Britain First condemned by UK Churches
Far-right political party Britain First has been criticised by every major Christian denomination in the UK, according to the Huffington Post today.
The group recently held a "Christian Patrol" in Luton, during which members brandished wooden crosses and claimed to be defending "Christian values" while handing out anti-Islam newspapers to Muslims.
Although the march and others like it have only attracted marchers in their tens, a video of the Luton patrol has been viewed more than 21 million times on Facebook.
As stated on its website, Britain First's first principle is a commitment to "the maintenance of British national sovereignty, independence and freedom". It campaigns primarily against mass immigration, and its rhetoric repeatedly calls for a return to 'Christian culture'.
Former BNP councillor Paul Golding, who has led Britain First since 2011, defended his party's stance in an interview with Christian Today in 2014, insisting that Britain "is built on Christianity".
Golding said: "Jesus Christ did use physical violence according to the Gospels in the temple in Jerusalem, and he met a very violent end. He preached love and forgiveness etc, but he also said he didn't come to bring peace; he came to bring division and a sword, he came to bring fire upon the world to sort the world out."
When asked how he reconciled discriminatory policies with a Christian ethos, he responded: "Quite easily."
However, representatives from 14 major British Christian Churches and groups told the Huffington Post that Britain First does not represent their views.
"They [the actions of Britain First] are deeply provocative, self-fulfilling, self-serving and not recognisably actions motivated by Christian faith," the Bishop of Bedford, Rt Revd Richard Atkinson, said.
On behalf of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Rev. Dr. Damian Howard S.J. added: "It's extremely painful for any Christian when the name of Jesus Christ is hijacked to justify hatred and to spread fear and mistrust. It is actually a kind of blasphemy."
He said he had "no hesitation in denouncing their [Britain First's] crude and divisive tactics as totally contrary to the true spirit of Christian love."
"Catholics and others will follow the spiritual leadership of Pope Francis who encourages us all to welcome the stranger and to set out on the path of dialogue with people of other religions"
Other denominations that distanced themselves from Britain First and its divisive rhetoric included the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church and the Baptist Church.
Director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, Dr David Landrum said: "Let's get this straight. Britain First do not speak for Christians. Their message of hate is entirely at odds with the Christian faith, and their self-styled 'Christian patrols' are very much at odds with the healing effect of the gospel.
"So, I can speak with confidence for many when I say 'not in my name'."