THE Co-operative Bank has been inundated with messages of support after announcing its decision to close the account of extremist fundamentalist group, Christian Voice.
But in a retaliatory move, the group's National Director Stephen Green accused the bank of being "gay-loving hypocrites" and called on Christians to boycott the bank over its inclusive stance on sexual and personal mores.
The row erupted after Christian Voice was informed that, after a review of its activities, CV's account would be closed because of its discriminatory pronouncements, based on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The bank has made it clear that it is not against freedom of expression, but wants to make a definite stand against groups and individuals who try to incite violence in support of their opinions.
Spokesman Dave Smith told the News: "The Co-operative Bank asked Christian Voice to close its account on the basis of the hateful and offensive statements they peddle, and their aim of stigmatising people who are homosexual.
"Their statements go far beyond the view held by some Christians that 'homosexuality is a sin' alleging that homosexuals are 'formed' via paedophilia (and that they will in turn propagate this further), and that their innate 'corruptness' renders them unfit for the police force.
"This public stance is incompatible with the position of the Co-operative Bank, which publicly supports diversity and dignity in all its forms for our staff, customers and other stakeholders.
"Many Christians and church groups have welcomed our stand and noted that this organisation is not the "voice" of Christianity in the UK."
Added Mr Smith: "Freedom of speech requires a climate of respect and tolerance if it is to operate optimally. We accept that everyone has the right to freedom of thought on religion; however, we do not believe that this entitles people to actively encourage and practice discrimination.
"A recent poll in a Manchester newspaper showed that three out of four people approved of what we are doing and, among our own customers, the support level is even higher."
Mr Smith said that 84 per cent of customers who had telephoned or emailed the bank agreed with the action taken against Christian Voice; ten per cent wanted clarification in view of some misleading press reports while only six per cent opposed closing the group's account.