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Saturday, 2 April 2011

Ex-preacher condemned for links with 'terrible' EDL (UK)

This photograph shows Adrian Ratcliffe being licensed to serve in one of the most caring positions in our community – assistant chaplain at Pembury Hospital.

But groups across the community were this week moving to distance themselves – and condemn – the former preacher-turned-politician, whom the Courier can reveal is an activist with the far-right anti-Islamic English Defence League.

On Facebook Mr Ratcliffe, of Greggswood Road, Tunbridge Wells, had a link to an offensive joke about strapping pork on to oneself and running into a mosque.

The page also contains a picture depicting the Koran in a highly offensive light.

Mr Ratcliffe is the chairman of the Tunbridge Wells branch of the English Democrats party and told the Courier last year that he planned to stand for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in the elections this May .

Elsewhere on his home page, the 61-year-old grandfather made reference to "sending all Muslims back" and endorsed extremely insulting remarks made by others about the prophet Mohammed.

The former preacher at St Philip's Church in Sherwood also made inflammatory remarks that English girls needed to be on the lookout for gangs of Islamic rapists.

Nasir Jamil, the first Muslim councillor on Southborough Town Council and president of the West Kent Muslim Association, said: "This is absolutely concerning for all Muslims in this area.

"We believe in Christianity as well. The church always teaches people to love one another and they spread love and that people should love their neighbours."

Mr Jamil added he understood Mr Ratcliffe was no longer linked to St Philip's but said the Church of England should review its policy in order to "screen" the views of any people holding positions within its ranks.

"If they are spreading hate instead of love then it is very shocking for the whole community and not just the Muslims," said Mr Jamil. "We are a very thin minority in this area and we live very peacefully and we don't interfere with other people's matters.

"We are very much part of the community. Most of the people who live here are doctors saving people's lives."

He said: "But for the last year and few months there have been some events happening that are really disturbing us and we certainly condemn them. We are very shocked.

"There was a very offensive article in Hildenborough village magazine and that was very shocking for us here and a second event was some graffiti saying "Kill Muslims" on a bridge in Maidstone.

"We have not taken any action apart from letting the police know. We don't want any conflict in this area because it is very peaceful.

"It is very hurtful and they are not helping community coherence. We are trying to integrate.

"I have set up a group Christian and Muslim friendship group and we try to understand each other and we meet together and eat together and talk. It is going very well from a Muslim side and a Christian side. I am trying to bring the communities together and these things are damaging my work."

Meanwhile, the vicar of St Philip's, the Rev Brian Senior said Mr Ratcliffe was a licensed reader, a volunteer lay position, from 2001 until 2007.

He added: "I wish to completely disassociate myself and St Philip's from those of the English Defence League. Mr Ratcliffe expressed none of these views during the time when he was a member of the church."

Paul Bentley, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust's director of strategy and workforce confirmed Mr Ratcliffe had been assistant chaplain.

He added: "We exist to serve every member of our communities.

"The trust abhors racist, sexist or religious discrimination. Any member of staff expressing such views would be subject to stringent disciplinary procedures."

Diocese of Rochester spokesman Louise Whiffin added: "We have nothing further to add to the Rev Brian Senior's comments regarding Adrian Ratcliffe.

"We would, however, wish to give assurances that the Diocese of Rochester values its good interfaith relationships and we welcome opportunities to build on these links.

"The new Bishop of Rochester has begun to meet with leaders of different faith communities to strengthen these relationships."

 This is Kent