Christian leaders in Britain have deplored gains made by the extreme right-wing British National Party in elections to the European Union parliament.
The party, which campaigned for the "voluntary" repatriation of non-white immigrants, won two seats for the first time in the European Parliament. The party also won three local council seats in elections held in England at the same time as the EU poll.
"It is deeply disappointing that we now have a racist party representing Britain in Europe for the next five years and it is vital that our remaining U.K. representatives dedicate themselves to promote the common good," said the Rev. Graham Sparkes, spokesperson for the Baptist Union of Great Britain in a statement on June 8.
Commenting on behalf of the United Reformed Church the day after the release of the EU election results, Frank Kantor said: "We must never become comfortable with the BNP using their position to promote their racist policies. We will continue to counter their message of hatred and fear."
Commentators have attributed BNP gains to a low voter turnout for the European elections of just more than 30 percent in Britain. This was attributed to recent political scandals, particularly excessive expenses claims by both government and opposition lawmakers.
"The limited success of the BNP does not change the steadfast message: God loves all. Racism is a sin," said Rachel Lampard, public issues adviser for the Methodist Church.
Anglican Bishop Nicholas Reade of Blackburn in northwest England, said the election of BNP leader Nick Griffin marked a "bitter" day for the region. "All people of good faith will be appalled at the election of an extremist candidate to supposedly represent the northwest of England in Europe," said Reade.
Before the elections, the archbishops of Canterbury and York, Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, issued a joint statement urging the public not to vote for the BNP, thereby openly calling for believers not to vote for a defined party. They expressed repugnance at the use by the party of a picture of Christ with a quotation that implied he would have voted for the BNP.
The BNP for its part described the two clerics as "Judas archbishops." A BNP leaflet stated, "All over the U.K. pews are emptying; churches are closing down and turning into mosques/temples. Our distinctive Christian heritage is disappearing as whole regions of Britain become Islamified ... The cowardly 'yes men,' functionaries and time-servers leading the Church of England have consistently failed to lift a finger in defense of Britain against those who would destroy it."