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BNP could face court injunction over membership policy

Jessica Geen June 23, 2009

The British National Party may face legal action over its membership policy, which essentially bans non-white people from joining the party.

Its constitution currently states membership is “strictly defined within the terms of … ‘indigenous Caucasian’ and defined ethnic groups emanating from that race”.

Party members have been outspoken on homosexuality in the past, saying it should not be “promoted in schools”.

However, deputy press office John Walker told that there was no bar to gays joining the party.

He said: “Our official policy on gays is that whatever people want to do in their private lives is up to them. We just don’t think it should be promoted.

“There may be people of that sort in the party but we don’t ask. We have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has asked the party to pledge to comply with the Race Relations Act by July 20th or face a potential legal injunction.

In response, Walker accused the commission of “politically-motivated” bullying.

Walker told BBC News that the party would not be making a formal response to the commission until after the Equality Bill had gone through parliament.

“We are not going to respond to threats like this. We will look at it, but it is an entirely politically-motivated attack,” he said.

He said that the party may be prepared to change its membership policy “to remain within the law”, but added: “I don’t think we should be bullied by outside forces. They are asking us to change our whole political ideology.”

John Wadham, group director legal at the EHRC, said: “The legal advice we have received indicates that the British National Party’s constitution and membership criteria, employment practices and provision of services to constituents and the public may breach discrimination laws which all political parties are legally obliged to uphold.

“We await a response from the BNP to our letter before deciding what further action we may take. Litigation or enforcement action can be avoided by the BNP giving a satisfactory response to our letter.”

Earlier this month, legal experts warned the BNP’s membership policy was likely to attract legal challenges. They said it was “inevitable” that challenges would be filed on the basis of discrimination, employment law and even criminal offences.

The party won two seats in this year’s European elections, its biggest political success to date. Party leader Nick Griffin won one seat in the north-west region, while the other went to Andrew Brons for Yorkshire and the Humber. The BNP will now receive £4 million of public funding.

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