Charity Worker Faces Charges After Sharing About being ex-gay and converting to Christianity

Country: Malta

Date of incident: February 3, 2023

Matthew Grech, a 33-year-old charity worker from Malta had a first trial on February 3, after being charged with allegedly promoting 'conversion practices.' The allegations came after Matthew held an online interview with PMnews Malta in which he shared his testimony of becoming a Christian. He talked about his past, saying that he identified as gay in the past and used to be confused regarding his sexuality. Although he never promoted "conversion therapies", the police have pressed criminal charges against him.

After holding the interview, Mr Grech received a prosecution order from Inspector Roderick Attard from the police. He was being accused of advertising “conversion practices and this breaking article 3 ( a ) ( iii ) of Chapter 567 of Maltese laws.” He was also told that he would have to attend the hearing on 3 February 2023. If he failed to attend, he would face being arrested.

After facing these charges, Matthew commented that his freedom of speech, and thoughts have been neglected and ignored. The other two journalists that interviewed Matthew will also be prosecuted.

The Maltese legislation criminalizes "conversion practices" since 2016. The current case comes at the same time as the government announced plans to ammend the law and introduce even harsher restrictions and penalties for the "promotion" of "conversion practices".

If the court rules against Matthew, he could face up to 5 months imprisonment or a fine of up to 5,000 euros. Matthew is being supported by the "Christian Legal Centre".

“We were just having a conversation as we have a right to in this country... So, for us, it is unthinkable to get to this point,” Matthew Grench said.

He furthermore continued and addressed the issues of silencing certain opinions: “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, added in a statement: “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.”

Dr Mike Davidson, CEO of NGO Core Issues Trust, who also identifies as "ex-gay", commented on this prosecution. He argues that governments that promote "monocultural viewpoints" on LGBT issues "are denying those unwilling to identify as LGBT the right to leave identities and practices no longer relevant to them".

Dr Davidson adds that without diversity of ideas: "in any life issue, democracy is denied checks and balances and descends to totalitarianism”.

Given that there is no clear definition of "conversion practices" or the "promotion" of them, these laws can criminalize simple conversations and prayers, like it is shown by the case of Matthew Grech. 

UPDATE: On the first hearing, Matthew Grech pleaded "not guilty" - the hearing was later moved to June 2023. (Newsbook)

Sources: timesofmalta.comMalta Today christianconcern.comCNE.newsNewsletter

Picture: Christian Concern