Commenting on questions from the Methodists, the Baptists and the URC about whether the British National Party should be allowed to stand in the general election, given their discriminatory policies, Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, said:
"The determination of Britain's leading Free Churches to challenge the BNP’s rhetoric of prejudice and hatred is to be thoroughly welcomed.
"However, the notion of banning or electorally disbarring political parties - even when what they stand for is repugnant - remains politically and morally counter-productive.
"The ideas, tactics and appeal of groups like the BNP need to be vigorously contested in grassroots communities, in local and national debate, and where appropriate (over public order and discrimination issues) legally.
"But prescriptions risk betraying the principles of justice and democracy they are meant to uphold. They push the problem underground, making it potentially more dangerous, and can be used in recruitment and propaganda by the groups concerned.
"Ekklesia has also pointed out that the reactionary 'Christian nation' rhetoric employed by some within the churches has uncomfortable resonance with the rhetoric employed by the far-right, and that the anti-migrant stance of the main political parties provides ballast to the fears that overt racists seek to feed.
"We need to look honestly at ourselves, not just point fingers at others. In a mixed-belief and ethnically diverse society the way to combat political xenophobia, hatred and prejudice is through cooperation, positive community action, celebration of diversity, combatting injustice and inequality, voting against the extremists, and rooting out the untruths that enable groups like the BNP to get a foothold.
"The churches have a vital role to play alongside others in working against the BNP and all they stand for. But prohibitions are not the answer. The BNP must be defeated politically, not disbarred."
"Of course, all parties standing for election are and should be required to abide by electoral law."
Ekklesia helped to expose an earlier BNP attempt to establish a Christian 'front' organisation, the so-called 'Christian Council of Britain'
See also: "Is 'Christian nation' rhetoric aiding the far right?", by Jonathan Bartley - http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/5161