Barclays is embroiled in an extraordinary row with a controversial Christian group after shutting down its bank accounts following an outcry from gay rights campaigners.
Core Issues Trust is suing the bank for closing its accounts after criticism for providing services to the ‘gay conversion’ charity.
Core Issues is a non-profit Christian ministry in Northern Ireland that organises therapy for people who want to ‘reduce or eliminate unwanted sexual feeling’.
Support: Barclays was attacked for providing banking services to the group while also being the headline sponsor for London’s Gay Pride parade
Its leader Mike Davidson believes homosexuality is ‘malleable’ and can be altered through psychological treatment.
Barclays was attacked for providing banking services to the group while also being the headline sponsor for London’s Gay Pride parade.
After complaints – that Barclays was ‘enabling UK gay conversion therapy organisation Core Trust’, a group that tries to ‘make people ashamed of their sexuality’ – the bank told Core Issues it was shutting down its accounts, but provided no formal explanation.
The bank told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Our terms and conditions – like other banks – allow us to end a relationship with any customer, provided we give two months’ notice.’
Core Issues plans to file pleadings at the county court in Northern Ireland, saying the bank has violated its human rights by shutting down the accounts. The group will claim thousands of pounds in damages.
Michael Phelps, of religious legal group Christian Concern, said he believes Barclays’ decision is about the group’s views.
He added: ‘This is about the belief Mike holds concerning sexual orientation – that it is not necessarily innate or that you are born with it, that it can change over time, and that change can in part be affected by therapy that you undertake.
‘Barclays is not being asked to propagate a message it disagrees with, but to provide a bank account. It is acting as a moral arbiter of what views in society are acceptable and not acceptable.’
Gay conversion therapy has been condemned by NHS England and the Church of England’s ruling body the General Synod.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson – who blocked Core Issues from advertising on London buses when he was Mayor – said in July that the Government would take action against the ‘abhorrent’ practice.
Core Issues denies that it gives gay conversion therapy. It says the term only applies to extreme methods such as electroshock therapy, which it does not practise.
The case has echoes of a dispute between a gay rights activist and a bakery in 2014. Gareth Lee sued Ashers, of County Antrim, after it refused to bake a cake supporting same-sex marriage, saying it was inconsistent with the firm’s religious beliefs. The case went to the Supreme Court, which found in favour of the business.