2009: Church leaders across Norfolk
have warned that voting for the British National Party
could put the well-being of communities at risk.
Two weeks before the polls open for county council and European elections, East Anglian
bishops of all denominations issued a joint statement urging people to use their vote and remain vigilant.
It came amid widespread fears that revelations over MPs' expenses mean disenchanted voters are likely to either shun the ballot boxes on June 4
, or favour fringe parties such as the far-right BNP.
“The regional voting system means every vote counts,” the bishops' statement said. “As church leaders in the region we encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote and to do so with the well-being of all people in our communities in mind.
“The East of England has a notable history of welcoming people fleeing persecution elsewhere in Europe, sometimes on religious grounds.
“As Christian leaders in this generation, we believe that hospitality and living together with mutual respect remain the foundation of a civilised society. All human beings are created equal. That is why racism is a sin.
“Christ calls on us to love our neighbours as ourselves and in this forthcoming election we believe it is right to be vigilant about any party or individual candidate seeking to use people's fears for their own well-being to stir racial and religious hatred.
“At a time when many people are anxious about their jobs, finances and future, we pray that the best and most generous traditions of our national life will guide all voters on June 4.”
Clergy in West Norfolk
said nationalists had been attending services and leafletting congregations in a bid to drum up votes.James Langstaff, Bishop of Lynn
, said: “I think there is a danger that minority parties of different sorts will play upon people's fearfulness. This is never a good thing to do,” he told the EDP
“Britain has shown itself to be welcoming and adaptable and that's part of our community and in accordance with Christian values.”Revd Corin Child
, Vicar of St John's Church
in King's Lynn
, said: “The views they represent are potentially damaging to our community. All the ministers in King's Lynn disagree with the policies of the BNP.”
BNP candidate David Fleming
, who is standing for one of seven East of England seats in the Euro elections and King's Lynn North in the county council elections, said: “It's not for the church to get involved in politics.
“It is for the church to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. They do not seem to be in touch with the public. They seem to have an agenda of their own.”Read more of this story on EDP24 by clicking here