April 25, 2010

Archbishop backs Lancaster BNP debate ban

The Archbishop of Canterbury has backed a decision to ban the British National Party (BNP) from a hustings in a Lancaster church

All candidates in the Lancaster and Fleetwood constituency - except the BNP - have been invited to the event at St Thomas's Church on Tuesday. A party spokesman described the snub as an "affront to democracy". But Dr Rowan Williams said the party had often exploited events "to say inflammatory and silly things".

The archbishop said bishops all over the country were writing letters to their congregation urging people to organise such events.

Asked whether he supported the decision to ban the BNP, the archbishop told BBC Radio Lancashire: "Personally, I think if that's the decision I'd be happy to go with it. I find it very difficult to see the BNP as part of a serious political discussion and very often people will exploit the platform to say inflammatory and silly things. So I can understand why people don't want to see the BNP as part of that discussion, as if they were to be taken as seriously as the other parties."

The debate in Lancaster has been arranged by Lancaster Churches Together, an organisation representing a number of Christian denominations. But organisers declined to invited BNP candidate Debra Kent, saying that a church was not the place to allow what they described as "racist views" to be promoted.

Steve Greenhalgh, a spokesman for the BNP, questioned the validity of the debate without his party's candidate.

"I think if you are going to hold a debate you have all the democratically put forward candidates - or none at all," he said. "I would say the church should be really more concerned with the falling numbers of their congregations and not the views of the British National Party. It's pointless challenging it because if you challenge it then you become an extremist, and you become a person who is trying to cause hassle."

Candidates standing in Lancaster and Fleetwood are: Gina Dowding: Green; Clive Grunshaw: Labour; Debra Kent: British National Party; Stuart Langhorn: Liberal Democrat; Fred McGlade: UK Independence Party; Eric Ollerenshaw: Conservative; Keith Riley: Independent.


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