February 10, 2009 / 5:26 PM / 10 years ago

Church of England bans far-right party membership

LONDON (Reuters) - Members of the Church of England voted on Tuesday to ban clergy from joining the anti-immigration British National Party (BNP) and other far-right parties.

“Passing this motion will make it much more difficult for the BNP or similar organisations to exploit the claim that there are Anglican clergy or church representatives who support them,” said Vasantha Gnanadoss, of the Southwark diocese in south London, who put forward the private member’s motion. Members of the General Synod, the church’s national assembly meeting in London, voted in favour of the ban, which would apply to clergy, ordinands and employed lay persons who speak on behalf of the church.

More than 300 voted in favour with 13 voting against. The motion has to go before parliament before being adopted.

Gnanadoss said in a background paper: “Although the Churches have issued statements disassociating themselves from the BNP and the Christian Council of Britain, more definite action is needed to remove the perception of a link.”

In November 2008, a list of 12,000 names and addresses of BNP members was leaked on the Internet, and appeared to include five names with the title “Reverend.”

The Church of England said none were licensed or serving clergy members, though one was a retired Anglican priest.

The proposal is modelled on a policy introduced by Britain’s Association of Chief Police Officers five years ago, barring police staff from joining right-wing parties including the BNP.

The BNP, which denies being racist or that it holds racist policies, has dozens of local councillors across the country, and won its first seat on the London Assembly last year, though it is not represented in parliament.

Nobody from the BNP was immediately available for comment.

Editing by Charles Dick

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