Staff members at the Church of England were subjected to racist abuse before being forced to sign agreements preventing them from speaking out, it has been claimed.

One employee was allegedly sent a picture of a banana with his head super-imposed on top of it – an image which the HR department at the church decided wasn’t racist.

The fresh allegations have emerged as part of a BBC Panorama investigation which airs on BBC One tonight.

Some have accused the church of trying to ‘buy the silence’ of employees by offering them compensation and making them sign non-disclosure agreements.

The church has previously admitted it has problems with institutional racism but said confidentiality agreements are only used ‘in exceptional circumstances.’

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Dr Elizabeth Henry, the church’s former adviser on race relations, spoke to the BBC after she retired from her role due to frustrations over a lack of action.

She said: ‘A really shocking incident was a young black man who received a picture of a banana. But that banana had his head superimposed upon it – and underneath it said: “Banana Man”. That is a deeply offensive and deeply racist image.

‘He took it to HR [human resources department] and he did file a grievance. And the decision was that it wasn’t racist.

‘That person left, and he received a very small compensation – however he was forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement.’

Another incident saw a vicar told to ‘find a job with people of your kind’ by his manager.

Brazilian Peterson Feital, who was working in London at the time, said his boss told him: ‘I don’t like your preaching, and you are too Brazilian in your compassion, you’re not very coherent.’ 

Mr Feital said he complained on several occasions about the racism he experienced over a seven year period but was told to ‘keep his head down’ as he ‘wouldn’t be able to get a job anywhere’ if he spoke out.

The vicar was made redundant last month and is now out of work and claiming benefits.

Last year the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the Church of England is ‘still deeply institutionally racist’ and that he was ‘ashamed’ of its history of racism.

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Currently around one in 25 serving clergy come from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

The latest revelations come as plans on how to address racism within the church are set to be announced imminently.

On Thursday, a report by the Archbishops’ Anti-Racism Taskforce is due to make dozens of recommendations covering different parts of the church to make it ‘representative of the people of England’.

Ideas previously considered include appointing a representative from black or minority groups to the committee which approves the appointment of bishops.

Speaking ahead of the report’s publication, the Archbishop of York said: ‘The stories we’ve heard are shocking and there is no doubt that the Church has failed our UK Minority Ethnic brothers and sisters.

‘I hope that we are at least now approaching the challenge of tackling racism in a more intentional way and that that this will lead to much greater participation at every level of the Church’s life in order that we might become the change that we long to see everywhere.’

The Church said it couldn’t comment on individual complaints but said any racist behaviour was ‘unacceptable.’

A statement added: ‘The allegations – whether involving individuals or the wider structures or culture of the Church – are deeply worrying and there is no place for racism or discrimination within the Church.

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