Disgruntled dads from controversial campaign group New Fathers4Justice protested outside Canterbury Cathedral on Saturday.
Dressed as Father Christmases, the demonstrating dads tried to enter the precincts but were turned away by police and security guards. Shouting “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” and “Two parents are better than one!” the group made no apology for disrupting a group from the Canterbury City Church who were signing to carols.
Dad Darren Ash, 34, from Beltinge, Herne Bay, said: “We warned them we were coming and we want to get our message heard.”
The group, who described themselves as “infamous” had threatened to disrupt services or take direct action but in the end their protest was peaceful and they were later allowed into the Cathedral grounds to take a photograph.
The demonstration attracted a large police presence, with officers outside and inside the precincts and security guards on standby.
Protestors said they wanted the Church of England to put the father back into Christmas and support them in their fight for equal access to their children.
Jason Sands, who is fighting to see his six-year-old son, said: “They operate in the name of the father but they do nothing to support fathers.
“The Government and the church need to stop turning a blind eye to what’s going on otherwise we will have no choice but to continue with direct action.”
Darren added: “I spent £7,000 in court trying to get access to my children but I ran out of money. My daughter is nine and I last spoke to her five years ago.
“There are thousands of dads like me who won’t see their children at Christmas. I have four court orders in place but they are ignored and there seems to be no way to enforce them.”
The group also displayed quotes from MPs backing their cause, including Canterbury’s Julian Brazier.
He released a statement after the group contacted him to request one, warning they would turn up in large numbers at his house on Saturday afternoon to get one.
Mr Brazier said: “I share the concerns of many of the public at the nature of some of the demonstrations which Fathers for Justice have carried out.
“Nonetheless, I do have a great deal of sympathy for their claim that family law is biased against fathers. In particular, I have seen evidence in a number of cases around the country of judges being unwilling to enforce child access arrangements which have been set out by the courts.”
Cathedral spokesman Christopher Robinson said the church was already trying to help fathers.
He said: “Every week up and down the country Christians and the clergy are trying to reunite families and resolve difference. A lot of work is being done on the ground.”