IF Britain had a Bible Belt, Northern Ireland would be its buckle.
So it’s no surprise that Core Issues Trust (CIT), a Christian charity which seeks to ‘liberate’ members of LGBT communities from ‘unwanted sexual attractions’ should choose to base itself in a province that once tried to ‘save Ulster from sodomy.’
As someone who has experienced first-hand the devastating results of faith-based “gay-to-straight” interventions, I – as a member of the National Secular Society (NSS) – fully supported its campaign to have CIT stripped of its charitable status.
So I was disappointed but not surprised to learn this week that the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is to take no action against this despicable outfit headed by ex-South African, “ex-gay” Mike Davidson, above.
The Charity Commission told the NSS of its decision in a letter back in January, but has only now followed up with a further explanation, after the society queried the original communication.
Its latest letter says:
It’s not the role of the commission to adopt a position on the charity’s conduct in this matter.
It notes that the Core Issues Trust presents its therapy as “beneficial” and:
Contests the view that this practice is inherently harmful.
It adds that the charity’s trustees have “demonstrated a regard for” guidance on providing a public benefit.
In the January letter, the commission said charitable purposes must be “beneficial, not harmful”. But it added:
We note that the practice of conversion therapy/change orientated therapy is not among the purposes of the charity.
Which I find puzzling given that CIT clearly says that:
The Church of Jesus Christ, when true to the Scriptures, properly provides a spiritual home and sensitive support for believers and seekers who struggle with issues of sexual brokenness, including homosexuality.
Both letters appeared to suggest it was not the commission’s role to take a position on such therapy while it’s legal.
NSS Chief Executive Stephen Evans said:
The Charity Commission for NI appears to have concluded that Core Issues Trust should remain a charity on wholly inadequate grounds.
Bogus therapies which encourage people to change or suppress their sexuality are harmful, unethical and widely discredited.
It beggars belief that groups that promote them can enjoy the tax breaks and public recognition that charitable status brings.
The case also shows the need for a rethink of religion’s privileged status in charity law, which would make it easier to hold groups like Core Issues Trust to account.
The Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 outlines a series “charitable purposes” which charities can register under. One of these purposes is “the advancement of religion.”
In a 2019 report the NSS argued that ‘the advancement of religion’ should be removed as a charitable purpose.
In 2018 the UK government said it would:
Fully consider all legislative and non-legislative options to prohibit promoting, offering or conducting conversion therapy.
For three years the Government dragged its heels over the issue, but as pressure for a ban started becoming an irresistible force Equalities Minister Liz Truss, above, said this month she will introduce a bill to ban the practice “shortly” and met Tory MPs to discuss the subject.
Her statement was met with gloom and despondency by the Evangelical Alliance, which represents 3,500 churches,.
In a letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the E A said an “expansive definition” of conversion therapy could restrict religious freedoms and:
Place church leaders at risk of prosecution.
Peter Lynas, above, UK Director of the alliance, acknowledged the Church’s role in:
Perpetuating stigma, discrimination and harm towards people because of their sexuality.
But he said the E A opposed “abusive practices” and said extreme forms of conversion therapy, such as electric shock treatment, were “clearly wrong” and that such practices should already be illegal under existing laws.
An outright ban of conversion therapies, he said:
Will threaten the everyday practices of churches, church leaders, and Christians across the UK. It would place ministry leaders at risk of arrest for encouraging young people to maintain chastity until marriage. And it would criminalise a member of a church who prays with another member when they ask for prayer to resist temptation as they are attracted to someone of the same sex but do not wish to act on it.
Why am I not surprised that Lynas comes from Northern Ireland.