London, UK - OCT 22, 2009 If churches are to be effective in challenging the BNP they need to drop their rhetoric which fuels the party's ideology.
The advice from the religious thinktank Ekklesia comes after a number of churches and church leaders issued statements distancing themselves from the BNP prior to Nick Griffin's appearance on BBC1's Question Time.
The statements expressed concern that the BNP was portraying itself as a "Christian" party.
But the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, which has been studying the relationship between the BNP and the churches for the last five years, says that references to "Christian Britain", often employed by church leaders, are encouraging the association of national identity with religion, and playing into the racist party's hands.
Jonathan Bartley, Ekklesia's co-director said: "Whilst the major church denominations have rightly been outspoken in their challenge to the BNP, their messages have consistently been undermined by continual references to 'Christian Britain'.
"With their work in deprived communities and care for immigrants and asylum seekers, churches are ideally placed to challenge racism. But they also need to dissect and reject the conflatation of faith, race and nation, not endorse it. If they do not, they will continue to play into the BNP's hands."
As long ago as 2004 Ekklesia highlighted how the BNP was seeking to identify itself as a 'Christian' party, and recruit members by using a mythology of 'white Christian Britain.' Ekklesia also brought to public attention how the racist party facilitated the establishment of a front organisation 'The Christian Council of Britain'. Ekklesia's analysis of the BNP's membership list revealed a number of party members self-identifying as Christians and as active members of churches.
Ekklesia's research, briefings, articles and papers relating to the BNP can be found at: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/search/node/bnp
You can contact Ekklesia's press office on 020 8769 8163