Page last updated at 19:10 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Synod votes in favour of BNP ban

Church of England synod
Banning clergy from joining political parties was not previously possible

The General Synod of the Church of England has voted overwhelmingly in favour of measures to stop clergy being members of the British National Party.

The proposal, from a lay synod member who works for the police, was passed by 322 votes to 13, with 20 abstentions.

Plans to ban clergy from the BNP are modelled on a policy adopted by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Previously, Church of England leaders have explicitly called for voters to shun the BNP during recent elections.

However, banning clergy from joining political parties had not been possible under current rules.

The proposer of the motion, Vasantha Gnanadoss, who works for the Metropolitan Police, said the measure was necessary to prevent parties such as the BNP from associating themselves with the Church.

She said a membership ban would send a clear message against racial prejudice to the public at large.

I joined... the tribe of Jesus Christ and in that tribe all are welcome
Dr John Sentamu

It received support from the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu and the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.

Previously, the synod - the Church's parliament - passed a resolution deploring what it has called the "sin of racial prejudice".

But Dr Williams warned: "We have to name names, we have to talk about particular political organisations not just racism generally."

The motion called on Church of England bishops to draw up a policy banning clergy, trainee clergy and staff who speak for the Church from membership of the BNP.

Dr Sentamu told the synod he was a member of the Baganda tribe.

But he added: "As a Christian, I joined another tribe, it is the tribe of Jesus Christ, and in that tribe all are welcome."

The BNP campaigns for the voluntary repatriation of immigrants, but chairman Nick Griffin has repeatedly insisted that neither he nor his party are racist.

Race equality

The party's website says it "unashamedly addresses itself to the issues and concerns of the indigenous British population and... seeks to ensure that British people remain the majority population in this country".

The Association of Chief Police Officers' policy states 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.

Miss Gnanadoss' proposal followed the publication last year of a list of 12,000 names of BNP members, which included five clergy.

The Church of England said none of them was a serving Anglican priest.

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Guardian Unlimited Choosing Christianity over racism - 8 hrs ago
Yorkshire Post General Synod votes to bring in ban on clergy joining BNP The Church of England yesterday voted in favour of banning clergy and some lay staff from joining the far-right British National Party. - 9 hrs ago
Exeter Express and Echo CoE votes for BNP clergy ban - 12 hrs ago
Telegraph and Argus Joining BNP 'not Christian' says Bishop - 14 hrs ago

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