Gujarat conversions outlawed

Published June 1, 2003

Churches in India expressed shock over the enactment of a law curbing religious conversion that passed without debate in the state of Gujarat.

The legislation, called the Freedom of Religious Conversion Bill, carries a penalty of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of $1,045 US for religious conversion “by force or by lure.” A conversion acknowledged as not having been coerced could bring a one-year prison sentence and a fine unless it received approval from the district head.

The National Council of Churches in India, which represents 29 Orthodox and Protestant churches, called the legislation “an act of conscious and wilful harassment of the minorities, especially Christians, prohibiting them from practising their faith.”

The ecumenical United Christian Forum said “conversion is a grace of God and cannot be subject to the scrutiny of the civil government.” The conversion bill was passed by the legislature after the opposition Congress party was suspended from the assembly.


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