Gay Conversion Therapy Group Defies TikTok Ban

As the U.K. fumbles its ban on conversion therapy, a prominent Christian group in the country that advocates for the practice attempted to promote its ideology on video-sharing app TikTok, which prohibits such content.

The British government announced on Friday it would move to outlaw conversion therapy, a U-turn from scrapping these plans only hours earlier.

A December 2021 version of a 2015 memorandum of understanding signed by a number of U.K. health authorities—including NHS England and NHS Scotland—called the widely discredited practice "unethical and potentially harmful."

TikTok banned content promoting or supporting conversion therapy in February, among other measures aimed at eradicating "hateful ideologies" on its platform. Searching the terms "conversion therapy" or "ex-gay" yields no results on the app, instead showing a disclaimer that these "may be associated with hateful behavior."

However, content from religious TikTok users encouraging the suppression of same-sex inclinations continues to thrive.

One TikTok profile that looked to establish itself belonged to a group closely linked to the controversial Core Issues Trust, which describes itself as a "non-profit Christian ministry supporting men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression."

The Northern Ireland-based fundamentalist group's Facebook page appears to have been taken down and its Twitter account was suspended, though it continues preaching on YouTube and Instagram.

Core Issues Trust also oversees two other faith-based groups aimed at phasing out same-sex attraction: the International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice and X-Out-Loud.

X-Out-Loud calls itself a "thriving European community" that is "celebrating the transformation and freedom men and women find when they voluntarily choose to leave unwanted same-sex or gender identities."

The organization has shared video testimonies from members who said they have renounced the LGBTQ+ community for a life of piety. These spokespeople—dubbed "forerunners"—can also be booked to deliver speeches at events.

X-Out-Loud's TikTok profile had been sporadically active since May 2020. However, the account picked back up in March, the month following TikTok's announcement on anti-LGBTQ+ content.

In X-Out-Loud's last video, ex-gay YouTuber Victor Moozz—who holds positions at both Core Issues Trust and X-Out-Loud—made a plea to LGBTQ+ viewers.

"There are things that you attributed to yourself that God never meant for you," Moozz said. "Fake identities, all these labels and sexual confusion, becoming 'who you really are' and 'born this way?'

"But Jesus knows. He sees. And he will reveal you that love that is able to make you whole and show you who you really are, since you were created with a purpose."

In previous videos, the organization praised Hungary for banning LGBTQ+ media content to minors in June 2021 and celebrated heterosexual nuclear family structures, including the hashtags #exgay and #formerhomosexual in the caption.

One video also shared correspondence between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Evangelical Alliance, an organization representing thousands of U.K. churches. In his letter, Johnson said that while he wants to "end the scourge of gay conversion therapy," he would ensure freedom of speech and freedom of religion would be respected.

"[W]e will continue to allow adults to receive appropriate pastoral support (including prayer), in churches and other religious settings, in the exploration of their sexual orientation or gender identity," Johnson wrote. "Like you, I do not want to see clergy and church members criminalised for normal non-coercive activity."

Core Issues Trust appears to have created its own TikTok account, with its first post shared in February.

In an email, Core Issues Trust CEO Michael Davidson confirmed that TikTok took down X-Out-Loud's account following Newsweek's reporting.

"X-Out-Loud and Core Issues Trust have only ever offered informational posts that motivate and encourage Christian believers to pursue transformation, in accordance with the Scriptures," Davidson told Newsweek. "Nothing we have presented can be construed as 'conversion therapy' unless this is a term that simply means anything that opposes the 'born that way' myth."

He continued: "The Christian Gospel offers hope to any person from every background, in all of life's circumstances—including those seeking transformation from unwanted sexual behaviours, feelings and identities."

Davidson added that Core Issues Trust's work is "no threat to any age group" and that TikTok "has far more to attend to in the perverse postings of many users than the few that offer Christ-honouring help around sexuality."

Newsweek has contacted TikTok for comment.

Core Issues Trust has long faced backlash from LGBTQ+ activists, which led to Barclays Bank shuttering its accounts in 2020. The organization filed a lawsuit in response.

In 2012, Core Issues Trust looked to place advertisements on London buses that read "Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!" Boris Johnson, who was mayor back then, shut down the initiative, citing London as being "one of the most tolerant cities in the world."

"It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses," Johnson said at the time.

After LGBTQ+ organization Stonewall was cleared to run "Some people are gay. Get over it!" adverts on London buses, Core Issues Trust sought an injunction in 2013 to force Transport for London (TfL) to remove them.

The U.K.'s High Court ruled that banning Core Issues Trust's ad had not been unlawful, but criticized TfL as having been "procedurally unfair" and "in breach of its own procedures."

CORRECTION 4/5/2022, 5:15 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to correct information about the memorandum of understanding and to add comments by Core Issues Trust CEO Michael Davidson.

A person walks along London's Pride Walk
Members of the public walk along "Pride Walk" inside Bloomberg Arcade on July 2, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. After TikTok banned content promoting gay conversion therapy, a group linked to a U.K. Christian organization that offers these services has continued using the app. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images