Trial begins for Maltese Christian facing prison for ‘conversion practices’

In a case believed to be a first of its kind in the world, an ex-homosexual Maltese Christian charity worker is facing criminal charges in Malta for discussing what activists have called ‘conversion practices’ during an appearance on PMnews Malta, a small free speech media platform.

Matthew Grech was charged under Maltese laws that prohibit so-called ‘conversion practices’, similar to an increasing number of laws in Australia and around the world.

Mr Grech appeared on the news program in an interview which aired in April 2022. He shared his personal testimony of becoming a born-again Christian and leaving behind his homosexual lifestyle.

As Christian Concern has reported, “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”.

The report to the police was made by Mr Silvan Agius, an EU cabinet expert for equality and an instrumental figure in the criminalisation of ‘conversion therapy’ in Malta. If the prosecution is successful, Mr Grech and the television presenters from PM news potentially face five months in prison and/or a fine of 5000 euros.

Mr Agius claims that the program had provided excessive airtime for Grech’s story, while offering no positive comments about the LGBT community. Mr Agius went as far as to assert that it “not permissible” for anyone to label themselves as “ex-gay” in Malta, equating it with a priest referring to themselves as “ex-heterosexual”.

The case will serve as a significant test case for both freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The ability to openly express one's faith has always been a fundamental tenet of a free and inclusive democracy. The outcome of the decision will have international significance given that Malta was the first country in the European Union to ban ‘conversion therapy’ in 2016.

The case holds important significance for Australia as well, as Tasmania looks to introduce ‘conversion therapy’ laws later this year, following in the footsteps of other states and territories in Australia. The impact of these laws on religious freedom is yet to be fully tested.

As Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre has said:

“We should all be concerned at this flagrant attempt by the Maltese authorities to criminalise Matthew simply for telling his story of freedom from unwanted and unfulfilling homosexual activity.

To deny that Matthew and others can change is discriminatory and violates their Christian freedoms and fundamental human right to free speech”.