Church may ban BNP members

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The Independent Online

The Church of England is to be asked to ban clergy from joining the British National Party amid fears that the far-right grouping is promoting its image as Christian.

The General Synod will be urged to request that Church of England bishops formulate a "comparable policy" to that of the Association of Chief Police Officers on the BNP.

Its policy states 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.

In a private member's motion,a General Synod member, Vasantha Gnanadoss, will call for a similar policy to apply to all clergy, ordinands and employed lay persons.

She said such action would make it "much more difficult" for the BNP or other similar organisations to exploit the claim that there are Anglican clergy or church representatives who support the party. "Of specific relevance to this motion are some of the tactics adopted by the BNP, which in recent years has sought to identify itself as Christian, in order to further its agenda," she said.

A BNP spokesman said the party was aware of Ms Gnanadoss's efforts and denied it was racist. "There are members of the Synod who are sympathetic towards us," he said. "The church has got far more important things we feel to worry about ... rather than a vindictive campaign against a perfectly legitimate political party."