LGBT activist and EU official reported ex-gay Christian to police for ‘conversion practices’, court in Malta hears9 June 2023 Issued by: Christian Concern
The trial of an ex-gay Maltese Christian charity worker who faces criminal charges for allegedly discussing and advertising ‘conversion practices’ has begun in Valetta, Malta.
In a case, believed to be the first of its kind anywhere, Matthew Grech, 33, and the presenters of a local free speech media outlet, PMnews, potentially face five months in prison, and/or fined 5,000 euros for a media interview that took place in April 2022.
The outcome of this case will have ramifications for the ex-gay community, not just in Malta, but worldwide. It will also impact freedom of the press and anyone who wishes to publicly question and debate individuals leaving LGBT lifestyles, which activists describe as ‘conversion practices.’
Today (June 9), in a hot and chaotic Maltese courtroom, Silvan Agius, who serves as a cabinet expert for EU Commissioner for Equality gave evidence on how and why he reported Mr Grech and the presenters to the police.
Agius, who previously served as head of the Human Rights and Integration Directorate in Malta, was involved with the criminalisation of conversion therapy in the country, which was the first in Europe to ban the practice in 2016.
When Mr Grech made headlines in his country in 2018 for telling his story as a contestant on X Factor Malta, Agius — whose current responsibilities as cabinet expert under Dalli include “inclusion, equality and non-discrimination” — called Grech’s comments “problematic.”
A clip of Grech on X Factor Malta was reportedly pulled from Facebook and YouTube in the country, and the television program later issued an apology for airing his views.
Agius — whose current responsibilities as cabinet expert under another Maltese EU official come LGBT activist, Helen Dalli, include “inclusion, equality and non-discrimination” — called Grech’s comments on X-Factor Malta “problematic.”
Giving evidence before Monica Vella, the magistrate presiding over the case, Mr Agius was asked why he had reported Mr Grech to the police:
“My personal story and my friends,” Mr Agius replied, “I suffered a lot in my youth; in primary school; catholic youth. They did not love me.” He added that “In the EU I am an expert, I work for the equality of others.”
Asked how he had found out about Matthew Grech’s interview, he said: “My friends warned me. When someone sees something on the internet, people tell me.”
Continuing, Mr Agius commented on the interview saying: “The programme offends me deeply and it puts me down and many others whether they know it or not.”
Agius gave evidence that he believed PM News had given ‘too much space’ to Mr Grech to tell his story and promote his views and that he had said ‘nothing positive’ about the LGBT community.
Mr Agius added that it is ‘not permissible’ for anyone to say the term ‘ex-gay’ in Malta as it is like ‘a priest describing themselves as ‘ex-heterosexual’ and that discussing the ability to leave a homosexual lifestyle is ‘demoralising talk’ which should not be legal.
Cynthia Chircop, a MGRM activist, also gave evidence and was asked how she knew about Mr Grech’s interview with PM News:
‘Silvan sent the news’, she replied.
Chricop was asked if she aware of an invitation to the show sent by PMNews, which she confirmed she was not.
“So if I invite you to a two-hour programme and give you a free hand to speak, even if I don’t agree with what you say, does that mean that I’m giving you advertising space,” Bezzina, lawyers for the reporters asked.
“If you invite someone to air his views, you’re giving that person an advert,” replied Chircop.
“We’re not living in a dictatorship,” rebutted the defence lawyer.
“Why are those persons [the journalists] guilty? For respecting his [Grech’s] freedom of speech, a right safeguarded by the Constitution,” the lawyer said.
“Did Grech say that every LGBTIQ person should resort to such therapies,” the lawyer asked.
“I honestly cannot recall,” replied Chircop.
The trial continues.
On 6 April 2022, Mr Grech was invited by PMnews Malta, a small free-speech media platform, to share the story of how he had become a born-again Christian, which led to him leaving behind a homosexual lifestyle and unwanted same sex attraction.
The interview was advertised on PMnews Malta’s Facebook page and the topic for the interview was chosen by the presenters of the programme.
At no point during the programme did Mr Grech invite any listener to attend therapy or encourage anyone to get help for unwanted same-sex attraction.
It has now been revealed that Silvan Agius, who serves as a cabinet expert for EU Commissioner for Equality, was the man behind reporting Mr Grech and the presenters to the police.
During the interview, Mr Grech shared his story about his childhood and the confusion he had experienced when it came to his own sexuality and relationships. He spoke about how as an adult he had been involved in homosexual relationships before becoming a Christian, which changed his life dramatically.
Mr Grech spoke about how he does not agree with the term ‘conversion therapy’ and said that the deeper he went into his Christian faith and exploring the Bible, the more: “I understood that in the Bible, homosexuality is not an identity as we make it nowadays. And neither is it a feeling, but a practice. This means that no matter what sexual feelings a man or a woman is experiencing, if they have sexual relations with a person of the same sex, they commit the homosexual act in God’s eyes, and that is a sin. Just like every other sin, one can repent from it and ask God for forgiveness and ask Him for strength to overcome… I’m talking here from a Christian perspective…”
Accused of advertising conversion practices
Following the interview, Mr Grech was shocked to receive a prosecution order from Inspector Roderick Attard from the Maltese police.
