Kent

Nigeria 'witchcraft' church in bid to open Kent school

WCI Dartford campus
Image caption The church organisation wants to open a school at its Dartford campus

A Nigerian church accused of linking poor discipline to witchcraft wants to open an independent school in Kent.

Winners' Chapel International, which is currently under investigation by the Charity Commission, wants to open the school at its Dartford site.

Human rights campaigners and the National Secular Society are urging the government to turn down the school bid.

The church, whose leader Bishop David Oyedpo was filmed accusing a woman of being a witch, declined an interview.

The organisation, which has its headquarters in Nigeria, is known as Living Faith Church Worldwide and also Winners' Chapel International (WCI).

Bishop Oyedepo, its leader in Nigeria, has been shown on YouTube slapping a woman and accusing her of being a witch.

His son David Oyedepo Junior is the pastor at WCI's European headquarters in Dartford, where the church organisation wants to open Kingdom Heritage Model School for children aged four to seven.

But groups including the National Secular Society (NSS) have raised concerns amid claims the church links child "disobedience" to witchcraft - citing the David Oyedepo Ministries website, which states "disobedience is as terrible as witchcraft".

Stephen Evans, from the NSS, said the Metropolitan Police had investigated 27 cases of child abuse related to witchcraft this year.

He said: "There's a need to be vigilant and there's a need to tackle this.

"You don't do this by allowing organisations that believe in witchcraft and are associated with witch-hunting to open in the UK."

Image caption The school application is being considered by the government

The Charity Commission confirmed concerns raised about Winners' Chapel International included conflicts of interest and the charity's financial management.

In 2011, Bishop Oyedepo's fortune was estimated at $150m (£94m).

Nigeria 'different context'

Human rights activist and Nigerian Humanist Movement founder Leo Igwe said the church obtained money from its members using what it called a prosperity-in-gospel narrative.

He said: "They make this money using this narrative and then they use it to establish business, universities, schools."

The Evangelical Alliance, which represents the UK's evangelical Christians, said both church and school should be supported.

Spokesman Yemi Adedeji said: "The context of what happens in Nigeria and what happens here is very different."

"Most parents want their children to go to a faith-based school because of moral issues and I think we must salute that."

The Department for Education (DfE) said it had received an application and was aware of concerns.

A spokeswoman said: "All independent schools must meet stringent standards before they are registered. These include tough rules on welfare and safeguarding.

"Police intelligence and criminal record checks are also carried out on the proprietor of the school, and any links to organisations which suggest the school might not meet the standards are investigated."

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