Green Party pull out of hustings over “church only” rule

The Green Party in Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale has pulled out of a church-organised hustings event because it claims it is restricted to “Christians only”.

The hustings, which is set to take place at Little Marsden Parish Centre, Hibson Road, Nelson, on Thursday, is open only to church members according to Fr Brian Murphy, chairman of Nelson Churches in Covenant.

Fr Murphy also stated in an email to all the political parties invited to the hustings that no recording of the meeting would be allowed.

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The decision prompted a statement from Burnley, Pendle Rossendale Green Party which said it was pulling out of the event.

A party spokesman said: “The Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale Green Party is announcing its withdrawal from the hustings being held this Thursday at Little Marsden Parish Centre as it has come to our attention that the event, held by the local church, is exclusively open to those of the Christian faith.

“While we support the Church’s right to hold a hustings and limit tickets, we do not accept that tickets should be limited on faith grounds.

“We can see no reason why the Church is holding a closed hustings. This is particularly salient as there are no other hustings planned for the Nelson area, which is a largely Muslim area.

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“We have written to Fr Brian Murphy, chairman of Nelson Churches in Covenant, to express our concern and request that the hustings be opened to all.

“The Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale Green Party wish to be clear that it would not attend any hustings which denied access on faith grounds and points out that everyone has a right to access candidates in the election, to put their questions to them direct, and to hear answers to questions.

“We understand that not only is the Church closing this event to non-Christians, it refuses to allow the proceedings to be filmed or recorded.

“We don’t believe it was the Church’s intention to cause offence by excluding other faiths, however its imposition of a ban on non-Christians can only have such an effect locally.

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“We call on the church to reverse its decision and allow non-Christians to attend. We will be submitting this call to Blackburn Diocese and Diocese of Salford.”

The spokesman said that the party had made several attempts to contact Fr Murphy and Salford Diocese, but had failed to get a response.