FAR-RIGHT group the National Front is organising a protest march against the installation of a gay priest as Dean of St Albans.

Deputy chairman Bernard Franklin said the NF was aggrieved at the "subversion" of the Church of England and said up to 150 members would be taking action in protest at Canon Jeffrey John's appointment.

Members will march to St Albans Abbey for the installation ceremony next month and distribute leaflets outside outlining their concerns at the "watering down of the Church's message".

He added: "As Christians we are concerned that the Church is failing as an institution.

"The pews are empty and what is preached now is more about being nice to each other than anything else. It's meaningless in our view.

"We have nothing against Jeffrey John as a person and he is probably a nice enough bloke but the Church has been infiltrated and is being destroyed from within."

The installation of Canon John takes place at 5pm on Friday, July 2. Hundreds of local dignitaries and clergymen will attend.

The Prime Minister's secretary of appointments William Chapman will officially install Canon John as dean while the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Christopher Herbert, will induct him as Rector of the Parish.

The National Front has not yet confirmed where and when the march will start.

Police said they were not aware of the NF's plans but said members of the public had a right to peaceful protest, hinting that the march would not be prevented.

Chief Inspector Jeff Taylor said: "If such an event does take place, the police would be required to ensure the event passes peacefully. The police role is to protect public safety and prevent a breach of the peace."

Bishop Herbert said he did not feel the need to comment on the news and nobody at St Albans Abbey was available for comment.

Canon Stephen Lake said it was not appropriate to comment on political events.

When Dr John was appointed dean in April he praised the city for being an "inclusive place with a tradition of welcoming everybody". But within days the Diocesan Evangelist Fellowship, representing some local churches, asked for the appointment to be withdrawn. They also threatened to withhold money they pay the diocese. Prominent local clergyman Rev Robert Donald, also chairman of St Albans District Council's cabinet, said he was "disturbed" by the choice.

The appointment of Canon John has also re-opened the bitter debate in the Church of England over the role of gay clergy. He stepped down as Bishop of Reading last year after a big row in the organisation.

The abbey has been without a dean since Christopher Lewis became Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, last summer.