Victory for Religious Freedom in Challenge to Indian “Anti-Conversion” Law

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Victory for Religious Freedom in Challenge to Indian “Anti-Conversion” Law
The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court

India, South and East Asia, September 24, 2012: An Indian state’s draconian “anti-conversion” law has been partially struck down in a legal challenge brought by Christians and celebrated as “a triumph for religious freedom” in the country.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) took its case against the Himachal Pradesh Religion Act 2006 to the state’s high court, which ruled on 30 August that some provisions of the law were unconstitutional.

The court removed a section that required a person intending to convert from one religion to another to give 30 days’ notice to the district magistrate. Failure to do this was punishable with a fine.

Two rules regarding the implementation of the act were also struck down. One required the district magistrate to give notice of the conversion request to any affected party before granting approval, and the other required a police case to be registered if the conversion was thought to have taken place using force or inducement or without notice.

The EFI challenged the law because of the ways in which it was being used, especially by Hindu extremists, to stop people from converting to Christianity.

Those wanting to convert were listed in a public registry, which was checked by Hindu extremists, who then tracked down, persecuted, and even murdered new Christians. People wanting to become Hindus did not, however, need to give public notice.

Christians involved in evangelism have also faced false accusations of forcibly converting Hindus, for which they have been beaten and arrested.

Justices Deepak Gupta and Rajiv Sharma ruled that the state had no role to play if anyone converted to a different faith of their own will. The bench said:

Citizens not only have the rights of conscience and belief, and the freedom to change this belief, but also they have the right to keep their beliefs secret.

The World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission welcomed the verdict as “a triumph for religious freedom in India”.

The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court where it is expected that extremist Hindu groups will exert pressure for the decision to be overturned.

Arguing in defense of the Religion Act, Subramanian Swami said that conversions are against Hindu philosophy and should not be permitted.

The EFI’s victory in this case is a step in the right direction for religious freedom in India, but there is still a long way to go. The rest of the Religion Act in Himachal Pradesh was upheld, and there are similar laws governing religious practice in other India states. These restrict the freedom of non-Hindus to share their faith.

– barnabas team

Himachal HC rules in favour of EFI

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Himachal Pradesh, September 16, 2012: Although universal in nature, religious liberty is not universal in practice the world over. And a law designed to prevent conversions to Christianity in India is exhibit A for the truth that, in some countries, religion is but one more aspect of life controlled by government or ruthless factions that fear no government.

And this is why legal victories restoring or broadening religious liberty are so important, particularly when those victories unburden a people who theretofore had been required to alert local magistrates before changing religions. In Evangelical Fellowship of India v/s State of Himachal Pradesh, the High Court of the State of Himachal Pradesh ruled against just such a law.

The law required those intending to change religions to provide a district magistrate with “prior notice of at least 30 days … of his intention to do so.” Failure to provide advance notice of conversion required a mandatory police investigation,

prosecution, and sanctions. And if notifying the local government magistrate of one’s new religion wasn’t invasive enough – all persons desiring to change their religion were listed in a public registry, scanned regularly by fundamentalist Hindu extremists that make it a daily routine to retaliate against, persecute, and even murder new Christian converts. And, of course, the public notice law did not apply to anyone changing their religion to Hinduism.

There is a mighty struggle occurring in India in which 300 million Dalits (formerly called “untouchables”) are suffering at the bottom rung on the Hindu caste system, enduring punishment in this life for what some Hindu faithful describe as sins committed in past lives. And millions are desperate to escape by seeking refuge in the Christian faith where all are created in God’s image and equal in the eyes of God.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allies represented Evangelical Fellowship of India are challenging the law because it was being used as a cudgel to stop – through intimidation and fear – a potential flood of conversions to Christianity.

Moreover, as all laws have symbolic importance, representing a society’s dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, the law and its operation communicated that conversion from Hinduism to Christianity was disapproved.

