Britain's most famous atheist has leapt to the defence of The Church of England after UK cinemas refused to show an advert for the Church.
Richard Dawkins claimed that advertising religion was no more offensive than commercials for soap flakes, and described how he changed his stance on the advert after initially thinking it was a violation of free speech.
In an interview with the Guardian, Dawkins said: "Respondents convinced me that it was a matter of commercial judgement on the part of the cinemas, not so much a free speech issue.
"I still strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might 'offend' people. If anybody is 'offended' by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended."
Dawkins also wrote on Twitter: "Why is religious advertising any more offensive than soap flakes?"
@kasilas They advertise all sorts of other things. Why is religious advertising any more "offensive" than soap flakes?— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) November 22, 2015
After his Tweet one user was quick to attack Dawkins, claiming the atheist was bias towards the Church. "What If they showed people citing verses from the Qur'an," he wrote:
You're defending this? What if they showed people citing verses from the Qur'an? You're biased bc u grew up w CoE— Gut ohne Gott (@I_Love_Atheism) November 22, 2015
The Church said that the refusal to show the 60-second film, which it had planned to show around the country ahead of the new Star Wars film, the Force Awakens, was “plain silly”.
But the Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency, which handles cinema advertising, said that there were fears that the advert could offend non-Christians.
Odeon Cineworld and Vue chains, which control 80% of screens around the country, say it has refused to allow it because of a policy not to allow political or religious advertising.
The advert, entitled ‘Just Pray’ features a range of people reciting the Lord’s Prayer, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, police officers, weight lifters and school children.
The advert promotes the CoE’s new website, JustPray.uk, which was launched to create a place for prayer with advice on what prayer is and how to pray. The site also provides a "live prayer" feed of prayers being prayed across the globe via Twitter, Instagram and Vine.
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."