Britain First has been denounced by every major Christian denomination in the UK, The Huffington Post UK can reveal today, a week after the far-right group held a so-called 'Christian patrol' targeting Muslims in Luton.
Representatives of 14 churches and Christian groups have variously described the political party as "extremist", "self-serving" and "blasphemous" and condemned its actions as "hi-jacking the name of Jesus Christ to justify hatred and spread fear".
Britain First claim to be defenders of "traditional British Christian values" and Leader Paul Golding has regularly invoked religious rhetoric to justify their actions.
Britain First Paul Golding, 34, and Deputy leader, Jayda Fransen, 29
In an interview in 2014, he said: "This is a Christian country, whether it's our legal system, our system of government, all our historical figures, Churchill, Nelson, Cromwell, Elizabeth... all of them are Christian. This country is built on Christianity, and we do take it very seriously.
"People think of Jesus as some tree-hugging, sandal-wearing liberal, which is not the case.
"[In the Bible] Jesus Christ uses physical violence at times, like in the temple in Jerusalem, when he physically attacked people who were trading in the temple grounds, and it says in the Bible he came to bring a sword, not to bring peace."
Golding has been linked to Christian fundamentalists in the past such as Britain First founder, Jim Dowson, and he used to be treasurer for the Northern Ireland-based Protestant Coalition.
Unfortunately for Golding, none of the organisations approached by The Huffington Post UK, which represent the overwhelming majority of the country's 33.2 million Christians, agree. Their comments are listed in full below.
Groups ranging from the Church of England to the Evangelical Alliance have distanced themselves from the far-right political party.
A spokesman for the Evangelical Alliance 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."
The universal condemnation - unprecedented against a political party in recent times - comes after a controversial march staged by Britain First in Luton last weekend.
The so-called "Christian Patrol" saw the group march through what they labelled an "Islamist hotspot", handing out leaflets and arguing with local Muslims.
In a heavily-edited video released on its Facebook page, deputy leader, Jayda Fransen, can be heard shouting: "Britain is our country, not your country, it's a Christian country."
The patrol, which consisted of around 15 Britain First members, was widely condemned. Tell Mama, a project which records anti-Muslim crimes, said it was carried out in an "intimidating" fashion aimed at "inflaming" tensions.
In its 'Statement of Principles" Britain First claim to be "committed to maintaining and strengthening Christianity as the foundation of our society and culture".
But these comments from the Christian groups now clearly undermine much of the ethos driving the far right party.
As well as the Churches, a number of prominent Christian organisations, including CARE and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, also condemned Britain First.
The Bishop of Bedford, the Rt Revd Richard Atkinson,
OBE said: "Christ said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers.' The actions of Britain First in Luton this weekend are not those of peacemakers. They are deeply provocative, self-fulfilling, self-serving and not recognisably actions motivated by Christian faith.
"When local churches, including the churches in Bury Park, parade through the town at Easter carrying crosses marking the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ which Easter celebrates, they are met with warmth and respect.
"Local people of goodwill in all parts of Luton from the churches and other faith communities work together, live together, laugh together and build a future in which people live well together. They have built up strong and resilient relationships of friendship and service to the community, not least through Luton Council of Faiths and through co-operation in programmes such a ‘Near Neighbours,’ a national initiative which recently chose to celebrate the awarding of its 1000th grant to help transform communities in Luton.
"Living well together embraces that compassion and concern for our fellow human beings that bridges difference. We know it when we see it and it is much evident in Luton.
"I, the churches, members of other faith communities and all people of goodwill continue to support one another as agents of peace in Luton."
Rev. Dr. Damian Howard S.J., speaking for the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said
: "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.
"His is always the path of peace and reconciliation, of self-sacrifice and costly love, including for the stranger. I have no idea whether the members of Britain First seriously try to practice the Christian faith or regularly go to Church, though I have my doubts.
"But I have no hesitation in denouncing their 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."
Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader at the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said: "Britain First doesn’t speak for Christians, and a divisive street patrol like this doesn’t represent gospel values.
"The Baptist calling is primarily to make Jesus known, but we also have a deep-rooted value of the freedom of belief.
"To this end, we seek to build good and meaningful relationships with people of other faiths and none, that together we may live in harmony and enrich one another."
Paul Morrison, Policy Advisor for the Methodist Church in Great Britain
, said: "The Methodist Church believes that racism is a denial of the Christian gospel. We are deeply saddened when Christianity and the cross are abused to serve such extremist agenda.
"We value good relations with our Muslim brothers and sisters and recognise that our lives are enriched by them.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been intimidated or made feel unsafe by racist marches."
Revd John Proctor General Secretary of the United Reformed Church, said: "As a multicultural church, the United Reformed Church is deeply concerned when the Christian message is used to propagate anger, division and discrimination.
The cross of Christ is a symbol of costly love and humble commitment to God and to neighbour. To use the cross in any other way has no foundation in Christian values or teaching.
We therefore distance ourselves from the Britain First movement, and rejoice in the valuable work done by United Reformed Church people and many others to build community cohesion and understanding – in Luton and in every town and city.
Rev. Darren Moore of the Chelmsford Presbyterian Church,
said: "Although I strongly believe that anyone has the right to speak in public on sensitive issues, from a Christian perspective there are two things I am hugely uncomfortable with from the video footage:
"Firstly, method: in the Bible (Colossians 4:6, 1 Peter 3:15) Christians are told to always speak with grace, gentleness and respect. Our message may well offend, but we don’t seek offence.
"Secondly, connecting Christianity with any state. Jesus said: his kingdom is not of this earth. True, our heritage is built on Christianity, but 'I’m British therefore a Christian' is damaging to the church.'"
Dr David Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance
, 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."
