THE British National Party (BNP) will use a picture of Jesus and a text from St John’s Gospel on its billboards for the European elections in June.
Its poster quotes the words of Jesus: “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you,” followed immediately by the question, “What would Jesus do?” and the instruction: Vote BNP.
The campaign reflects the party’s concerted attempt to portray itself as defender of Britain’s Christian heritage and “Christian” values.
Nick Griffin, the party leader, invited supporters in an email message this week to preview the billboard, which, he says, is “aimed at attracting even more Christian voters”. The message criticises the Church of England in particular for passing a resolution at the February Synod that membership of the BNP was incompatible with being a member of the clergy.
Mr Griffin asks: “What has become of the Christian church in this country? Instead of inclusively ‘embracing all’ which the church claims as its basis, certain groups within that body have banned people from their ranks. . . . Surely if God calls a man to his service, no church has the right to contradict HIS holy will!”
Jonathan Bartley, co-director of the think tank Ekklesia, which has been monitoring the BNP’s identification with Christianity, said of the billboard: “This is clearly a gross misrepresentation of both Jesus Christ and Christianity. Jesus was completely opposed to bigotry.
“But the Church must critically reflect on how it is aiding the far-Right. Leading figures within the Church of England have become far more vocal recently in their calls to ‘stem the tide of secularism’ and to defend the predominant ‘Christian culture’ of Britain.”
The system of proportional representation means that in a single constituency such as Yorkshire, with six seats for the European Parliament, the BNP would need only 12 per cent of the votes. The West Yorkshire Ecumenical Council has mounted a campaign, “Use your Cross — Vote for Hope in Yorkshire”, which urges everyone to vote on 4 June for other parties, even if they do not normally vote in the European elections.
“Christians assert that all human beings are created equally in the image of God,” the campaign literature says. It quotes the position statements of the C of E, RC, Baptist, Methodist, and URC churches and states: “The Christian vision of society is one where each person is treated with dignity and respect, whatever their race or religion. It is a vision of hope. The Christian churches are totally opposed to the BNP.”
The Council’s resource notes and briefings are being circulated to churches in the region, and can be accessed at www.wyec.co.uk