The law clearly violated the Indian constitution, which purports to guarantee freedom of religion, and served as a license for misconduct against new Christians whose names appeared on the public registry. So it shouldn’t pass unnoticed that Christians in India and especially Christian clergy are attacked, harassed, and beaten every single day. In fact, over 100 Christian Dalits were murdered just three short years ago in the state of Orissa by fundamentalist Hindu mobs that ran amuck for months with little or no government intervention.

The victory of Evangelical Fellowship of India was one step in a long and on-going struggle to win genuine religious freedom in India. The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court where extreme pressure will be brought to bear by extremist Hindu organizations, doing everything in their power, to curtail the lowest Hindu caste from fleeing a life of religiously sanctioned poverty and degradation.

Every victory like this swings the pendulum closer to where all civilized people should want to be – a place where religious liberty is not only universal in nature, but in practice as well.

– christianpost

54 year old Pastor found dead near Madurai *HP: RSS activists threaten an Agape worker to leave his residence

June 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Himachal Pradesh, India, newsletter-india, Persecution, Tamil Nadu

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Tamil Nadu, June 03, 2012: A 54-year-old pastor from Chennai was found dead with his head smashed with a boulder on the four-lane road near here today. Pastor Wilson was on his way to Madurai from Tuticorin on a two-wheeler when he was attacked by unidentified men. Some materials including tracts in his bag was found scattered near the body. His two-wheeler was found 150 feet from where the body was found.

Police has concluded that the pastor would have resisted the attempts to rob him and tried to escape on foot. But the gang would have chased him and killed him,. Prima facie, it seems like an incident of robbery, but he can be a victim of religious hatred or it can be anything. Until further investigations are carried out, we will not know.

GCIC has reported on 21.03.2012, a team of 15 believers led by Evangelist Jesudoss from Kandanur along with believers went in a van fitted with a megaphone to preach the gospel in Paganeri in Shivagangai District of Tamil Nadu. A group of about 100 BJP workers led by A. Raja and his friend Chidambaram objected to their preaching and attacked them and burnt the Bibles and the tracts and also forcibly snatched the van key from them. They then also destroyed their megaphone. Immediately after this incident the pastor along with some of the believers went to the Paganeri Police Station and lodged a complaint against the BJP workers. But the police did not take any action.

May God rest his spirit in peace. Jesus said: Mark 13:13 All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. John 15:21 They will treat you this way because of My Name, for they do not know the One who sent Me. John 15:18 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. Matthew 24:9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me. John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil. John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 1 John 3:1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you.

– persecution.in

HP: RSS activists threaten an Agape worker to leave his residence

 

Himahal Pradesh, June 01, 2012: Mr. Jai Masih Topno an employee of AGAPE ministry residing in Ghumarwin, Himahal Pradesh was interrupted during an in-house prayer meeting and was asked to leave his residence by RSS activists.

Mr. Topno hailing from Jharkhand had been residing in Ghumarwin, Bilaspur District in Himachal Pradesh since 2004 and had even registered himself with the Police station in Ghumarwin on 11th December, 2004. He also has a written agreement with his landlord permitting him to stay on till 2014. Mr. Topno regularly conducts a prayer service in his residence on Sunday mornings, where a few local Christians meet together. On 25th May, 2012, at around 11 AM, where about 6-7 people were gathered for prayer a group comprising 25-40 RSS activists stormed into Mr. Topno’s residence and physically beat up one of the believers’ present there. About 15 minutes later police men arrived at the scene and took Mr. Topno, two women and another male believer with them into police custody.

The police did not register any case against them but threatened Mr. Topno to vacate his home within two days and leave from the locality. The police also confiscated Mr.  Topno’s AGAPE ministries I-Card and told him he could collect it after he vacates from his present residence.

When enquiring with the police as to the reasons behind Mr. Topno’s mistreatment, it was found that the police suspected Mr. Topno to be a smuggler, who indulged in forcefully converting the locals and since they didn’t want any trouble to stir up in the area, they had asked him to leave for his own good.

– aicc