Almost 70,000 jump to the defence of conversion therapy advocates masquerading as a charity. This is why we need a ban

Mike Davidson of Core Issues Trust conversion therapy

Almost 70,000 people have signed a petition in defence of conversion therapy charity Core Issues Trust after Barclays bank shut down the group’s accounts.

The Northern Irish organisation, which promotes the traumatising and pseudoscientific practice, had its bank accounts shut down by Barclays in July.

The bank did not give a reason for the closure, but founder Mike Davidson claimed it was the result of a “coordinated campaign” from LGBT+ activists.

At the time of writing, a whopping 69,456 people have signed a petition claiming that Core Issues Trust was targeted because it offers “counselling and support for individuals experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction and gender confusion”.

In fact, the Ballynahinch-based organisation admits on its own website that it offers “support” to people with “homosexual issues” to change their sexual orientation.

The petition, which was posted in July on the conservative website CitizenGo, praises Core Issues Trust for not using horrific practices such as electroshock therapy and “corrective rape” in its attempts to change queer people’s identities.

“Nonetheless they are being accused of ‘conversion therapy’ simply because they help individuals on a one-to-one basis, who wish to explore the concept of sexual attraction fluidity,” the petition claims.

The petition goes on to lambast Barclays Bank for closing the group’s bank accounts, and said Davidson and other staff have been targeted with abusive messages since the news broke.

It goes on to claim that the bank’s decision “supports and validates” abuse against “religious minorities”.

“It is not the role of a commercial organisation to act as the moral arbiter or police the religious beliefs of their customers,” the petition argues.

“The decision which pays lip service to the mob, smacks of hypocrisy, and intolerance and is an assault on religious freedom and personal conscience.”

In a statement released in July, a Barclays spokesperson said: “We do not comment on individual cases. Our terms and conditions — like other banks — allow us to end a relationship with any customer, provided we give two months’ notice.”

Conversion therapy has been widely condemned by experts – but the harmful practice is still legal in the UK.

Conversion therapy has been condemned by various health and psychiatry bodies across the world, and has been banned in a number of countries — but despite this, the practice remains legal in the UK.

The Conservative Party pledged to ban conversion therapy in 2018, but ministers only recently began discussions on how to move forward.

Despite previous briefings that a ban on conversion therapy would be brought forward imminently, prime minister Boris Johnson indicated in July that more research is needed on the issue before legislating.

He told the media: “On the gay conversion therapy thing, I think that’s absolutely abhorrent and has no place in a civilised society, no place in this country.

“What we’re going to do is a study on where it is actually happening, how prevalent is it, and we will then bring forward plans to ban it.”

Meanwhile, ministers in Northern Ireland committed in a September meeting to banning the practice in the territory.

Communities minister Carál Ní Chuilín, health minister Robin Swann and justice minister Naomi Long committed to ending the practice in Northern Ireland.

Ní Chuilín will serve as policy lead with input from others in the Northern Ireland Executive.