A by-election which takes place today has seen church leaders unite to keep out a BNP candidate.
Church leaders have issued a joint statement telling people not to vote for the extremist party in the council poll which takes place in Hyde Newton in Tameside.
The say that if a BNP councillor is elected it will ‘threaten the heart of the community’.
It follows action around the country from church denominations and churches, against the BNP at the last election.
A letter signed by half-a-dozen clergy was sent to voters urging them not to vote for the far-right party.
The by-election follows the death of Labour councillor Margaret Oldham.
In last May’s elections the BNP took second place. And with the recession biting, worries are mounting voters may turn their backs on the mainstream parties.
The Rev Richard Lamey, of St Mary’s Church, Newton told the Tameside Advertiser: "We are intending to deliver this letter to as many people as possible in the ward to urge people to go out and vote on 5 February — and to vote for parties which do not foster fear and hatred. We are concerned at the possibility of a BNP councillor in Newton, hence our taking this unusual step."
In the letter, the church leaders condemn the ‘racist history and policies’ of the BNP.
It states: ‘We believe that the election of a BNP councillor would threaten the heart of a community which is essentially open and welcoming, kind and hopeful. Whoever we elect in Newton next week will have a major impact on our daily lives. And when you do vote, think about the type of society you want Newton to be, and then vote for a party which does not rely on racial hatred and the fostering of division. Newton is better than that.’
The letter is signed by: Fr Philip Bennison (St Stephen’s Church, Flowery Field); The Rev Nic Bentley (Rosemount Methodist Church); The Rev Alan Bolton (Rosemount Methodist Church); The Rev Eric Breeze (Flowery Field Church); The Rev Richard Lamey (St Mary’s Church of England Church, Newton); Fr Denis Maher (St Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, Hyde).
Anthony Jones, local BNP spokesman, said: "These men speak only for themselves from an unelected position. They are cossetted against the current economic climate. They don’t have any real fears over losing their jobs. The council and the clergy are clearly worried the BNP will win that seat."
The candidates are: Peter S Ball-Foster (Lib Dem) Phillip Martin Fitzpa (Labour Party) Rosalind Christella G (British National Party) Angela Louise McManus (UKIP) Nigel Arthur Rolland (Green) John Paul Welsh (Conservatives)