A senior Church of England bishop who has a number of British National Party (BNP) councillors in his diocese, has written in an anti-fascist magazine, urging Christians to vote against the party in the forthcoming local elections.
The comments from Rt Rev Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn, who was writing in 'Searchlight' magazine, make him the latest in a long line of church leaders and denominations to publicly urge votes against the BNP in the local elections next week.
In 2003 the BNP briefly became the official opposition in Burnley, which is in the Bishop's diocese. They now have just seven seats on the council. The bishop said that Lancashire voters should now completely reject the “poison of racial and religious hatred”.
“Sadly there are a small minority of candidates seeking election on the basis of politics that seek to divide,” the Bishop said. “They prefer the poison of racial and religious hatred to the challenge of co-operation. Christians and non-Christians, peoples of all faiths and none, should reject them.
"They should reject them by refusing to vote for them, by pointing out to others the true nature of their poisonous policies, and by turning out to vote for candidates who are committed to constructive co-operation.”
The Bishop also pointed out that the Church of England’s ‘parliament’, the General Synod, unanimously backed a motion from Lancashire that called on Christians to boycott racist parties. The motion was passed in 2005, in response to “the recent success of the British National Party in local elections in parts of Lancashire”.
“The national Church took notice of that warning, and said it must not happen again,” the Bishop said.
He added: “Of course, this is not just a Church matter. Just as I welcome opportunities to meet, discuss and work together with people from other faith communities, so the advantages of co-operation can be celebrated wherever people work together for good.
“I’m always encouraged when I find priests and politicians working co-operatively for the benefit of the communities they serve. I welcome the growing willingness among our local authorities to work in partnership with all the faith communities.”
Writing in a special pre-election newspaper produced by ‘Searchlight’, the anti-racist organisation, the Bishop said Christians regard racism as ‘sin’. “In the Christian community it’s the strongest word we can find. In terms of racism it means something not only off limits to people, but also to God.”
The Bishop said he was honoured to meet leaders of other faiths in Lancashire and to encourage discussions for honest debate and acceptance between the faith communities.
“Racism seeks to poison such acceptance,” he said. “In the Church of England in Lancashire we have taken a strong stand against it.”