MPs defend taking interns from ‘gay cure’ event sponsor

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

An MP who received interns from a religious charity which opposes gay equality and sponsored a ‘gay cure’ event has backed the charity and claimed to have met ‘ex-gays’.

Andrew Selous, the MP for South West Bedfordshire, is among the MPs being petitioned to reject support from the charity CARE.

David Burrowes MP has also backed CARE for its work on “issues such as human trafficking and prostitution” but said he would not “be party” to another event like its ‘gay cure’ event of 2009.

CARE, Christian Action Research and Education, co-sponsored the “Judaeo-Christian” event ‘Sex and the City: Redeeming sex today’.

The £50-a-head conference included talks on “mentoring the sexually broken” from speakers including Jospeh Nicolosi, president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality and author of books on how to clinically “treat” being gay.

Arthur Goldberg, co-founder of ex-gay group JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) was another speaker.

Golbderg was imprisoned for fraud in the 1980s before forming the group, whose logo was that shown to London pupils at the Jewish school JFS.

CARE’s Chief Executive Nola Leach is one of the directors of the limited company behind the anti-marriage equality petition the Coalition for Marriage.

Others include the founder of Christian Concern, the head of public affairs for the Evangelical Alliance and the director of the Family Education Trust.

The Coalition for Marriage, which had amassed over 66,600 signatures today, says it is a non-religious “umbrella group of individuals and organisations”.

The Family Education Trust, the only non-religious organisation backing the petition that and the Coalition for Marriage could identify this week, is a registered charity whose stated purpose is, among others, “to establish, carry out and promote research into the social, medial and psychological consequences of sexual behaviour”.

Its director, Normal Wells is listed at Companies House as a director of Coalition for Marriage Limited. A representative of the Trust told this week the Coalition represented the charity’s views on marriage.

CARE’s Westminster internships have been a source of controversy for a number of years.

In 2000, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw described CARE as “a bunch of homophobic bigots”.

Their bursaries, which amount to thousands of pounds, place young people in MPs’ offices as researchers and must be declared on Parliamentary register of interests.

January’s register of interests lists three Labour MPs, two Liberal Democrats and one Conservative MP as currently having CARE interns.

Phillip Dawson, an Enfield resident whose MP is David Burrowes, has petitioned the 17 MPs who have received CARE internships since the 2009 event to distance themselves from the scheme.

Stephen Crabb, Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire who last received a CARE intern in 2010 was himself part of the scheme in the 1990s.

David Lammy had been the first MP to sever his ties with CARE in February.

Lammy said: “I had no idea that they held these views and my position now is that I won’t be taking another intern because I can’t agree with their extreme views.”

Dawson said of his petition: “I’m in no way suggesting that these MPs endorse or condone the views of CARE or its co-sponsorship of a ‘gay cure’ event. However I hope they will see this petition and make a public statement.”

Dawson also calls on the Charity Commission to investigate whether CARE “acted inappropriately and could be seen to have brought itself, and other faith charities, into disrepute” by co-sponsoring the ‘gay cure’ event.

Of the MPs petitioned to have responded so far, Andrew Selous backed CARE, telling Bedfordshire on Sunday of his pride at being associated with the charity.

Selous had a CARE intern from September 2010 to July 2011.

When the paper asked him about the ‘gay cure’ event, he said it was a “free country”.

He added: “I have met people who have been homosexual who are no longer.

“I am wholly against any form of discrimination.”

Dawson’s MP David Burrowes, who attended the Coalition for Marriage launch and opposes marriage equality, told North London Today: “CARE have, over many years, provided an excellent service to the community. They do a wonderful job campaigning on issues such as human trafficking and prostitution.”

He added: “I’m not a signed-up member. My only involvement relates to their leadership programme where interns work for a short period in my office.

“I was never aware of this conference and if they were to organise an event like this in the future I would not be party to anything of that nature.”

Burrowes was on the committee for the Christians in Parliament report on the ‘undue limitation of belief’ in the UK. approached CARE for comment but they had not responded at the time of publication.