Religious conversion has no justification, says Indian Supreme Court

Evangelists baptising new converts in Andhra PradeshNew Delhi, January 22, 2011: The Supreme Court on Friday held that conversion from one religion to another had no justification in “secular” India as it amounted to interference in religious belief.

“We hope Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of religion playing a positive role in bringing religions and communities together into an integrated prosperous nation will be realized. There is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief through force, conversion or false premise that one religion is better than the other,” the court noted.

Dara SinghIt was dealing with an appeal filed by Dara Singh, who was granted life sentence by the Orissa High Court for burning alive Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons 12 years ago, a crime sparked a debate on religious tolerance and respect for all religions. “The intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity,” stated the court. It upheld life sentence for Dara Singh, but used the opportunity to issue a devastating critique of conversion attempts.

The Bench felt that conversion violated the secular spirit of the Constitution. It said, “It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of ‘use of force’, provocation, conversion, incitement, or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other.”

Quoting former President K.R. Narayanan, who said, “Indian unity is based on a tradition of tolerance, which is at once a pragmatic concept for living together and a philosophical concept of finding truth and goodness in every religion” — the judgement hinged hope on the vision of Mahatma Gandhi for co-existence of religions as a “positive factor” to realise “equal respect for all religions”.

[HPI note: It is essential to understand that in this context the Supreme Court uses the word “conversion” to name insidious, sly, dishonest and divisive practices that have nothing to do with a voluntary change of religious belief based on self-inquiry and newfound conviction. This ruling could be quite consequential (and good for Hinduism) as the press release below points out.] – Daily Pioneer, January 22, 2011

John Dayal: Professional Christian agent provocateur and mischief-maker.Christian Council reacts to verdict

New Delhi, January 22, 2011: Dr. John Dayal, Secretary General of the All of India Christian Council, said, “Although we are yet to analyse the full judgment of the Supreme Court, we are disturbed by the parts carried by the media, mentioning terms like fraud and forcible and conversion. But more than anything, we fear such remarks may negatively impact trials in Kandhamal, Orissa and future challenges to so-called ‘freedom of religion laws’ in various states.” – All India Christian Council

 
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