The Malta Independent 18 October 2021, Monday

LGBT: Protest planned outside Belfast church screening Matthew Grech film

Albert Galea Wednesday, 13 February 2019, 08:56 Last update: about 4 years ago

A protest has been organised to take place in front of a Presbyterian Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which will be screening the film ‘Once Gay: Matthew And Friends’, which prominently features X Factor Malta contestant Matthew Grech, on Valentine’s Day.

The film, which was slated for release in London this month, is said to target Malta’s “must-stay-gay culture”.

Grech caused controversy after a clip aired by national broadcaster TVM during the first season of X Factor Malta showed the rapper describing a marriage that isn’t between a man and a woman as a “sin”.

"For a long time, I stopped following my passions to follow Jesus. There can be love between two men and two women, yes - but only friendship love. Everything else is a sin”, Grech said in the clip shown before his audition.

The film features amongst others Gordon John Manche, an evangelist preacher accused of carrying out gay conversion therapies, and Ivan Grech Mintoff, an MEP candidate and the leader of Alleanza Bidla.

It has been produced by the Ballynahinch-based Christian group, Core Issues Trust, which last year saw protesters attend its screening of so-called "gay cure" film ‘Voices Of The Silenced’ at Ballynahinch Baptist Church.

News of this film not only raised controversy in Malta, but it has also seemed to raise an element of ire in the places it is being screened, with the Belfast Telegraph reporting on Tuesday that the LGBT equality group The Rainbow Project and L&B women’s support group Here NI are organising a protest outside the church that is screening the film.

The protest is being held to "send a clear message to all + people that they are loved as they are", the groups said.

A spokesperson for The Rainbow Project told the Belfast Telegraph that the group was "disappointed" by Townsend Street Presbyterian Church's decision to screen the film.

"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 Church," he stated.

"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."

The spokesperson said The Rainbow Project "will never allow conversion therapy to go unchallenged" in Belfast.

A spokesperson for Here NI, which is co-organising the protest, meanwhile said it hoped to "send a message to LGBT+ people of faith, and the community more broadly, that they are loved and welcomed in our society, and that sexual orientation is not something that one can be 'trained' out of".

The spokesperson told the Northern Irish newspaper "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'.

"This is not therapy or counselling, far from it; 'conversion therapy' is actually harmful to LGBT+ people's mental health”, she said.

However, a spokesperson for the Presbyterian Church said that it continues to "reject homophobia".

He stated: "From the outset, as a Church we again affirm that all people are loved, valued and cherished by God and we continue to reject homophobia in all its forms.

"The Church recognises that 'conversion therapy' is both an emotive term and is defined differently by different people.

"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” the spokesperson said.

He said it was essential that anyone who sought pastoral support "can do so in a safe, loving and caring environment".

The spokesperson said the use of church property was a matter for local congregations and not a matter for the Church centrally, saying that local permission for the screening of the film and for the organisation of the protest had both been granted, and that these were “legitimate actions in a free society.”

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