The British National Party will face legal action under race relations laws after its ruling constitution was described as a form of "apartheid".
County court proceedings have been brought over criteria set out on the BNP website restricting membership to applicants described as coming from “particular ethnic groups” and those whose skin colour is “white”.
The BNP’s constitution was also said to be discriminatory, and its publication online, along with the membership requirements, was therefore said to be illegal under the terms of the Race Relations Act.
BNP ordered to accept ethnic minority members Nick Griffin, the party leader, and two other officials have been summoned to appear before the court on September 2.
Harriet Harman, the Equalities Minster, welcomed the move, saying: "No party should be allowed to have an apartheid constitution in 21st Century Britain.”
Proceedings were issued after the Equality and Human Rights Commission wrote to the BNP in June demanding it took action in four areas, including employment practices and the treatment of ethnic minority constituents, as well as its membership and constitution.
The first two demands have now been dropped, after the BNP, which won two seats in the European Parliament earlier this year, signed an undertaking promising to treat all constituents equally regardless of race.
In addition, the party agreed to drop a requirement for job applicants to be BNP members, which the Commission said effectively restricted employees to white people and those from ethnic groups deemed acceptable to the party.
After receiving the letter, the BNP also offered to clarify the word “white” in the context of its membership criteria and constitution, but refused to otherwise change its rules.
The Commission, which issued the proceedings, said that as a result it believed that the BNP would continue to discriminate against potential members on the grounds of their race.
John Wadham, Group Director, Legal at the Commission added: “The BNP has said that it is not willing to amend its membership criteria which we believe are discriminatory and unlawful.
“The Commission has a statutory duty to use our regulatory powers to enforce compliance with the law, so we have today issued county court proceedings against the BNP.
“However, the party still has an opportunity to resolve this quickly by giving the undertaking on its membership criteria that the Commission requires.”
A spokesman for the BNP said that Mr Griffin had been due to attend a committee hearing of the European Parliament on the court date – and that a fuller statement would be issued later.