Church of England clergy could be barred from membership of the far-right British National Party under a controversial motion to be debated this week, The Times has learnt.Well, well, well, fancy that…
The move, which coincides with intense public debate over race and equality, is backed by Sir Ian Blair, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who will attend the General Synod to support a policy borrowed from the Association of Chief Police Officers, which bans officers from joining the BNP.
Sir Ian will sit at the Synod with the proposer of the motion, which states that clergy and lay staff of the Church cannot belong to any organisation which contradicts “the duty to promote race equality”. The motion specifically identifies the BNP.Because it’s the only one that could possibly contradict that duty, is it?
However, the motion will be opposed at the Synod by bishops and lawyers who will argue that banning individuals from membership of political organisations would infringe their human rights.But it’s enforced in the civil service. What makes the Synod so different?
William Fittall, Secretary General to the Synod, has circulated a paper which states that the Church’s legal advice was that the policy could not be enforced.
He wrote: “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.”And none of them have won. The bans still stand, though they may well breach human rights. I wonder why the BNP don’t back someone to take this to Europe?
Mr Fittall added: “Cases outside the Church concerning the BNP have seen employees bringing claims against their employers arguing that their less favourable treatment is an interference with their human rights.”
Vasantha Gnanadoss, the proposer of the motion and a civilian member of staff with the Metropolitan Police, argues that the policy should be adopted to “carry a clear message to society at large” .What ‘similar organisations’, and why aren’t they too named in the motion along with the BNP?
She said: “It 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.”
Simon Darby, deputy leader of the BNP, said: “It is not a very Christian thing to do to say that because you belong to a political party you cannot work for the Church of England.”He’s got a point, hasn’t he?