Browsing through the news feeds today I came across a news item I had missed reporting that the Co-Op Bank had decided to bar my favourite group of Christian fundamentalists, Christian Voice. The bank gave the reason as follows:
“Following a review of the activities of Christian Voice, we wish to give you notice that we require you to close your account with the Co-operative Bank plc. It has come to our attention that Christian Voice is engaged in discriminatory pronouncements, based on the grounds of sexual orientation. This public stance is incompatible with the position of the Co-operative Bank, which publicly supports diversity, in all its forms, for our staff, customers and other stakeholders.”
You can read the full Christian Voice press release on their site. Of course, you can also read about their campaign against gays in the Police, and their ‘satire’ site called true vision both part of the reason given for the decision by the Co-Op.
Christian Voice is now calling on the bank to ask all other Christian, Muslim and Jewish organisations to withdraw for the same reason, and calling on Christians to boycott the bank. They describe the action as being by “politically correct bully boys”, which does strike me as somewhat hypocritical following what they did to the Maggies centres earlier in the year!
It is important to realise at this point that however Stephen Green tries to spin it, the Co-Op are very clear over why they took the action, it is not for religious reasons, but purely on grounds of diversity:
“They are targeting one group of society in a hateful manner. The bank believes in respect for all sectors of society and its approach to Christian Voice is based purely on the issue of diversity and not on the grounds of religion.”
The bank is being very clear not to make a statement about the religious belief, but on the way that Christian Voice act on that belief. Indeed as Christian Voice themselves say, many religious groups bank with them based on their ethical stance. Their objection is on the basis of the active targeting of gays that the organisation carries out. (The Thinking Anglicans site explores this further.) This is in some ways a classic example of the conflict between ethics and religion with which the Church continues to wrestle, a conflict that is present within the gospels in resolving the inclusivity of Jesus against the exclusivity practiced by the Jewish authorities in his time.
Anyway, going back to the decision, it is worth noting that whilst Christian Voice are correct in stating that homophobia is not explicitly stated within the banks ethical policy, the last line reads:
On occasion, we will make decisions on specific business, involving ethical issues not included in our Ethical Policy.
It also states elsewhere that controversial decisions such as this, where the case is not clear cut, will be passed to a special committee for discussion before the decision is made.
In my opinion, whatever you think of Christian Voice, the bank is entirely within it’s rights to do business with whom it wants. The ethical policy of the bank is created from customer feedback and voted on by the customers on a regular basis, and certainly the majority of opinion I have heard on this decision so far has backed the stance taken by the bank. Whilst there may be some who will close their accounts over it, I suspect many people will either see it as a good move, or not be bothered at all.