A Christian charity has received over £20,000 in compensation after Barclays shut down the ministry’s bank accounts, following an online campaign.
Core Issues Trust (CIT) – which provides support for those struggling with sexuality and identity issues - was targeted by supporters of the LGBTQ+ community, who accused the charity of using “conversion therapy” to “target the vulnerable". Conversion therapy is set to be banned by the government.
According to its website, the charity, which is the only one of its kind in the UK, campaigns for “the freedom to access pastoral care, counselling and therapeutic choice” for those who voluntarily seek change in their sexual preference, expression and/or gender identity.
Barclays UK came under fire in 2020, after a Twitter user accused the bank, which is one of the main sponsors of London’s Pride parade, of “enabling” a “UK Gay Conversion Therapy” organisation by providing it with banking services.
Subsequently, CIT received a slew of threats and harassment from LGBT activists, including a text to Chief Executive Dr Mike Davidson, expressing a hope that staff and family members would be raped and killed.
Davidson told Premier Christian News CIT was also subjected to a "sustained campaign" by activists to be removed from the Charity Commission of Northern Ireland.
In July 2020 Barclays disabled the accounts of both CIT and its sister company, International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC).
During this time, CIT also lost its Mail Chimp, PayPal, Facebook and other social media accounts, none of which have been recovered.
Supported by the Christian Legal Centre, CIT began a legal claim against the bank for "unlawful discrimination”.
Lawyers argued Davidson’s professional and public work was undermined by the withdrawal of banking services on the grounds of his religious beliefs and political views.
The bank “wholly denies” that it has discriminated against Davidson “directly or indirectly on the grounds of any religious, philosophical or political belief” and cited its contractual right to close business accounts with two months’ notice. When pressed for more information, Barclays told Davidson it was not obliged to give a reason for the closing of the accounts.
This week, before the case was due to be heard at the High Court, Barclays made a settlement offer of £21,500 in compensation with legal costs to follow, which Davidson accepted. His bank accounts were not reinstated and Barclays has not apologised or admitted liability.
Davidson, who says he has seen the organisation's donations double throughout his legal battle, said Barclays’ actions are "yet another example of Stonewall’s misguided influence in forcing LGBT ascendancy within our society and its institutions".
Speaking to Premier Christian News, Dr Davidson warned the government against controlling people's freedom to "decide their own pathways".
"This idea that we are locked into one point of view forever is a very dangerous one. The idea that you cannot move away from an identity or behaviours - what it amounts to in the end, through this proposed ban, is government mandated sexual identity. And that is a very uncomfortable concept."
CIT has rejected any accusations of engaging in so-called 'conversion therapy’, telling Premier, "we're available for that part of the population, in the UK and beyond, who have tried the LGBT [lifestyle] - they've gone in that direction - and for whatever reason, it hasn't worked for them - they want options."
Davidson says his case, "must serve as a warning to the government of what is coming, if it proceeds with publishing and enforcing its ‘conversion therapy’ ban,” and calls for Christian ministries to be protected from what he calls, "brazen discrimination".
72,000 people have signed a petition protesting the bank's actions, which is being presented at Barclays' head office in London tomorrow.
In a statement to Premier, a spokesperson for the bank said: "Barclays has today agreed a commercial settlement with Core Issues Trust following our decision to cease acting as their Bankers in 2020. 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.
"There has been no admission of liability by Barclays and there has been no decision by the Court calling into question Barclays’ actions including Barclays' decision to exit its relationship with Core Issues Trust and IFTCC.
"Barclays remains an advocate for the equality and dignity of all members of society, including the LGBT+ community, and our stance in this matter affirms this position. We will continue to build understanding of diverse experiences and perspectives, and create a more inclusive environment in the communities in which we operate.”