People are set to protest in Belfast tomorrow at the screening of a documentary by River of Love worship leader Matthew Grech about his struggles as an “ex gay” in this day and age.
Grech, who shot to local prominence as a contestant on X Factor Malta, premiered his documentary in London earlier this week and will screen it again at the Presbyterian Church in Townsend Street, Belfast on Valentine’s Day.
Northern Irish LGBT equality groups The Rainbow Project and Here NI are organising a protest outside the church during the screening to “send a clear message to all LGBT+ people that they are loved as they are”.
“The fact that this film will be shown in isolation from any evidence or information beyond those espoused in the film unfortunately shows the bias of the Presbyterian Church,” a spokesperson for The Rainbow Project told the Belfast Telegraph.
“This movie is about sharing a singular message, that it is wrong to be gay and in a same-sex relationship. This message is fundamentally homophobic. We will never allow conversion therapy to go unchallenged.”
Matthew Grech performs on X Factor Malta
”The clearest message to those promoting conversion therapy comes from those who have themselves survived it. It doesn’t work and it causes irreparable harm to members of our community.”
A spokesperson for Here NI added that it wants to send a message to LGBT+ people of faith and the wider community that sexual orientation is not something one can be ‘trained’ out of.
“So-called gay conversion therapy is damaging to LGBT+ people as it suggests that sexual orientation is something that is a choice, or something to be ‘cured’,” she said. “This is not therapy or counselling, far from it; ‘conversion therapy’ is actually harmful to LGBT+ people’s mental health.”
A spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland argued that it rejects homophobia, but that ‘conversion therapy’ is an emotive term that is defined differently by different people.
“However, two things are very clear. Firstly, no ‘therapy’ of any kind should be undertaken against a person’s will. Secondly, where a person chooses to seek help from a counsellor, then it is legitimate for such help to be provided.”
“As a Church we believe that God is sovereign and acknowledge that He can change an individual’s life and personal circumstances with regards to any situation, as many Christians will readily testify.”
Matthew Grech describes himself as a former homosexual, who had turned away from his “homosexual lifestyle” to follow Jesus and has claimed the “ex-gay movement” is one of the most abused and discriminated groups in Maltese society.
His documentary is produced by the Core Issues Trust, a British Christian organisation which focuses on supporting people who feel uncomfortable with their homosexuality. It features, among others, River of Love pastor Gordon-John Manche and Ivan Grech Mintoff, leader of the small party Alleanza Bidla.
Grech, Grech Mintoff and a group of supporters convened in front of the Maltese High Commission in London yesterday to protest at a new Maltese law which outlaws so-called conversion therapy.
In 2016, @MaltaGov made conversion practices in #Malta a thing of the past.
All MPs supported my Bill making all sexual orientations, gender identities & gender expressions equal in front of the law.A good day for #HumanRights@ILGAEurope @free_equal @BHCStuartGill pic.twitter.com/9hPc0tCJpA
— Helena Dalli (@helenadalli) February 12, 2019
“If we were having this interview in Malta, I’d be arrested for promoting gay therapy,” Grech Mintoff said. “I am doing no such thing but am simply here to promote a very important film regarding Matthew Grech, an ex homosexual who decided to change his lifestyle and who went on TV and said he found God in his life and converted to this new lifestyle.”
“Because he did this, the Minister of Equality, out of all people, and a certain gay lobby pounced on Matthew and accused him of homophobia and all sorts of things.”
“The Maltese parliament has been forced to enact new laws that actually take rights away from people instead of giving them new rights. The same thing is happening to the UK, with a lobby group which wants to enact the same kind of law.”
“I’m here to show why its important for the British people not to accept such laws that go against human rights. Please be aware and stop it now before it becomes law; in Malta it is law and we have to fight harder to remove that law.”
Equality Minister Helena Dalli has played down these concerns, describing the day Malta’s Parliament unanimously banned ‘conversion therapy’ as “a good day for human rights”.