Belfast Telegraph

LGBT protest as church screens conversion film on 'former gay' singing star

Matthew Grech offers flowers and sweets to protesters outside Townsend Presbyterian Church in Belfast, where the film was being shown last night
Matthew Grech offers flowers and sweets to protesters outside Townsend Presbyterian Church in Belfast, where the film was being shown last night
Matthew Grech offers flowers and sweets to protesters outside Townsend Presbyterian Church in Belfast, where the film was being shown last night
Matthew Grech offers flowers and sweets to protesters outside Townsend Presbyterian Church in Belfast, where the film was being shown last night

By David Young

Gay rights protesters held a noisy demonstration last night outside a Belfast Presbyterian church showing a film about a pop singer who left his homosexuality behind.

The film - Once Gay: Matthew And Friends - was produced by a Ballynahinch-based Christian group Core Issues Trust, which last year saw protesters picket its screening of the so-called 'gay cure' film Voices Of The Silenced at Ballynahinch Baptist Church.

Once Gay tells the story of X Factor Malta contestant Matthew Grech, who Core Issues Trust leader Mike Davidson says "left homosexuality as part of his Christian testimony".

Around 40 protesters gathered outside Townsend Street Presbyterian Church last night, chanting "L-G-B-T-Q! We are just as good as you". A similar number of people entered the building to watch the film.

Mr Grech said: "We were not expecting such an atmosphere tonight. My heart is very grieved, because we would really like to create a safe environment of just being able to love one another and speak out and share our lives together. But this has been refused."

Mr Grech, a singer, offered Valentine's Day flowers and sweets to protesters as police looked on.

"Our love gift has unfortunately also been refused tonight," he said. "We have presented roses as a gesture of our love and also chocolates to demonstrate sweetness - but unfortunately this was refused by the LGBT community."

Outside the church, Rainbow Project spokesman John Doherty said they were protesting because, in their view, the event was sending out a message that it's not OK to be gay.

"That is a message which has cost lives in our community," Mr Doherty said. "It is a message that destroys families and destroys communities."

A Presbyterian spokesman said it "rejects homophobia", and said the use of Church property for the film screening was a matter for local congregations.

"In this instance, local permission has been given for a particular film to be screened and a protest has been organised against the screening," he added.

"Both, while remaining within the law, are legitimate actions in a free society."

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