BBC News, April 28, 2006
A theatre in Kent has sacked its drama tutor after it was revealed she had been working for the British National Party (BNP).
It happened after a newspaper revealed that Emma Chamberlain, from Deal, presented interviews and features on the far-right party’s website.
The Astor Theatre Arts Centre in Deal said it had decided not to renew her contract “with immediate effect”.
A BNP spokesman said Ms Chamberlain was the victim of a witch-hunt.
Ms Chamberlain had worked at the theatre for four years as a drama co-ordinator, which involved teaching children aged from four to 14.
The Astor Theatre trustees discussed her position over the Easter holidays and decided not to renew the contract.
Labour MP for Dover and Deal, Gwyn Prosser, said the endorsement of people such as Ms Chamberlain was the type of support the BNP was looking for.
“Is it right that someone who supports that political party should be teaching young children? I say ‘no’,” he said.
“I do not mind whether the person doing that job is a Liberal Democrat or Conservative or Labour Party or Green Party member.
“I do mind if they are members of extreme right parties.”
He said the theatre’s reputation had not been damaged because it acted swiftly.
But BNP spokesman Phil Edwards said removing Ms Chamberlain was not in the theatre’s best interests.
“I think the people who have created this witch-hunt hysteria will ultimately be called to account for damaging that theatre centre,” he said.
“There are many people there who will miss the skills of this young lady.
“There is nothing wrong with people in the BNP — this is a very wicked lie.”
The Astor Theatre and Ms Chamberlain were both approached by the BBC but declined to comment.
Clergy in Lancashire have been urged to preach against the British National Party in the run-up to next week’s local elections.
Their bishop has written to all parishes asking ministers to underline Christian opposition to racist politics.
In his letter, the Rt Rev Nicholas Reade draws attention to the Church of England’s statement calling for a Christian boycott of any political party “that offers racist policies.”
Bishop Reade’s Blackburn diocese takes over 200 parishes across most of Lancashire.
Today the BNP hit back and said he should not be getting involved in party politics, but a mosque leader praised the move.
The statement to which the Bishop’s letter refers was passed unanimously by the Church of England’s parliament’, the General Synod, in February 2004.
It was proposed by the Director of Mission in the Blackburn Diocese, the Rev Simon Bessant, and was passed in response to “the recent success of the British National Party in local elections in parts of Lancashire.”
The Bishop draws Anglicans’ attention to the local elections on May 4 and calls for prayer “for those who serve us in local government.”
He said: “It is pleasing that there is a growing willingness among local authorities to work in partnership with faith communities.
“Unfortunately a small minority of the candidates seeking election are doing so on the basis of politics that seek to divide our communities on racial and religious lines. As Christians we should want no part in this.”
The Bishop said today: “We do not actually get involved in party politics and tell people who to vote for but we do engage in affairs of life and religion.
“Racism goes against God’s will and to support extremists groups can be very dangerous.”
David Jones, BNP spokesman for the North West, said: “I tend to regard the pulpit as a sacred position of trust which should not be misued for political reasons.”
He denied the party was racist, and said many of the BNP’s core voters were from the Christian tradition, but that the party did have a Jewish councillor in the South.
“I doubt this will dent our chances,” he added.
Salim Mulla, secretary of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said: “Publicly we haven’t said anything about the political situation but we have had private discussions in the mosques urging people not to support parties such as the BNP and to support the main political parties. We support the way the Church of England have gone about this.”
The Synod statement states that any political movement that seeks to divide communities along racial grounds “is an affront to the nature of God”. Supporting parties “that offer racist policies is incompatible with Christian discipleship,” the Synod agreed.
The statement further called on “all Christians in England to nurture a loathing of the sin of racism and to model the teaching of Christ in loving all our neighbours.”
The Bishop’s letter also commends election prayers from the Methodist Church.
These include the plea “that racism and prejudice are challenged.”