A Christian charity which claims to help people with unwanted same-sex attraction has said that leading British bank Barclays is axing its company bank account after pressure was put on them to deny the group financial services.
The Core Issues Trust has come under increased scrutiny over recent weeks as the Government pledges to ban 'conversion therapy'.
Mike Davidson, the founder of the Core Issues Trust, told Premier: "On Monday the 20th, I received two letters from Barclays Bank saying that they would be closing our accounts on the 14th of September in accordance with their customer agreement. I then wrote to them and ask them for an explanation. And they pointed me to a clause in their customer agreement statement, which simply says that either party can terminate the account. So they are giving us no reason."
Davidson added that Barclays ranks highly on the Stonewall Employers list, which is compiled by the Workplace Equality Index – the UK's leading benchmarking tool for LGBT inclusion in the workplace.
"If I was to be asked to speculate, I think it's important to recognise that Barclays features very highly on Stonewall's employer list, I think it's number 30. So, it's very clearly a priority," he said. "Barclays Bank affects Stonewall's agenda, basically. And of course, it's well known that Barclays is a strong supporter of pride in London."
A Barclays spokesperson told Premier: “We do not comment on individual cases. Our terms and conditions – like other banks – allow us to end a relationship with any customer, provided we give two months’ notice.”
Davidson said that the cancellation of their accounts "appears to be in response to social media demands".
He noted: "It is possible to track a Twitter conversation between several LGBT activists and others who are demanding that Barclays close our accounts. So this is not speculation."
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said conversion therapy — which is defined as the "pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual's sexual orientation" — was "absolutely abhorrent" and "has no place in this country". Mr Johnson said a blanket ban on the practice will be brought forward following the Government's completion of a "study" on the issue.
Davidson insisted that 'conversion therapy' was a "political term" invented by activist Douglas Heldman back in the early 1990s, and had nothing whatsoever to do with his organisation's form of counselling. "He has used this term really as a pejorative term that wants to say that the work that a person does around counselling is necessarily against people's will," Davidon explained, "that it's always forced on people, that it uses things like electroshock therapy".
He added: "The problem comes when you try to distinguish between straightforward counselling, using ordinary counselling techniques that are recognised and accepted with these extremes that are thrown together with this term 'conversion therapy'."
Davidson said it was "unfair" for Barclays to close their account "because it is closing down a minority group's right to access support and help, both in terms of Christian ministry, and in terms of just straightforward counselling".
Last week, Facebook censored posts from the Core Issues Trust as part of a wider crackdown on content related to so-called conversion therapy.
Listen to Premier's full interview with Davidson below: