Win for Christian ministry after judge refuses to strike out discrimination case

15 November 2022

A County Court judge has refused to strike out a Christian ministry’s discrimination case against Barclays Bank, following spurious attempts from the multi-billion-pound corporation to have it thrown out.

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, that supports men and women who voluntarily seek change in their sexual preference, expression and/or gender identity.

At the hearing before Judge Alastair Devlin, Barclays’ lawyers sought to strike out Dr Davidson’s case by suggesting that the court does not have jurisdiction to determine the legal action.

However, Judge Devlin refused, ruling in an oral judgment that the case could continue in the Northern Irish courts.

He also said that it was of note that no reason had been provided by Barclays Bank for the closure of two business accounts and that the lawyers representing the corporation had been given no instructions in this regard other than that there was no unlawful discrimination involved.

The case will now proceed to a full hearing in the County Court.

Harassment campaign

Following the LGB harassment campaign in 2020, Barclays appeared to have capitulated to demands to cancel CIT’s account after sustained pressurise 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 executiveDr Mike Davidson, which expressed a hope that staff family members would be raped and killed.

Over 72,000 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 were 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 their actions.

Barclays argue that they can terminate any back account by giving two months’ notice without explanation and have claimed there is no evidence that Dr Davidson or Core Issues Trust has been discriminated against by the bank.

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 were 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

Responding to the ruling, Dr Davidson, CEO of CIT said:“How absurd that mega-bank Barclays International contested Belfast as the correct jurisdiction at which to hear the case we brought against its actions. Core Issues Trust is a registered charity in Northern Ireland. County Down is where our business accounts were opened with Barclays.

“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. Bank-rolling LGBT London Pride and appeasing activists who deny freedom of conscience and religion are unbecoming for the likes of Barclays.”

Orchestrated campaign

Andrea Williams CEO of Christian Concern said:“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.

“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.”

Find out more about Core Issues Trust
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