LGBT+ activists in Northern Ireland have organised a protest outside a Belfast Presbyterian church ahead of a planned screening of a film that promotes conversion therapy for members of the LGBT+ community.
The film, Once Gay: Matthew and Friends, will be screened in the church on Valentine’s Day. It was produced by Core Issues Trust, a Christian group based in County Down.
The film focuses on Matthew Grech, who was a contestant on Malta’s version of The X Factor. In his audition for the singing competition series, Grech explained that his religion allowed him to be ‘cured’ of his homosexuality.
The Rainbow Project has criticised the church’s screening of the film, as well as the message it endorses:
“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.
“This is particularly difficult following the comments by recently-appointed moderator William Henry stating that the church abhors homophobia.
“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 statement continued:
“We seek to send a message to all people, but particularly those who are struggling with their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. You are loved and you are enough.
“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.”
— Here (@Here_NI) February 12, 2019
Another rights group – Here NI – have joined The Rainbow Project in the protest. A spokesperson from the group issued a statement outlining the dangers of conversion therapy:
“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.”
In response, a spokesperson from the Presbyterian Church claimed that conversion therapy is “both an emotive term and is defined differently by different people”.
The statement continued:
“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 acknowledged how both the screening and the protest are “legitimate actions in a free society”.
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.
During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.
GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.