Church fury over BNP's Jesus poster

John Phillips THE vicar of Barking s oldest church has denounced a British National Party European election campaign, which uses a quote from Jesus before the crucifixion, as exploitation and a disgrace . Rev Gordon Tarry, of St Margaret s Church, Broadway, built in

John Phillips

THE vicar of Barking's oldest church has denounced a British National Party European election campaign, which uses a quote from Jesus before the crucifixion, as "exploitation" and a "disgrace".

Rev Gordon Tarry, of St Margaret's Church, Broadway, built in 1215, said the billboard campaign portraying the BNP as martyrs and including the gospel verse, "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you", was a distortion of the Christian message of love, which condemns bigotry and racism.

Rev Mike Reith, vicar of Dagenham Parish Church, Crown Street, Dagenham, said the adverts - hitting back at Christians' overwhelming condemnation of the BNP - exposed members of the far-right party as impostors who pretended to be Jesus during his lifetime.

Mr Tarry said: "I think this campaign is a disgrace. It misrepresents totally Jesus Christ and the message put out by Jesus.

"He condemned bigotry and racism, which is what the BNP stand for. All Christians will be outraged by this advertising."

Most Read

Mr Reith said: "They're trying to pretend to be him, in other words, the BNP are doing exactly what Jesus said, which is that they pretended to be him, to claim to be him.

"The true successors of Jesus are those who talk about him, rather than talk about themselves."

Mr Tarry said: "It's exploitation.

"They're trying to portray themselves as the only people who stand for the Christian heritage in the whole country, which is total nonsense.

"They don't even know what they are talking about.

"They're trying to use the Christian faith to exclude people."

BNP spokesman Simon Darby said the adverts, including an image of Jesus, sought to show his party - excluded by the church and police - are "modern day martyrs".

Barking and Dagenham BNP group leader Cllr Bob Bailey said: "He stood up against the politicians and the church at the time and he was persecuted for his beliefs.

"We're saying the BNP and British people are persecuted for their beliefs."

The row comes in the week Barking MP Margaret Hodge warned the BNP could exploit the recession to draw voters.

She was urged to exert restraint after causing a political storm for warning eight out of 10 white, working class voters in her constituency may be tempted to vote BNP in April 2006.

The BNP won an unprecedented 12 seats, becoming the official opposition party in Barking and Dagenham the following month, and delivered flowers to Mrs Hodge's office to thank her for her comments.

The Labour MP, on compassionate leave from the cabinet to look after her husband Henry, issued her warning in the latest edition of Labour magazine Progress.

"As we respond to an unprecedented global economic crisis, with the insecurities around jobs and mortgages that brings, the electoral threat the BNP poses becomes ever greater," Mrs Hodge says.