A Christian ministry that received death threats and had its account cancelled by Barclays Bank faces having its legal case ‘struck out’ at a hearing in Belfast this week.
Core Issues Trust (CIT), which is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre, was notified in July 2020 that its banking facilities with top-ranking Stonewall employer, Barclays, would be stopped, following a coordinated harassment campaign by LGBT activists.
CIT is a non-profit Christian ministry, based in Northern Ireland, which supports men and women who voluntarily seek change in their sexual preference, expression and/or gender identity.
Following the harassment campaign, Barclays appeared to have capitulated to demands to cancel CIT’s account after sustained pressure was placed on them for providing banking services to the Christian group while also being the headline sponsor for London’s Gay Pride parade.
During this period, CIT received over 300 nuisance phone calls and numerous intimidating messages from activists, including a text to its chief executive, Dr Mike Davidson, which expressed a hope that staff family members would be raped and killed.
Over 70,000 people have signed a petition calling on Barclays to reinstate the account and to stop discriminating against the Christian ministry.
The petition states that in 2008 Barclays Bank was happy to receive an enormous injection of funds from Qatar, a country where homosexuality is illegal, in order to avoid a UK government bail-out.
Since the incident, however, Barclays refused to apologise, reinstate the account or even give a reason for its actions.
Barclays argues that it can terminate any back account by giving two months’ notice without explanation and has claimed there is no evidence that Dr Davidson or Core Issues Trust have been discriminated against by the bank.
At the hearing this week, Barclays bank lawyers are now seeking to strike out Dr Davidson’s case by suggesting that the court does not have jurisdiction to determine the legal action.
Cancelling bank accounts over ideology?
The hearing comes following a similar controversy last month which saw PayPal cancel the Free Speech Union over their political views. Following political and media pressure, PayPal was forced to U-turn and apologise.
Following the incident, writing in The Times, former Supreme Court judge, Lord Sumption, called for greater protections over access to finance systems and described the actions of PayPal as an: “Ugly incident [which] should not be forgotten. It reveals the vulnerability of even the most respectable pressure groups to arbitrary action by those who, for whatever reason, object to their message. PayPal may have backed down, but this problem is not going to go away.”
Still seeking justice
Ahead of the hearing, Dr Davidson, CEO of CIT said: “Over two years on we are still seeking justice in this case. Barclays Bank has shown a concerning lack of care or remorse for the impact this has had on our ministry and the precedent this potentially sets for other businesses. Can you imagine the outcry if an LGBT charity had been treated in such a way?
“The coordinated campaign resulted in our ministry coming under immense pressure and key service providers cancelling their services, action which we consider to be discriminatory.
“If a social media mob can cause a bank to close the account of a Christian ministry, then there is nowhere for Biblically faithful Christian ministries to go.
“This incident took place well before government proposals to ban ‘conversion therapy’ came into place. We are deeply concerned at how far the levels of intolerance towards us will go, especially if the government ban goes ahead.”
Andrea Williams CEO of Christian Concern said: “Many have failed to see the disturbing warnings in this case. The vitriol aimed at Core Issues Trust from LGBT activists has been building for well over a decade.
“Calls to ban ‘hate prayer’ and ‘conversion practices’ show that if it is therapists now it will be church leaders next.
“Banking services are as fundamental to a company as access to electricity or water. Banks shouldn’t be allowed to cut off services simply because they don’t like their customers’ views.
“If banks and other service providers start to placate social media campaigns by unilaterally terminating their accounts then the UK will be a very difficult place for Biblically faithful Christian ministries.
“The government must urgently heed the clear warning signals in this case and put a halt to this kind of mob rule and to assert the rights of Biblically faithful Christian organisations to be serviced by businesses without facing such intolerant discrimination.”
Find out more about Core Issues TrustFind out more about Mike Davidson