Church of England Synod votes for BNP membership ban

By staff writers
11 Feb 2009

The General Synod of the Church of England has voted overwhelmingly to back a motion calling for a prohibition on clergy and senior staff being members of the far-right British National Party.

The BNP is seen as one of a range of extreme groups sanctioning dangerous and racist policies, and has tried in the recent past to put on a Christian front.

Previously, Church of England and other church leaders have explicitly called for voters to shun the BNP during recent elections.

The motion was brought by Metropolitan Police civilian worker Vasantha Gnanadoss from the multiracial Diocese of Southwark, which covers south London and east Surrey.

It calls on bishops to formulate a comparable policy to the Association of Chief Police Officers' ban on police membership of the BNP - and was backed by former Met commissioner Sir Ian Blair, himself an active Anglican.

Ms Gnanadoss said passing the motion would make it "much more difficult" for the BNP or other similar organisations to exploit the claim that they had support within the Church of England.

She added: "If supporting organisations like the BNP is inconsistent with Christian discipleship, it seems obvious that clergy and others who speak for the Church should not be members."

ACPO policy states that that no member of the police service may be a member of an organisation whose constitution, aims, objectives or pronouncements contradict the "general duty" to promote race equality. This specifically includes the BNP, the policy states.

The motion backed by the General Synod called for the Church of England bishops to draw up a similar policy to apply to all clergy, ordinands and employed lay persons who speak on behalf of the Church of England.

The motion received support from the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu and the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.

Dr Sentamu told the Synod he was a member of the Baganda tribe. But he said: "As a Christian, I joined another tribe, it is the tribe of Jesus Christ, and in that tribe all are welcome."

The vote defied a move by by William Fittall, secretary general of the General Synod, trying to warn off such a move with reference to possible legal difficulties.

The Methodist Church and the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia exposed the BNP's attempts to set up a front organisation called 'the Christian Council of Britain' several years ago.

The BNP has sought to 'modernise' recently in order to disguise the racist views held and propagated by its members and supporters.

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