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Breaking faith

Barclays terminated accounts of Christian counseling initiatives after Twitter accusations of conversion therapy

Artillery Row

My grandfather was a Barclays Bank manager. My father worked for Barclays briefly and banked with Barclays his entire life. I have banked with Barclays all my working life. When I became the director of two initiatives, approaching Barclays for business accounts felt the natural thing to do.

Barclays provided for the Christian ministry Core Issues Trust since 2011, and the International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC) since 2019. On 13 July 2020, Barclays notified us that, following a three month notice period, both accounts would be closed. On phoning the general manager who had signed the letters, I was told they did not need to give any reason for their action.

All had been well until Stonewall stepped in to complain

Businesses can, of course, choose their customers; failure to provide services is not necessarily discrimination, as the Asher’s bakery case taught us. The issue for Christian organisations like Core Issues Trust, however, is that since 2011 when we were welcomed warmly into these services, banking appears to have changed. All had been well until Stonewall, or activists supporting Stonewall, stepped in to complain that Barclays was facilitating “Conversion Therapy” by providing banking services to us.

We know that social media campaigns during the time were calling for the closure of Core Issues Trust, and that Barclays appears to have conceded to activists’ demands. Threatening calls and emails went on for days, culminating in the letters by which Barclays severed ties. We must now ask whether Barclays has overstepped its role in becoming an arbitor in the ongoing debate about conversion therapy. Despite no definition of Conversion Therapy being offered in the Government’s consultation, and Parliament’s POSTnote stating that “‘Conversion therapy’ (CT) doesn’t have a settled definition”, Barclays has accused our organisations of something we deny. This is reputational damage, one of the reasons we feel compelled to take the matter to the courts.

Not only should a bank not be allowed to set itself up to enforce a political or religious viewpoint, as an arbitor of public morality, but this Bank in particular is a well known Stonewall Champion and the main funder of London Pride. In recent past, we have seen the bank impose its colourful rainbow logo on all clients at a time when other institutions have stepped back from Stonewall’s advice and promotion of LGBT activism. Not content with that, by unilaterally ending our accounts, Barclays is enforcing an agenda well ahead of any legislative action resulting from the consultation on Conversion Therapy.

Social media mobs now dictate terms of association to banks and parliaments

Church and parachurch organisations should take notice of this case. Groups promoting the Christian religion are vulnerable here, whether or not they provide counselling. Core Issues Trust is the only registered Charity in the United Kingdom that offers counselling and therapeutic support to those leaving LGBT lifestyles and identity. That Barclays Bank would define this as “Conversion Therapy” is challengeable and damaging. The IFTCC is a developing professional body, publicly accountable and  transparently encouraging the professionalisation of help in this area. Barclays reveals its blatant ignorance in wishing to terminate therapeutic support for those wanting out of homosexual and gender feelings. When people are no longer happy with their LGBT identities, it is cruel and harmful to force them to remain so identified and unable to stop unwanted practices.

It is also likely that Barclays Bank is ignorant of the ordinary activities of the churches and parachurch organisations that teach the twoness of gender and uphold marriage as the union between one man and one woman. These are the fundamental tenets of Christian sexual ethics in whichever version of the Bible you read. It seems the Government, specifically the Conservative Party, now want to criminalise these teachings — whatever their claims to the contrary.

The UK has become a culture where Twitter and social media mobs dictate terms of association to banks, parliaments and professional mental health bodies. We live under increasing intimidation against conservative groups promoting the Christian gospel. If the Government is sincerely committed to defending the rights of Christians, they might take a close look at the affront their policies now present to many Christian churches. When groups like Barclays Bank PLC defend one viewpoint against another, they betray their flawed understanding. Barclays Bank doesn’t need any consultation on “Conversion Therapy”; it has all the answers. Where it needs help is on how to balance diverse viewpoints.

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