The UK bank Barclays is to pay more than £20,000 to the conservative Northern Irish Christian group Core Issues Trust in a settlement after it closed the group’s bank account over concerns that the organisation was engaging in so-called ‘conversion therapy’ practices.
After Christian group and registered charity Core Issues Trust (CIT) received notification that Barclays was to close the account, it asserted that the move by the bank, which is among the UK’s leading banks and one of the main sponsors of London Pride, was a direct result of lobbying by LGBTQ+ activists.
Led by the chief executive Dr Mike Davidson and backed by the Christian Legal Centre, Core Issues Trust undertook a legal challenge claiming that Barclays had discriminated against them on the grounds of religious belief and/or political opinion.
Davidson, who describes himself as ex-gay, maintained that his professional and public work was undermined by the closure of banking services from the trust and federation.
The bank “wholly denied” that it had neither “directly or indirectly” discriminated against Davidson “on the grounds of any religious, philosophical or political belief”. It also argued that it is at liberty to terminate any bank account by giving two months’ notice without explanation.
However, according to a report by The Times, Barclays agreed to a settlement of £21,500 plus legal fees ahead of a High Court hearing. In defending the decision to settle out of court, Barclays said, “This is a commercial settlement, predicated on our assessment of the costs of defending this claim to conclusion against the cost of settling the matter today.”
Barclays has not issued any apology to Core Issues Trust and has refused to reinstate the account.
Davidson rejected the bank’s “implied accusations of ‘conversion therapy’”, saying: “This case must serve as a warning to the government of what is coming if it proceeds with publishing and enforcing its ‘conversion therapy’ ban.”
According to the organisation’s statement as outlined in the Charity Commission of Northern Ireland website, CIT engages in education and training regarding “lifestyle-choices consistent with Christian living”.
One of the services it provides is “training of counsellors, mentors… usually in limited-access, invitation-only events which appeal to specific interests relating to that portion of the population unhappy with unwanted sexual practices”.
It also claims to offer “support to individuals and Churches in respect of various issues one of which being relational, sexual and emotional brokenness”.
In 2013, CIT took an unsuccessful case against Transport for London after the then Mayor of the city, Boris Johnson, ordered the removal of a poster campaign funded by the ministry. The posters were intended to read, “Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!”
Currently, the UK government is considering legislation to ban conversion therapy practices under specific circumstances.
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