The British National Party (BNP) has held a protest outside the offices of Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) over the company’s reported disciplinary proceedings against employee Colin Atkinson for displaying a palm cross in his work van.
According to the BNP, Mr Adam Walker (pictured) was one of several BNP activists who turned up to hand in a letter of complaint to the organisation, however sources close to the protest say police were called because the activists were trespassing on private property and the staff felt threatened.
It's understood staff at the organisation have received nearly one thousand "abusive emails" since the news about Mr Atkinson was reported and a number have become distressed as a consequence.
The BNP organiser is said, by the party, to have been arrested after being asked to move his van from the entrance of the building. The party claims he was arrested after removing a ticket issued to him by police for driving the car from the entrance to a car park without wearing a seatbelt.
In a statement released yesterday, WDH said: “WDH fully supports the right of our employees to wear religious symbols while at work, and support their right to have religious symbols on their desks.
“WDH simply don’t allow employees to display personal items in our company vans.
“Throughout this case, we’ve acted fully within the law and within the spirit of the law.
“Despite media reports to the contrary, we haven’t commenced formal disciplinary proceedings against Colin, and we sincerely hope that we can reach a satisfactory outcome for both Colin and WDH without doing so.”
The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Rev Stephen Platten, supported WDH's move. He said: "Having spoken with Kevin Dodd, Chief Executive of Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) I am clear that it fully supports the right of all its employees to wear religious symbols while at work, and indeed their right to have religious symbols on their desks.
"This issue relates to whether Mr Atkinson or any other employee is allowed to display a religious symbol or any personal item on of the company vans.
"As Bishop of Wakefield, I am disappointed that an anonymous complaint led to this issue being raised. A palm cross at the beginning of Holy Week would seem appropriate to be placed in a company vehicle. WDH has stated they have no objection to this being done and have offered this as a solution, but it has not been accepted.
"This time last year I was in a class where all but four children were Muslim: they were learning about the last days of Jesus’ life and no parents were offended by this in any way.
"I realise that the WDH is in a difficult position here but the issue we need to address is how we deal with multiculturalism and allows religions to speak with proper integrity."