The order accused him of advertising ‘conversion practices and this breaking article 3 ( a ) ( iii ) of Chapter 567 of Maltese laws.’ He was told that he would need to attend a hearing on 3 February 2023 and that if he failed to attend, he would be arrested.
Article 3 of Malta’s draconian Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender and Gender Expression Act, states that: ‘It shall be unlawful (a) for any person to: (i) perform conversion practices on a vulnerable person; or (ii) perform involuntary and, or forced conversion practices on a person; or (iii) advertise conversion practices; and, or (b) for a professional to: (i) offer and, or perform conversion practices on any person irrespective of whether compensation is received in exchange; or (ii) make a referral to any other person to perform conversion practices on any person.’
Mr Grech believes he is being aggressively targeted by members of the Malta Gay Rights Movement, who believe that Christian beliefs on marriage and human identity, and any debate surrounding LGBT lifestyles, should be treated as a criminal offence.
What happens in Malta on these issues is of international significance as Malta became the first country in the European Union to ban what LGBT lobbies describe as ‘conversion therapy’ in 2016.
The LGBT lobby, however, has struggled to define what the imposed term ‘conversion therapy’ is. No evidence has been provided to justify the bans, but instead the aggressive campaigning is aimed at criminalising Christian beliefs on human sexuality and silencing any opposition.
Campaigners argue that the case will be a precursor to the impact the UK government’s ‘conversion therapy’ ban, will have on freedom of religion, speech, expression and thought.
‘My Christian journey’
Ahead of the hearing, Mr Grech, who has never been involved with the police in his life, said:
“This week I am in a criminal court for the first time for essentially sharing the hope of my Christian faith and what Christians believe.
“My Christian journey of transformation, from being a practising homosexual interested in the occult and wanting to be a reiki master, to becoming a committed evangelical Christian, is one that should be told without fear of being criminalised.
“The law here in Malta on ‘conversion therapy’ is ideological. It tells you what you are supposed to think. They equate Christian preaching and teaching on biblical sexual ethics, with ‘forcing’ someone to change their sexual identity, which is simply not true and does not happen.
“The aim of the approach is to intimidate any other viewpoints, especially Christian beliefs, into silence. They want to discourage people from speaking out or even thinking in a different way on these issues. These laws should have no place in any nation.
“If you think what is happening to me is bad, I have to tell you that the LGBT lobby in Malta are already planning on making them stricter. They want to use my case to strengthen what they are doing.
“The fact that an influential EU official was behind reporting me to the police tells you everything you need to know about how far reaching this is and the powers that are behind it.
“This week we want to expose in the court room the true face of what has been put into legislation in Malta. We must be bold and uncompromising and pray for God to deliver us and to deliver Malta from these draconian laws.”
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Why are people so afraid of Matthew’s real-life story that they want to suppress it all costs?
“We should all be concerned at this flagrant attempt by the Maltese authorities to criminalise Matthew simply for telling his story of freedom from unwanted and unfulfilling homosexual activity.
“To deny that Matthew and others can change is discriminatory and violates their Christian freedoms and fundamental human right to free speech.
“Silvan Agius is an LGBT activist at the heart of the EU determined to silence and even criminalise the discussion of leaving a homosexual lifestyle.
“In a truly free society we should be free to say things that people do not like without the fear and threat of going to prison.
“The domino effect of ‘conversion therapy’ bans began in Malta. If a precedent is set by this case in Malta, we will see similar cases in the UK unless, unless robust action is taken.
“It is vital to win this case, not just for people in Malta, but for Christian freedoms and the freedom to leave homosexuality and unwanted same-sex attraction across the world.”
Dr Mike Davidson, chairman of the International Federation for Therapeutic Counselling Choice (IFTCC) and CEO of Core Issues Trust, who is in Malta and expected to give evidence during the trial, said: “From the legislative travesty of Malta’s ‘Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression Act’, we have seen the rise of homo-capitalism and the spawning of LGBT tourism in Europe. We’ve also felt, under fluttering embassy Pride Flags, the cold winds of neo-colonialism, that threaten the African nations, making aid contingent on accepting western mores and sexual dogma.
“Shame on Helena Dalli and the European Union who continue to advocate the imposition of government-mandated sexual identity. They resolutely refuse to listen to alternative viewpoints, such as those expressed by Matthew Grech in his fated interview, and deny basic autonomy, even to adults. They have refused to take account of scientific data that shows the benefits of therapeutic and counselling interventions, even for those who don’t change.
“This legal spectacle is the irresponsibility of 21st century politicians who use the courts to campaign. They are identity-activists, who refuse to allow individuals to change their minds, or their practices and who insist on the must-stay-gay culture, that is patently confusing Western youth and beyond. These are the architects, or at the very least, the agents of the decline of the Christian foundations of Western civilisation and attacks against Gospel-led churches. They will bear the responsibility of the sexual anarchy and personal misery that is likely to unfold.
“Core Issues Trust and the IFTCC will continue to speak out against this folly, and we commend Matthew Grech for his rejection of such legislative thievery that continues to exemplify the denial of fundamental freedoms and rights, that such laws trigger.”