Andrew Schofield of the Public Information Desk
for Jehovah’s Witnesses
, said: "While we do not have any comment on the specific group you mention or the issues raised in the article you sent, we have a well-established viewpoint toward other religions and cultures. We follow the Bible’s advice to 'respect everyone'—regardless of their religious beliefs. (1 Peter 2:17, Today’s English Version)
"For example, in some countries there are hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even so, we don’t try to pressure politicians or lawmakers into restricting or banning the work of other religious groups.
"Nor do we campaign to have laws passed that would impose our moral and religious convictions on the general community. Instead, we extend to others the same tolerance that we appreciate receiving from them."
Emma Anthony, of the Fellowship of Reconciliation
, said: "For Christians, the cross is a symbol of hope and unity, not of division and hatred.
"As the apostle Paul said in his letter to the Galatians, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave[a] nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galations 3:28.
"I don’t believe that Jesus had the same idea of countries as Britain First does. Christianity transcends borders, so it’s incompatible with ideas about nation states. Christians should be knocking down walls, not building them up.
"Britain First do not represent Christians values, particularly those most core to our faith like nonviolence and love in action.
"Jesus told us to be proud of our faith. We go on marches. We take part in noisy displays of civil disobedience to bring about systemic change. But it’s for things like nuclear disarmament, rather than to threaten our neighbours and stir up racial hatred.
"There is no place in Christianity for any kind of prejudice, be that racism, sexism, homophobia, class discrimination or any other form of oppression."
Tracey Byrne, Chief Executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said: "Britain First’s wilful mis-reading of the Christian faith – a faith based on tolerance, compassion and welcome for the stranger – would be ironic were it not for the very real damage their rhetoric causes.
"This is nothing more than incitement to hatred, and as a Christian I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.
"I’m ashamed and angry that these people would so distort not just the Christian gospel but the Islamic faith too, and that they incite others to do likewise.
"People need to know they’re not acting in my name, or in the name of the God I meet in the person of Jesus Christ. It’s heartening that the good people of Luton, of all faith, are standing together and speaking out; that’s the kind of community, and country, I want to be part of.
Revd Adrian Alker, Chair of the Progressive Christianity Network Britain: "Religious fundamentalism from any faith which asserts that it alone knows the will of God leads, as we have seen, both internationally and in our own country to antagonism, hatred and violence between different sections of our communities.
"The faiths of Christianity, Islam and Judaism all speak of a God of love and compassion. I am sure that the Jesus I seek to follow would be appalled at the activities of "Britain First'.
"PCN Britain understands that treating our fellow human beings with love and compassion is our first duty to God. Carrying the Cross of Christ means walking with Him on the path of love and reconciliation."
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, said: "The central principles of this group enshrine beliefs which completely contradict the Christian faith.
"Paul Golding has a long-standing association with the BNP and this is apparent in this latest obnoxious episode.
"As Christians we think it is vital to be able to speak out about our faith and its place in society, but when we do so it is in a thoughtful and considered manner.
"Real Christians want to speak the truth in love, not to antagonise or intimidate those around them."
CARE Chief Executive Nola Leach said: “As Christians we want to speak out about what we believe but we are concerned to do so graciously and wisely.
“To go out looking to provoke and offend others is entirely needless but also decidedly unchristian.
“In a free country we support freedom of expression and people must be free to say what they believe.
“But true Christianity, while bold and counter-cultural never aims to incite violence or deliberately antagonise others.”
Stephen Green said: "It is important for Christians to explain to Muslims that this country has a Christian foundation but that this does not mean that everything Britain does is 'Christian'.
"Of course actually to be 'Christian' you need to do more than carry a cross."
Since its formation in 2011 by former BNP member, Jim Dowson, the group has become a dominant force in social media, attracting nearly 1,300,000 Facebook likes fans and even broadcasting its own news bulletins.
It has been embroiled in a number of controversies, including repeatedly exploiting the image of murdered soldier Lee Rigby against his family's wishes.
Most recently the group has used the European migrant crisis and the spread of the so-called Islamic State to launch attacks on refugees and Muslims as well as calling for a ban on Islam in the UK.
This decision was taken at a 'national conference' held in the wake of the Paris terror attacks where they also voted to make it an act of "treason" to implement any policy that led to significant "numbers of foreigners entering the country"; withdraw from the United Nations; ban the media from using the word "racism", and abolish the BBC.
A selection of their statement of principles include...
3. Britain First is committed to preserving our ancestral ethnic and cultural heritage, traditions, customs and values. We oppose the colonisation of our homeland through immigration and support the maintenance of the indigenous British people as the demographic majority within our own homeland. Britain First is committed to maintaining and strengthening Christianity as the foundation of our society and culture.
5. Britain First stands opposed to all alien and destructive political or religious doctrines, including Marxism, Liberalism, Fascism, National Socialism, Political Correctness, Euro Federalism and Islam. Britain First is a movement of British nationalism, patriotism and democracy.
A selection of their policies include...
– We will implement a “back to basics” scheme in education focusing on discipline and traditional teaching methods (e.g maths, English and technical skills)
– The reintroduction of grammar schools;
– The reintroduction of competitive sports and Christian assemblies;
– Introduce a “Democracy & Freedom Bill” that makes it a criminal offence (that carries a prison sentence) to refuse services to constituted political parties and their office holders.
– Introduce a total ban on the word “racism” in the media. The word “racism” has for too long been a weapon to undermine debate and to suppress discussion on important matters of nationhood, immigration and political correctness.
– Scrap the entire “foreign aid” budget;
– Scrap all expenditure relating to immigration, such as translation costs, benefits etc;
– Halt all further payments to the European Union;
Britain First has been contacted for comment but has so far failed to respond.