Christian to stand trial after sharing ex-gay testimony
A Christian man in Malta is being prosecuted after he shared his testimony about leaving behind homosexual relationships in an interview with a local media outlet.
In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, Matthew Grech will stand trial on 3 February at the Court of Magistrates in Valletta on charges relating to discussing and advertising 'conversion practices' - a crime under Maltese law that is punishable by five months in prison and a fine of 5,000 euros.
Police pressed charges against Mr Grech, a trustee of Core Issues Trust and X-Outloud, after the 33-year-old shared his testimony in an interview last April with PMnews Malta, a local free speech media outlet.
In the interview, Mr Grech said he did not agree with the term 'conversion therapy' and spoke about his personal view "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," he told PMnews Malta during the interview.
"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."
It is understood that the two presenters of the show are also facing criminal charges.
Mr Grech, who is being defended by the Christian Legal Centre, said he was determined to raise awareness of the harms being caused by the ban on so-called conversion therapy in Malta.
"Anyone who cares about freedom of speech should be alarmed by what is happening to me," he said.
"If it happens to me in Malta, I assure you that it will soon be happening in the UK and other countries across the world."
Mr Grech said that people in the ex-LGBT community were experiencing an "increasing silencing" in the media and society, driven by feelings of "intimidation and fear" caused by the ban.
"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," he said.
"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."
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said, "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 see 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."
Malta became the first country in the European Union to ban so-called conversion therapy in 2016.
The UK government is in the process of introducing a similar ban and announced this week that it was preparing to publish draft legislation.
The Christian Legal Centre has said it will take legal action unless freedom of religion is protected.
Ms Williams warned that the UK could expect to see similar prosecutions if the government brings in its proposed ban.
"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," she added.
Dr Mike Davidson, IFTCC Chairman, and CEO of 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."