Chris Lange, FISM News
A formerly gay Christian charity worker in the island nation of Malta is facing criminal charges for publicly sharing his testimony of salvation that eventually led him to reject his former lifestyle.
Matthew Grech, 33, will stand trial at the Court of Magistrates in Valletta on Feb. 3 for allegedly promoting so-called “conversion” practices during an online interview in the first-of-its kind case.
Grech is a trustee of the Core Issues Trust, a non-profit Christian ministry that offers support to men and women who voluntarily seek to transition out of the homosexual lifestyle. Under Malta’s “conversion practices” law, Grech could face a prison sentence of up to five months and/or a fine of up to $5,000, according to Christian Concern, a U.K.-based ministry. The ministry’s legal arm, Christian Legal Center, is challenging the charges on Grech’s behalf.
Grech asserts that he is being targeted by members of the Malta Gay Rights Movement, a group that asserts that the public expression of Christian views on marriage and sexuality should be considered a criminal offense.
During the online interview at issue, which took place last April, Grech spoke openly about the way in which becoming a Christian changed his life and eventually led him to abandon his homosexual lifestyle. He went on to assert that God views same-sex relationships as a sin while offering assurance to others facing similar struggles that forgiveness and redemption are available, as with any sin, through repentance and the transformative power of the Gospel.
The free speech media outlet that aired the interview, PMnews Malta, also faces criminal charges.
“At no point during the program did Mr. Grech invite any listener to attend therapy or encourage anyone to get help for unwanted same-sex attraction,” Christian Concern wrote in a news release.
The ministry explained that “conversion therapy,” also called “reparative therapy,” has been defined by the Maltese government as any attempt to “change an individual’s sexual orientation from gay to heterosexual or to change an individual’s gender identity from transgender to cisgender.” Christian Concern points out, however, that the Maltese “LGBT lobby … 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 criminalizing Christian beliefs on human sexuality and silencing any opposition,” the organization stated.
Grech expressed shock over the charges.
“Anyone who cares about freedom of speech should be alarmed by what is happening to me,” he was quoted as saying. “If it happens to me in Malta, I assure you that it will soon be happening in the U.K. and other countries across the world.”
Following the online interview, police appeared at Grech’s doorstep “out of the blue” and handed him an order requiring that he appear in court on Feb. 3 or face arrest. The order accuses Grech of advertising “conversion practices” in violation of Article 3 of Malta’s Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender and Gender Expression Act, which states, in part, that “[i]t 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 representing Grech argued that the charges violate Grech’s guaranteed free speech rights contained in “Article 41 of the Constitution of Malta and Article 10 of the European Convention Human Rights (ECHR)” and are calling on prosecutors to dismiss the case.
‘BLUEPRINT’ FOR ANTI-CONVERSION THERAPY LAWS
Malta became the first country to ban so-called “conversion therapy” in 2016. Christian Concern noted that other nations, including the U.K. and Australia, have used the Maltese legislation “as a blueprint for similar bans.”
Britain’s Minister of Culture Michelle Donelan last week announced plans to impose a conversion therapy ban in the U.K., the New York Post reported.
In the U.S., a federal appeals court recently unanimously upheld a Washington state law prohibiting conversion therapy for minors, rejecting Christian therapist Brian Tingler’s claim that it violated his free speech and professional rights to counsel young people who wish to “pursue personal goals in line with their faith,” according to a news release authored by Alliance Defending Freedom which represented Tingler in the case.
California in 2013 became the first U.S. state to ban conversion therapy for minors. Currently, 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have bans in place, The Christian Post reported.
Without explicitly saying so, anti-conversion laws essentially bar individuals, professionals, and ministries from offering counseling or religious instruction that contradicts the progressive LGBTQ agenda. The charges levied against Grech, however, represent an alarming expansion of these laws to include speech perceived by authorities as promoting conversion.
In December 2021, days ahead of the British government’s planned consultation on its pending conversion therapy ban, a coalition of leaders representing more than 500 churches in the U.K. wrote a joint letter to the government declaring their willingness to face criminal charges should such a ban be implemented.
“It should not be a criminal offense for us to instruct our children that God made them male and female, in His image, and has reserved sex for the marriage of one man and one woman. Yet this seems to be the likely outcome of the proposed legislation,” they wrote.