Update: according to this 1 in 3 constituencies have a church-based hustings event going on. How many will have BNP representation?
Our local paper had a story last week of a local hustings event which was facing some problems: one candidate wasn't going to attend if the BNP were invited. As a 'hustings' is traditionally all the local candidates, there may well be others who won't attend if the BNP aren't invited. What to do? For churches, there's the added issue of giving the BNP a platform on church premises. Here's some thoughts from the CofE election/BNP guide:
Churches are under no legal obligation to include the BNP in election hustings meetings, or give space to such parties for public meetings, if they consider this ‘association’ could have detrimental affect on their reputation and activities (as charities).
It is open to charities to decline to invite to a public meeting a representative from a political party which advocates policies which are in contravention of the charity’s objects, or whose presence or views are likely to increase the chance of public disorder or of alienating the charity’s supporters. (Charity Commission Guidance, May 2009) (Charity Commission)
If candidates participate in an event that does not include all candidates in a constituency they need to declare this on their election returns. Organiser should be able to provide notional costings for the event which are split between the candidates participating.
…when a husting organiser invites candidates on a selective basis, the [Electoral] Commission considers that the provision of a public platform for those candidates who attend would constitute notional expenditure for the candidate … and also a non-cash donation, if valued at more than £50. (Electoral Commission)
More election hustings resources here and here. Both the Churches Together and CARE hustings guides point out that churches may be in contravention of their charity objects by inviting the BNP, though they point out that the norm is to invite all the candidates. I guess there may also be police advice to consider - if public disorder is likely, then churches may get police advice not to invite the BNP anyway. Mind you, there may then be demonstrations from BNP supporters, so this may cut both ways.
I'd be interested to hear what people are doing in other parts of the country. I know there is another hustings event being planned by some of our local churches, and no doubt they are running into this issue!