Exclusive: Total Politics apologises for running ‘gay cure’ Core Issues Trust advert

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The publisher of Total Politics magazine has apologised for running an advert advocating gay conversion therapy by Core Issues Trust.

The anti-gay Christian group purchased a page in Total Politics in order to promote the idea that gay people should explore ways in which to change their sexuality.

In its advert Core Issues Trust called on the Church of England “to support those who seek the right to move away from homosexual practice” – in direct reference to the Church’s latest decision to tackle homophobic bullying in its schools.

The Trust also cited several academic publications as part of its argument, including “Out of Harm’s Way: Working Ethically with Same-Sex Attracted Persons” by Dermot O’Callaghan and Michael Davidson.

The Managing Director of Dods’ Engagement Division, the publisher of Total Politics, has confirmed to PinkNews.co.uk that the advert will not run again in the magazine.

Shane Greer said: “The first thing I want to make clear is that we will not be running this ad or an ad of its kind again, despite it being reviewed by the Committee for Advertising Practice. With that in mind, I want to clarify what that means and why I have taken this decision.

“As a publisher, we do not endorse any of our advertisers. Our job is to put our clients’ messages in front of our readers, and to let our readers make their own decisions on the content of those adverts. This is particularly important for Total Politics, House, Holyrood and PoliticsHome, because they are the leading publications for engaging with the UK’s key decision makers. In a very real sense, our publications help key people make decisions that ultimately affect everyone. As such, we have to be mindful that it is not our role to make the decisions; it’s our readers’ job.

“There are many controversial issues at play in any single issue of any of our publications, and the advertising we carry reflects that. There will be times when we run ads that members of the team disagree with, but we have to remember our disagreement cannot be allowed to trump free speech. By way of example, although I personally disagree with those opposed to gay marriage, I would be comfortable carrying ads opposing gay marriage, just as I would be happy to carry ads in favour of gay marriage. Our job is to facilitate debate, not to police opinion.”

Mr Greer added: “The Core Issues ad is different. Not because it’s offensive, but because it’s dishonest. To claim that gay people can be turned straight is as absurd as saying straight people can be turned gay. To my mind, such a suggestion is no different than a claim that a person’s race or national origin could be changed. Dishonesty is where we must draw the line. Accordingly, we will never carry an ad like Core Issue’s again.”

LBC radio presenter Iain Dale, the former publisher of Total Politics, said to PinkNews.co.uk: “It’s a dishonest and disgusting advert and should clearly never have been run. Although I’m no longer the publisher of Total Politics since its sale to Dods I have made my views known to its current management and have been assured the advert won’t be run again.”

On Wednesday afternoon the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told PinkNews.co.uk that it had not received any complaints about the advert and therefore was not in a position to consider whether it breached the ASA’s rules.

Core Issues Trust was memorably banned from placing adverts on 24 London buses on the eve of the London 2012 mayoral election.

The posters read: “Not Gay. Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!” and were in response to a previous poster campaign by gay rights charity Stonewall, which said: “Some people are gay. Get over it!”

Following a challenge by the Trust, the High Court upheld Transport for London’s original decision to ban the adverts in March of this year.

Gay conversion therapy – a practice advocated by Core Issues Trust – has been described as “harmful” by the Department of Health.

However, some therapists still seek to provide the treatment – through referrals by GPs.

Lesley Pilkington, the Christian psychotherapist who was found to be providing gay conversion therapy, was struck off by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) in September 2012.

In June, Labour MP Geraint Davies called on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to consider a complete ban on gay conversion therapy from being provided by psychotherapists.

Several MPs from all parties have signed an Early Day Motion against the therapy.