Are jailed Britain First leaders Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding Christians?

What is widely known about the leader and deputy leader of the far-right political group Britain First, who have been sent to prison for religiously-motivated assault and 'hostility' towards Muslims, is that they are anti-Islam.

Less known is that Jayda Fransen, 32 and Paul Golding, 36 – jailed 36 weeks and 18 weeks respectively – both claim to be practising 'Christians'.

Fransen was propelled to international notoriety last year after Donald Trump retweeted three anti-Muslim videos from her Twitter account, for which he later made a qualified apology. But little is on the record about her own religious beliefs.

The Britain First website describes Fransen – who is usually seen with her trademark large silver cross necklace, and sometimes carries a large white wooden cross – as 'a devout Christian from a Catholic background'.

YouTubeJayda Fransen, deputy leader of the far-right party Britain First.

Fransen and Golding, while out and about harassing Muslims who hand out the Quran in the streets, often espouse explicitly Christian rhetoric and unashamedly quote from the Bible as well as confronting Muslims with selective quotes from the Quran.

Making two-fingered peace signs that are, apparently, not ironical, they have been seen waiting outside mosques shouting that Jesus is 'the true prophet' as opposed to the 'false prophet' Mohammad at Muslims attending prayers.

And they frequently begin rallies – often made up largely of bomber jacket-clad skinheads waving St George's flags – by earnestly reciting the Lords prayer.

Fransen appears slightly more enthusiastic about this than Golding, whose credentials as a 'devout' Christian are less easily traceable. 'We are a Christian nation...we have many Christians in the movement,' Fransen has said.

ReutersPaul Golding, the leader of Britain First, speaks at a rally held in central London, April 1, 2017.

It is notable how little traction in this country the 'Christian' side of Britain First receives, which helps explain why many are not familiar with the supposed religious link at all. Even, or especially, when it comes to mainstream politics, British people appear to be uneasy with the mixing of it with religion, hence Alastair Campbell's famous intervention during an interview with Tony Blair when the spin doctor said 'We don't do God'.

Meanwhile, those who are among the falling number of church-goers in this country appear to be, if anything, increasingly progressive: the Church of England is no longer the Tory party at prayer. On the other hand, the Church, being established, is embedded in national life, and so attempts to hijack it by fringe, far-right groups fall flat.

Nonetheless, the Britain First leadership is of course not alone in using Christianity to push a distinctly political agenda, and on the Continent, Christian nationalism appears to have more success.

Hungary's right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban is a member of the Calvinist Hungarian Reformed Church. Last month, he declared that 'Christianity is Europe's last hope' after accusing politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris of ushering in the 'decline of Christian culture and the advance of Islam'.

In Poland, the governing Law & Justice party – which has repeatedly been accused of antisemitism – espouses a mix of rightwing nationalism and conservative Catholicism. The president Andrzej Duda, prime minister Beata Szydlo, and Law & Justice Party party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynsk are all self-described Christians, with the latter saying last year that the Catholic Church is one of the 'foundations of our identity, our way of life and of being Polish'.

And the trend – that sees 'Christian' leaders pitted against the 'rise' of Islam – is not confined to Protestants or to Europe.

The senior conservative Catholic Cardinal Raymond Burke said in 2016 that Islam 'wants to govern the world,' adding: 'I think the appropriate response is to be firm about the Christian origin of our own nation, and certainly in Europe, and the Christian foundations of the government, and to fortify those... We have to say no, our country is not free to become a Muslim state.'

There is clearly something dangerously seductive about the merging of religion and nationalism, with the former, at least, frequently acting as a force for good. The two together combined are a toxic force and one that, for now at least, has been widely rejected by the British people. 

As for Fransen and Golding, who have yet to be questioned about how their views square with the Gospel teachings such as 'Love thy neighbour', they now face plenty of time to reflect during their time in prison. Whether they will lean on her self-styled faith while behind bars is not known.