Clergy to be barred from BNP

12 February 2009

Interested: watching the BNP debate from the Synod gallery GEOFF CRAWFORD

Interested: watching the BNP debate from the Synod gallery GEOFF CRAWFORD

THE GENERAL SYNOD on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to ask for a ban to stop clergy and church staff members joining the British National Party.

The decision, by 322 votes to 13 with 20 abstentions, was made des­pite a warning from the secretary-general, William Fittall, that it could be challenged in a court or an employment tribunal. “Since the BNP is not a proscribed political party, it is lawful to be a member. Merely being a member of it could not, therefore, provide a basis for disciplinary proceedings against a member of the clergy.”

Nevetheless, the motion was supported by both Archbishops. Dr Williams resisted moves to dilute it: “We have to name names and talk about specific organisa­tions.”

The Synod heard an accusation of racism from one speaker, the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin. “We know these views exist here. Why are there so few people from ethnic minorities sitting in this chamber? There are racist undertones in parishes and dioceses. We’re all being nice and friendly [but] the undertones are there.”

The motion, proposed by Vasan­tha Gnanadoss, refers to the policy of the Association of Chief Police Officers that prohibits membership of the BNP, and requests the House of Bishops “to formulate and implement a comparable policy for the Church of England, to apply to clergy, ordinands, and such em­ployed lay persons as have duties that require them to represent or speak on behalf of the Church.”

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