A petition calling on 17 MPs to stop their association with Christian charity Care because it co-sponsored a ‘gay-cure’ conference, has raised almost 400 signatures.
So far the petition, which is listed on Change.org, has attracted 377 signatures out of a target of 500, since it opened on 23 February.
It also calls on the Charity Commission to investigate whether Care (short for Christian Action Research and Education) had acted inappropriately by participating in the event 'Sex and City: Redeeming Sex Today'.
Phillip Dawson, who started the petition, told civilsociety.co.uk that he started the petition because, “by co-sponsoring an event promoting ‘gay cure’ they have brought the charity into disrepute” and added that he would be making a formal complaint to the Charity Commission.
A spokeswoman for the Commission confirmed that it had not yet received a complaint and reiterated that anyone suspecting a charity behaving inappropriately should report it to the Commission.
The event in question took place in August 2009 and topics listed on the programme include, “therapeutic approaches to and understandings of same-sex attraction” and “mentoring the sexually broken”.
Dawson said that he started the campaign now, as he had only just become aware of the event taking place when searching for something else on the internet.
Care pays interns £5,500 to work in the offices of MPs for one year as part of its Leadership Programme.
Some 17 current and past MPs have declared on the Member’s Register of Financial Interests that Care had provided them with an intern since the event took place in August 2009. Dawson is calling for all of these MPs to publicly denounce the charity.
Dawson has informed all 17 MPs of the petition.
So far the MP for Tottenham and David Lammy has cut his ties with the charity. He told the Enfield Independent: “My record on gay rights speaks for itself and I’ll be voting in favour of the gay marriage bill.
“I’ve worked with Care in the past on betting shops – an issue that still blights Tottenham – and I accepted an intern to help in my office, which is one of the busiest in the country.
“But I had no idea they held these views and my position is now that I won’t be taking another intern because I can’t agree with their extreme views.”
Meanwhile South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous told his local paper Bedfordshire on Sunday that he was “very proud” of his association with the charity of whom he has been a member for 25 years.
In a statement Care said: “The Care Leadership Programme is a well respected training initiative for Christian graduates in association with placements in the public sphere. Parliamentary placements are made under the IPSA Volunteer Intern scheme and are cross party.
“CARE seeks prospective placements in the best interests of interns without discrimination and irrespective of the policy or theological views of Parliamentarians.
“This scheme is an effective outworking of Care’s charitable objects because many of those who have benefited from the training programme go into areas where they make a significant public benefit contribution to society in the UK and around the world.”
In 2000 the Labour MP for Exeter, Ben Gradshaw described the charity as “a bunch of homophobic bigots” after having a meeting with Care about taking on an intern.
At the time he told The Observer that “they were asking me about my sexual orientation. I was told after that they were sorry, but the girl would not be working for me”. He also told the Sunday newspaper that he had written to the Charity Commission.