Charity status of Northern Irish group Core Issues Trust challenged over alleged promotion of 'conversion therapy'

The charitable status of the Northern Ireland-based Christian group, Core Issues Trust, has been contested over their harmful promotion of 'conversion therapy'.

a protest against homophobia

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has been called on to reassess the charitable status of the Christian organisation, Core Issues Trust, following multiple complaints that the group promotes ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBT+ people.

On the Charity Commission website, it is noted that Core Issues Trust helps with addiction, adult training, and sexual orientation. The Christian group has been registered since 2016 and currently holds an income of £120.3K. 

In the public description section on the Core Issues Trust page, the organisation describes itself as “for the purpose of empowering individuals and churches to make, and to promote, lifestyle-choices consistent with Christian living in working educatively, rather than to indoctrinate its value.”

Core Issue Trust further states in the Public Benefits section, “Disagreeing with the radical politicisation of sexuality and the sexual political agenda designed to counter the Judeo-Christian foundations of western civilisation, have existed since the great persecutions of Roman times. The charity’s position will be considered harmful by those promoting the values of radical secular humanism.”

Following multiple online campaigns, including one from All Out, urging the Charity Commission to remove the Christian groups charitable status, the National Secular Society (NSS) has written to Chief Charity Commissioner Nicole Lappin, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and Health Minister Robin Swann over the issue.

In its letter, the NSS wrote, “Given that this practice can cause individuals significant mental health issues and harms society by reinforcing stigmas against LGBT+ people, we believe a clear tension exists between the public benefit requirement and the promotion of ‘conversion therapy’.”

The society has also called for a re-evaluation of provisions which make “the advancement of religion” a charitable purpose. NSS chief executive Stephen Evans said, “Bogus therapies which encourage people to change or suppress their sexuality are harmful and widely discredited. Those promoting them shouldn’t enjoy the tax breaks and public recognition that charitable status brings.”

In 2014, Mike Davidson of Core Issues Trust was removed from the British Psychodrama Associations register and since then he has operated independently. As part of an Irish Times article, he claimed to be “providing counselling for people with unwanted same-sex attractions,” further stating that homosexuality was the result of “attachment hunger” where people seek same-sex relations due to a traumatic childhood experience. 

Activists have previously protested Core Issues Trust screening of Once Gay: Matthew and Friends in 2019. Following the film’s screening, the Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) released a statement condemning conversion therapy as barbaric. 

In light of the numerous claims that the Core Issues Trust promotes this dangerous practice, the Charity Commission said they will review the NSS letter in detail. A spokesperson said, “A purpose must be beneficial, not harmful. If any organisation, including a religious one, requires improper pressure to be placed on people to remain within that organisation against their will, or completely withdraw from society, then there is likely to be more harm than benefit.”

A spokesperson from Core Issues Trust has expressed the organisation’s openness to the Charity Commission’s investigation. 

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