Gordon-John Manché during one of his ‘healing’ services.
The controversial evangelical pastor who claims homosexuals within his community have ‘converted’ through the power of Christ said the recent outrage caused by his events had prompted even more reformed homosexuals to speak out.
Last Friday, pastor Gordon-John Manché posted a Facebook event promising to present three people who have “converted from a life of freedom from that (homosexual) lifestyle”, causing outrage among many who wanted to organise a protest outside his River of Love Christian Fellowship premises in Żebbuġ last night.
The pastor yesterday claimed his event had been “hijacked” on Facebook by a number of locals, and their critical comments were counterproductive.
“What this thing has done is stirred more people to speak out because they are feeling the (gay) movement is intolerant,” he told The Sunday Times.
The protest initially scheduled for last night was cancelled after police said it would be illegal since no permit had been obtained. Last night’s prayer meeting went ahead without incident.
The pastor, who is also a ballet dancer, admitted, however, that he had gone to Żebbuġ police himself because he feared the protest may turn nasty.
The protest, he said, would have been nothing more than a sinful protest, “arrogantly” opposing people who claim they have changed.
“You know what they should do? Shut up,” he exclaimed, adding that the protests would backfire.
He claimed that the planned protest was not only against River of Love, but against all the Christians.
Contacted yesterday, human rights group Aditus chairman Neil Falzon said Mr Manché was free to hold and express his views on homosexuality, even if these views were unpleasant or abhorrent to others.
“But this freedom is not absolute, and Article 10(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights clearly states that freedom of expression may be limited ‘for the protection of health or morals... for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others,’” Dr Falzon said.
The characterisation of homosexuality as a curable illness, a moral wrong or behaviour that ought to be somewhat suppressed, hidden or condemned damaged the general reputation and rights of the homosexual community, he pointed out.
Mr Manché’s views could lead to an increase in homophobic and discriminatory attitudes and behaviour, he said, pointing out this could result in increased denial of access to fundamental human rights by homosexuals.
“Currently, Maltese law does not prohibit homophobic hate speech or consider homophobia as a criminal aggravation to, for example, violent crimes,” the lawyer said.
In a statement yesterday, the Malta Gay Rights Movement expressed its concern at the pastor’s efforts to promote the notion that sexual orientation could be changed.
“This approach to sexual orientation is often based on the belief that being gay or lesbian is a mental illness, developmental disorder or spiritual or moral defect,” the organisation said.
MGRM quoted a study by the American Psychological Association in 2009 which found that there was insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.
Although the movement said it understood that lesbian, gay, bi-gender or transsexual individuals may seek to change their sexual orientation due to a conflict with religious beliefs, it recommended seeking licensed mental healthcare providers who adopt a gay affirmative approach.
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