Christian charity worker faces criminal charges for ‘conversion practices’

Matthew Grech, a 33-year-old Christian charity worker, is facing criminal charges in Malta in what is believed to be the country’s first ever prosecution for “conversion practices”.

The UK’s Christian Legal Centre is assisting Grech with his legal defence when the trial begins on 3 February, where he will defend the charges of allegedly discussing and advertising conversion practices after he shared his “ex-gay” testimony during an online media interview.

During his testimony, Mr Grech said that he believes in the Christian teaching on the sin of homosexuality.

According to the UK’s Christian Concern, Mr Grech 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 he understood.

Mr Grech 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.

Maltese police have accused Mr Grech for “advertising” conversion practices, which carries a penalty of up to five months in prison and/or a 5000 euro fine.

As Christian Concern points out however, “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.”

Under the guise of prohibiting “conversion therapy”, laws are being passed that remove personal agency and threaten fundamental freedoms.

Similar flawed laws are being introduced across many Australian states with the Tasmanian Government signalling it is next in line. Advocates for these laws argue that they will end coercive aversion therapies aimed at suppressing or altering sexual orientation, but in practice change and suppression legislation erodes parental rights and prejudices Christian sexual ethics.

Change and suppression legislation restricts the pastoral counselling available to LGBT Christians who are seeking to live in accordance with the teachings of their faith and ignores the experiences of people like Mr Grech.

These laws are completely out of step with international law. The UN Human Rights Committee has made strong comment on the strength and importance of the right to freedom of religion, noting that the limitation of religious activity must only be enacted by governments when it is necessary to do so in exceptional circumstances. “Conversion therapy” laws fall short of this standard.

In a liberal democracy, the state has obligations to protect freedom of thought, conscience or belief.  By using legislation as a mechanism for imposing a program of state-wide thought reform, Australian state governments are trampling the freedoms they are supposed to protect.