It goes on to say that its advice “comes after a number of churches and church leaders issued statements distancing themselves from the BNP prior to [its leader] Nick Griffin’s appearance on BBC1’s Question Time [tonight].”
The statements expressed concern that the BNP was portraying itself as a “Christian” party.
But the religion and society think tank Ekklesia, which has been studying the relationship between the BNP and the churches for the last five years, says that references to “Christian Britain”, often employed by church leaders, are encouraging the association of national identity with religion, and playing into the racist party’s hands.
Jonathan Bartley, Ekklesia’s co-director said: “Whilst the major church denominations have rightly been outspoken in their challenge to the BNP, their messages have consistently been undermined by continual references to ‘Christian Britain’.
“With their work in deprived communities and care for immigrants and asylum seekers, churches are ideally placed to challenge racism. But they also need to dissect and reject the conflation of faith, race and nation, not endorse it. If they do not, they will continue to play into the BNP’s hands.”
As long ago as 2004 Ekklesia highlighted how the BNP was seeking to identify itself as a “Christian” party, and recruit members by using a mythology of “white Christian Britain”. Ekklesia also brought to public attention how the racist party facilitated the establishment of a front organisation “The Christian Council of Britain”. Ekklesia’s analysis of the BNP’s membership list revealed a number of party members self-identifying as Christians and as active members of churches.
Of course, the arguments have continued over whether Nick Griffin should be allowed to appear on tonight’s programme. We get seasoned politicians such as Peter Hain wanting the Beeb to bar Griffin from the programme. Hain should know better.
Yes, he is, I believe sincere in his hatred of racism, but the only way you debate is by debating. If Hain is so sure of his own stance, he’ll be confident that Griffin will be well and truly crushed by the argument that will be marshalled against him. If Griffin and his party are plain wrong in all they say, this will be shown up in argument. If you’re afraid of going on a stage with such people, it has to be asked just what you’re afraid of – that your own argument will be found wanting?
One thing’s for sure: the Beeb will be assured of good viewing figures tonight.