BNP candidates to be banned from church hustings

Lichfield cathedral
Lichfield cathedral

By Marina Kim

Clergy in the Midlands have been asked to ban BNP candidates from speaking at candidates' hustings debates organised by churches.

The Diocese of Lichfield, which includes 600 churches and serves over two million people in Staffordshire, Shropshire, Wolverhampton, Walsall, and Sandwell, issued the election briefing ahead of the elections.

In guidance notes for elections the Diocese of Lichfield said: "We should not give an air of respectability or signify acceptance to parties or individuals who use the democratic process to attack people based on the colour of their skin or their ethnic origin; or who seek to bring fear and hatred to communities."

Christian charities were encouraged to stand up to organisations that "distort the gospel to claim some divine authorisation for their hatred".

Although the BNP are a legal political party, the diocese believes the church should not provide a platform to spread hate to sections to the community they minister to.

Gavin Drake, a spokesman for the diocese, said: "We should remember history lessons. In Germany when the National Socialist party was inciting hate church leaders didn't speak out against it."

"The Nazis started with dehumanising people, boycotting, discriminating people. Once you started it is easy to carry on and on until the atrocities become totally inhumane.

"In the same way BNP started antagonizing against Muslims, and if we do not do anything now it can be too late," he said.

The BNP is dissatisfied with the decision by the diocese: "By this action the Church is denying the public their right to hear all the political arguments," a spokesman said.

In a bid to dismantle the BNP from pretending that Christian community supports them, church leaders have already spoken out against the far-right party.

In 2003 Dr John Sentamu - then the Bishop of Birmingham, now the Archbishop of York - said voting for the BNP was "like spitting in the face of God". And in 2008 the Bishop of Stafford said: "Christians in particular have a moral duty to oppose the BNP."


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