other faiths or no faith.
"This advert is about as offensive as a carol service or church service on Christmas Day," The Most Rev. Justin Welby said, according to BBC News.
"Let the public judge for themselves rather than be censored or dictated to," he added.
The CofE has said it is "disappointed and bewildered" by the decision, calling it "plain silly."
The 60-second ad, which features various scenes of life across the U.K. with a voice over of the Lord's Prayer, was set to be played at British cinemas this Christmas ahead of the upcoming Star Wars film.
The Digital Cinema Media agency handling U.K. cinema adverts said it could offend those of "differing faiths and no faith," however.
The agency explained that "some advertisements, unintentionally or otherwise, could cause offense to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith," but added that "in this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally."
CofE Director of Communications Rev. Arun Arora responded: "We find that really astonishing, disappointing and rather bewildering.
"The prospect of many families attending the release of the new Star Wars film had seemed a good opportunity to launch the advert and a new website justpray.uk to promote prayer ahead of Christmas," he added.
"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."
Christians have asked questions about religious freedom and their freedom of speech rights in the U.K. many times this year.
Back in March, a Christian nursery worker in London launched an unfair dismissal claim after she was fired from her job for telling a colleague she doesn't believe God condones gay marriage.
"Sharing biblical truths out of genuine love for colleagues is being outlawed in the workplace by an oppressive 'cultural correctness.' There is a culture of fear which shuts down freedom of speech and the expression of faith," Andrea Minichello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said at the time.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said in the past that the U.K. remains a "Christian country," despite growing diversity in religious belief and non-belief.
In his Easter 2014 message, Cameron said that Christianity allows for respect for other religions.
"First, being more confident about our status as a Christian country does not somehow involve doing down other faiths or passing judgment on those with no faith at all," Cameron said at the time.
"Many people tell me it is easier to be Jewish or Muslim in Britain than in a secular country precisely because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths, too," he added.
This article was originally published in The Christian Post.