As elections throughout the UK draw near and candidates begin to canvas for support, three major Christian denominations have joined together to encourage people to get involved, to ask questions of their candidates, and to vote for those contributing to the common good - and against racism.
On Thursday 3 May 2007, there will be local government elections in England, local government and Scottish Parliamentary elections in Scotland, and National Assembly elections in Wales.
The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have produced a briefing for the English local council elections (*.PDF file). The three Christan denominations suggest some questions that could be used to quiz candidates on a range of important issues such as housing, council tax, community relations, alcohol and gambling.
Anthea Cox, Methodist Coordinating Secretary for Public Life & Social Justice, declared: “We would encourage everyone to take an interest in this year’s elections. We hope that people will ask the questions that are important to them, think carefully about where to place their vote and hold councillors accountable for their policies and promises.”
The denominations’ engagement with government on social and political issues has always sprung from a concern for the disadvantaged in society and they have particularly raised concerns about parties that advocate hatred and fear of racial, religious or other minorities.
Stuart Dew, URC secretary for Church and Society, added: “The right to vote is both a privilege and a responsibility. We may take different views about which political approach best reflects our Christian calling, but it is important that we do express our views by voting.”
“Decisions made at local level can directly affect the communities in which we live, so how we choose to vote matters", commented Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity for the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
He continued: "It will help determine the priority we give to caring for the vulnerable, the way our children are educated, and how we use our public spaces. Such issues can have a tremendous impact on the quality of peoples lives.”
The three churches have made it clear that the racist and intolerant policies expressed by some parties are incompatible with their understanding of God’s love for all people. They have encouraged people to exercise their right to vote, and urged them to reject parties which aim to stir up racial or religious hatred.
The Methodist Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain have also published guidelines for churches that find themselves represented by a councillor from an extremist party.