A Maltese Christian charity worker is facing criminal charges for allegedly discussing and advertising ‘conversion practices.’
In a case believed to be the first of its kind, Matthew Grech, 33, a Trustee of Core Issues Trust who works closely with the International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice (IFTCC) and X-Out-Loud, will face trial on 3 February 2023 at the Court of Magistrates in Valletta, along with the presenters of a local free speech media outlet, PMnews Malta.
The prosecution comes after Matthew simply told his ‘ex-gay’ testimony during an online media interview, which was advertised on Facebook beforehand. Matthew 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.
Matthew 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…”
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. You can read a full transcript of the interview online.
Matthew says he was shocked when the police called him out of the blue to question him about the matter.
Accused of advertising conversion practices
Despite ‘ex-gay’ being a characteristic protected under human rights law, Matthew was summoned by the police, who later pressed criminal charges against him for allegedly advertising ‘conversion practices’.
In line with Maltese legislation, which criminalises the advertising of ‘conversion practices’, if convicted, Matthew could face five months in prison, and/or be fined 5,000 euros.
It is understood that the two presenters of the show are also facing criminal charges.
The case is believed to be the first ever case where someone has faced charges of this nature.
Matthew 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.
Prosecuting for ‘conversion therapy’ in the UK?
Campaigners argue that it will be a precursor to the impact the UK government’s ‘conversion therapy’ ban, announced this week, will have on freedom of religion, speech, expression and thought.
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.
A ripple effect has followed with other nations, such as the UK and Australia, using the original Maltese legislation as a blueprint for similar bans.
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. Since facing prosecution, Matthew has warned that something similar “will soon be happening in the UK and other countries across the world.”
‘You will be arrested’
On 6 April 2022, Matthew 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 Matthew invite any listener to attend therapy or encourage anyone to get help for unwanted same-sex attraction.
Following the interview, Mr Grech received 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.”
Lawyers argue that bringing these charges against Matthew breaches his Fundamental Human Right to Freedom of Expression safeguarded under Article 41 of the Constitution of Malta and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
They will argue that under Human Rights legislation derived from Malta’s obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as the free speech rights guaranteed by its own Constitution, Matthew had every right to freely share and express his story and views on unwanted same-sex attraction. They say he should therefore not be criminally charged, tried and publicly shamed for having done so.
In regard to the allegation made by the police that he had ‘advertised conversion practices’, lawyers say that at no point in his interview did Matthew direct the viewers and listeners to a counsellor, therapist or a counselling entity whose counsel or services would breach Chapter 567 of the Laws of Malta.
They conclude by saying that Matthew’s sharing of his own testimony was not only an expression of his own thoughts and views on the subject matter, but also a manifestation of his Christian beliefs, which he respectfully shared with the viewers.
If there is a criminal conviction, Matthew’s lawyers say that freedom of the press in Malta is on the line, and that anyone who wants help for unwanted same-sex attraction, which is a protected characteristic, will be suppressed and driven underground.
Ahead of the hearing, Matthew, who has never before been involved with the police, said: “I was shocked when the police called me out of the blue and said they were summoning me for interrogation.
“The outlet I appeared on is a very small and emerging free-speech platform in Malta, and I didn’t think it would be treated so seriously by the Malta Gay Rights Movement to the extent that I could be criminalised for telling my Christian testimony. It shows how determined they are to stamp out any debate or voice on these issues. I was worried for myself and what my family would think, as nothing like this has happened to me before.
“I am determined however, to raise awareness on the danger and harm that ‘conversion therapy’ bans are and will cause, not just to churches and society in Malta, but all around the world.
“I am committed to keep sharing my testimony because I don’t want other men and women to go through what I went through in my upbringing and adolescence. I don’t want them to be victims of unwanted sexual feelings. I don’t want them to be robbed of the biblical side of the story around sex, sexuality and marriage. I don’t want the masses to believe ‘born gay, cannot change’, and allow that to go unchallenged.
“If we don’t act now, more countries will introduce such bans as if they were a charitable noble cause that is saving lives and works for the common good, when they are tyrannical, draconian and will achieve the opposite of what they set out to.
“The ‘conversion therapy’ ban is creating an ideological domino effect. The lobbies and gay rights movements behind them take a single moral viewpoint around human sexuality, and enforce it on the entire population. It causes legal confusion, and it discourages journalists from exploring the other side of the story.
“Many of us in Ex-LGBT ministry are experiencing an increasing silencing from the general press and media, and are noticing a decreasing public interest in the exploration of the ‘Ex-LGBT’ reality, which we believe is driven by the intimidation and fear these bans are creating.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “Criminalising someone for telling their story of freedom and change from unwanted and unfulfilling sexual behaviours is discriminatory and violates their Christian freedoms and fundamental human right to free speech.
“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.
“If Matthew is convicted, men and women seeking change in their lives, to leave behind patterns of behaviour which make them unhappy, will be forced underground. We will seek men and women who are seeking help in Malta silenced, fined and put in jail.
“Matthew Grech’s life was powerfully transformed when he became a Christian and learnt what the bible teaches us about who we are. It was in his new found faith that he found his identity and freedom.
“The actions of the police are deeply concerning, and we have not seen anything like this before. We face no alternative but to fight for justice for Matthew and to ensure no one else experiences what he had.
“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, IFTCC Chairman, and CEO of Core Issues Trust, for which Matthew is a trustee, 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.”
Find out more about Matthew Grech