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.
For 30 years GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBT+ community. We want to go on providing this community hub in print and online, helping countless individuals across the country, but the revenue from advertising across the media is falling.
GCN needs your support. If you value having an independent LGBT+ media in Ireland, you can help from only €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBT+ media.