A leading U.K. cinema chain has rejected a short Christian movie about the Bible comforting soldiers in World War I on the grounds that it's too overtly religious.
The three-minute film by the Bible Society features achieved footage of World War I, along with everyday people reading from Revelation 21 as part of Remembrance Day services.
The video explains that all British soldiers in World War I were given a Bible as part of their kit.
The passage quoted reads:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man."
"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."
Explaining its decision to reject the short film, Empire Cinemas said that it cannot accept any overtly religious projects.
"Whilst we are sure the Bible Society is disappointed by our decision . . . it actually has less than 20 seconds of First World War footage, with the remainder being a recitation of scripture against a background of modern Britain. We stand by our decision not to screen advertisements from any religious groups," a spokesperson for the company told The Times.
Paul Woolley of the Bible Society told The Guardian that the film was scheduled to be shown on 125 screens at 14 venues across the U.K., before its rejection.
"The Bible is not a 'religious' document, just for Christians or just for 'religious' life; it's a book for everyone. It's an historical fact that the Bible was a core part of a British soldier's kit and that, to many, it was a source of hope," Woolley said.
"Of course Empire Cinemas is free to decide what they want to show or not. But we are saddened their customers won't get a chance to reflect on the role of the Bible, past and present."
U.K. cinemas have been rejecting Christian content for years. In 2015, Digital Cinema Media agency decided against running a short film by the Church of England about the Lord's Prayer, fearful it could offend those of "differing faiths and no faith."
Even leading atheist voices backed the CofE at the time, including best-selling author and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.
"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 said back then.
Watch the short film by the Bible Society below: