(CP) A judge in the United Kingdom refused to dismiss a discrimination case against Barclays Bank brought by a Christian ministry that offers therapy to individuals with an unwanted same-sex attraction whose bank accounts were closed after an LGBT activist campaign.
At a hearing before Judge Alastair Devlin last week in Belfast, Barclays' lawyers sought to strike out the Northern Ireland-based ministry Core Issues Trust's case, suggesting the court did not have jurisdiction, and the case should be heard in England.
In a statement, Christian Legal Centre, representing Core Issues Trust, reports that the judge gave an oral judgment that the case could continue in the Northern Ireland courts because Barclays Bank provided no reason for the closure of business accounts.
The top-ranking Stonewall employer, Barclays, stopped Core Issues Trust's banking facilities in 2020. That year, the ministry received over 300 nuisance phone calls and numerous intimidating messages from activists, including a text to its Chief Executive Dr. Mike Davidson, which expressed hope that staff family members would be raped and killed.
"This was an orchestrated campaign by LGBT activists targeting a Christian ministry and Barclays fell for it. Barclays capitulated to bullying tactics and became a part of the cancel culture," Christian Legal Centre CEO Andrea Williams said in a statement.
"Rather than standing up for free speech and minority rights, they surrendered to the intimidatory tactics of LGBT activists. If banks and other service providers placate hardened activists by removing bank accounts from good and law-abiding customers who are being targeted because of their Christian faith then we're in a very dark place in this country."
Core Issues Trust supports individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction "voluntarily seeking to leave homosexual behaviors and feelings."
Barclays argues that it has the right to terminate any bank account without explanation by giving two months' notice. The company further argues there is no evidence that Core Issues Trust has been discriminated against.
"We look forward to further hearings and the hope of exposing Barclays' pre-emptive political activity in trying to damage and silence our charity and the work we do as part of the church of Jesus Christ," Davidson said in a statement. "Bank-rolling LGBT London Pride and appeasing activists who deny freedom of conscience and religion are unbecoming for the likes of Barclays."
Also called "gay conversion therapy," such counseling has been condemned by many psychiatric organizations and even former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. As some governments have enacted bans on gay conversion therapy, critics of such policies contend that they prohibit licensed Christian counselors from counseling based on their religious beliefs to individuals experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion.
Core Issues Trust says it "respects the rights of individuals who identify as 'gay' who do not seek change, and supports dignity for LGBT persons."
Those who seek support are usually "people of faith, and often they have experienced sexual feelings that are unwanted, or have found themselves addicted to sexual behaviors or fantasies that have become damaging." The group contends that those people want to change their lives and find different ways of living. They also "seek a different understanding about what they have experienced."
An online petition in support of the ministry garnered more than 71,000 signatures. The petition argues that the nonprofit doesn't engage in abusive treatment for LGBT individuals. Critics further note that in 2008, the bank was happy to receive an enormous injection of funds from Qatar, a country where homosexuality is illegal, to avoid a U.K. government bail-out.