1. "DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED" GOVERNMENTS SUPPRESSING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
As an example of how "democratically elected" governments around the world may try to suppress human freedom to choose and worship God, we give below the ordinance promulgated last year by the Government of Tamilnadu, a state in India.
2. TAMILNADU IN INDIA
Christians in India believe in the tradition that the Apostle Thomas came to India to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and was martyred in the vicinity of the modern city of Chennai, formerly known as the city of Madras, on the east coast (Bay of Bengal).
Chennai is the capital of the state of Tamilnadu in India. Tamilnadu has over 62 million people (2001 Census), and the official census report for the 1991 Census indicates that Christians constitute 5.9 per cent of the total population, the second largest religious group in the state after Hindus. People from all faiths, castes, and social and economic classes have come to worship the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior in large numbers in the last several decades. The Gospel and healing meetings held in the open grounds by some evangelists attract hundreds of thousands of people. Many Hindus accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but remain within their religion for various personal and social reasons.
The contribution of Indian Christians as faithful and law-abiding citizens in every walk of life is recognized by all. Their ministry to people in India in the fields of education, literacy, and medical, relief and developmental works still continues. Christians occupy important positions in industry, business, politics, and government services including Indian Armed Forces. However, in recent years, attack on Christians and Christian places of worship is on the increase.
3. PIONEERING SERVANTS OF GOD IN TAMILNADU
The Good News of Jesus Christ has been preached to the people of this state for many centuries without any hindrance, although many from the Catholic Church as well as the Protestant faith became martyrs in the process. Hundreds of thousands of people came to Christ through the ministry of Francis Xavier (1506-1552). The first-ever Protestant missionary to India, Bartholomew Zigenbalg (1683-1719) worked among the Tamils and established the pattern for future Christian missions in India through his ministry in education, social service, church planting, translation, etc. Nestorians worked among the people of India, and at least one of the older denominations in India has an unbroken history of 1000 years or more!
4. THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF ANTI-CONVERSION LAWS YET TO BE TESTED
The freedom to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Christians in India enjoyed for over a thousand years or more is now being curtailed by a few state governments in India. The framers of the Constitution of India did discuss such issues but decided against introducing any law prohibiting people from adopting religions of their own choice. However, several state governments, for political reasons, thought it fit to ban "conversion" from one religion into another. Such laws are yet to be tested wholly as to their constitutional validity. Some High Courts, the apex judicial authority in the states, have pronounced judgments, to some extent, in favor of such laws. The Supreme Court of India is the final judicial authority in India.
5. CHRISTIAN FAITH IN AND DEPENDENCE ON WHAT THE WORD OF GOD SAYS
The laws against "conversion" are couched in such terms that the anti-conversion laws are said to not be against individual freedom to profess the faith of an individual's choice, but the laws are meant only as a protection of the individuals from being exploited by those who seek to convert them to a different religion. Clever manipulation of words marks such laws. The net result is that every one involved in the process of preaching the Gospel is now liable to be prosecuted. These laws are certainly diabolic, and we can win over such diabolic attempts only by prayer to God. His Word clearly says that the gates of hell shall not prevail over His kingdom (Matthew 16:18).
The Church in India is greatly concerned, but not discouraged by this trend in bringing laws against individual choice of faith. Pastors from the evangelical and charismatic denominations have declared that their dedication to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ will continue as ever.
6. THE LAW AGAINST "CONVERSION" IN TAMILNADU
The government order against "conversion" was first promulgated as an ordinance and then passed as law by the legislature of the state of Tamilnadu. We give below the ordinance that promulgated the order for your information and prayer.
TAMIL NADU GOVERNMENT GAZETTE
EXTRAORDINARY PUBLISHED BY AUTHORITY
NO. 659 Chennai, Saturday, October 5, 2002.
Purattasi 19, Chirtabhanu, Thiruvalluvar Aandu - 2033.
Part IV - Section - 2.
TAMIL NADU ACTS AND ORDINANCE
The following Ordinance which was promulgated by the Governor on 5th October 2002 is hereby published for general information:
Tamil Nadu Ordinance N. 9 of 2002.
An ordinance to provide for prohibition of conversion from one religion to another by the use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means and for matters incidental thereto . . .
Whereas the Legislative Assembly of the State is not in session and the Governor of Tamil Nadu is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action for the purpose hereinafter appearing;
NOW THEREFORE, in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Article 213 of the Constitution, the Governor hereby promulgates the following Ordinance:-
1. (1) This Ordinance may be called the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2002.
(2) It shall come into force at once.
2. In this Ordinance, unless the context otherwise requires:
(a) "allurement" means offer of any temptation in the form of:
(i) any gift or gratification either in cash or kind;
(ii) grant of any material benefit either monetary or otherwise:
(b) "convert" means to make one person to renounce one religion and adopt another religion:
(c) "force" includes a show of force or a threat of injuiry of anhy kind including of divine displeasure or social excommunication.
(d) "fraudulent means" includes misrepresentation of any other fraudulent contrivance.
(e) "minor" means a person under eighteen years of age.
3. No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religion to another by the use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means nor shall any person abet any such conversion.
4. Whoever contravenes the provisions of section 3 shall, without prejudice to any civil liability, be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and also be liable to fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees:
Provided that whoever contravenes the provisions of section 3 in respect of a minor, a woman or a person belonging to Schedule Caste or Schedule Tribe shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to four years and also be liable to fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
5. (1) Whoever converts any person from one religion to another either by performing any ceremony by himself for such conversion as a religious priest or by taking part directly or indirectly in such ceremony shall, within such period as may be prescribed, send an intimation to the District Magistrate of the district in which the ceremony has taken place of the fact of such conversion in such form as may be prescribed.
(2) Whoever fails, without sufficient cause, to comply with the provisions of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both.
6. No prosecution for an offence under this Ordinance shall be instituted except by or with the previous sanction of the District Magistrate or such other authority, not below the rank of a District Revenue Officer, as may be authorised by him in that behalf.
7. (1) The State Government may make rules for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Ordinance.
(2) Every rule made under this Ordinance shall as soon as possible after it is made be placed on the table of the Legislative Assembly, and if before the expiry of the session in which it is so placed or the next session, the Assembly makes any modification in any such rule or the Assembly decides that the rule should not be made, the rule shall thereafter have effect only in such modified form, or be of no effect, as the case may be, so, however, that any such modification or annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule.
P.S. RAMAMOHAN RAO
5th October, 2002. Governor of Tamil Nadu.
Reports have been received by the Government that conversions from one religion to another are made by use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means. Bringing in a legislation to prohibit such conversions will act as a deterrent against the anti-social and vested interest groups exploiting the innocent people belonging to depressed classes. It may also be useful to nip in the bud the attempts by certain religious fundamentalists and subversive forces to create communal tension under the garb of religious conversion. The Government have, therefore, decided to enact a law to prevent conversion by use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means.
2. The Ordinance seeks to give effect to the above decision.
(By order of the Governor),
A. KRISHNANKUTTY NAIR,
Secretary to Government,