Press Release

Matthew Grech: First criminal trial for gay ‘conversion practices’ to take place in Malta

7 June 2023         Issued by: Christian Concern

In a global first, this week a Maltese Christian charity worker is in court facing criminal charges for allegedly discussing and advertising ‘conversion practices.’

In a case, believed to be the first of its kind anywhere, Matthew Grech, 33, will face trial on Friday 9 June along with the presenters of a local free speech media outlet, PMnews Malta.

In line with Maltese legislation, which criminalises the advertising of ‘conversion practices’, if convicted, Mr Grech could face five months in prison, and/or fined 5,000 euros.

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 ‘conversion practices’ involving LGBT lifestyles.

What happened

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 since 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.

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.

Reported by EU official

Since the story broke earlier this year it has been exposed that Silvan Agius, who serves as a cabinet expert for EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, confirmed that he was among three people who 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.

In 2013, while he was serving as director of policy for the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), Agius told the BBC that Germany’s option for a third gender on birth certificates “doesn’t go far enough.”

‘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, who will be in Malta representing the IFTCC and Core Issues Trust, said: “In what is probably a test case, the freedoms of speech, conscience and religion are being attacked. The fact is that therapeutic and counselling choice is a fundamental right.

“Governments promoting monocultural viewpoints – this idea that sexual orientation is inborn and unchangeable, and that gender is unrelated to biological sex – are denying those unwilling to identify as LGBT the right to leave identities and practices no longer relevant to them. This is a human rights issue.

“Without ideological diversity in any life issue, democracy is denied checks and balances and descends to totalitarianism”.

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