By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
JERUSALEM (Worthy News) – Christians involved in evangelism could face a lengthy prison term in Israel under a proposed law amendment obtained by Worthy News.
The tabled Penal Law Proposal (Amendment – Prohibition of Solicitation for Religious Conversion) 2023-2023’ effectively forbids spreading the Gospel among Jews.
“Who persuades a person, directly, digitally, by direct mail, or online, to convert his religion, his sentence is one-year imprisonment, and if the person was a minor, his sentence is two years imprisonment,” says a section of the law.
Israeli legislators Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher, who initiated the changes, told the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, that they were concerned about Christian missionaries.
“In recent times, the attempts of missionary bodies, mainly Christian ones, to persuade people to convert have increased,” they wrote in a letter to the Knesset speaker and deputies.
“Sometimes these attempts do not involve the promise of money or material favors, and therefore are not prohibited according to the existing law. But their many negative consequences, including mental damage, require the intervention of the legislator,” the two politicians added to the document seen by Worthy News.
The legislators claimed that “attempts to get people to convert their religion focus on members of the weaker strata, who due to their socio-economic status are more easily subjected to attempts at persuasion of this kind.”
Therefore, “it is proposed that in addition to the prohibition of providing benefits as an enticement to convert, the very act of soliciting to convert when it is done directly to a person will also be prohibited,” they explained.
Besides the proposed prison terms for those “enticing” adults or minors, the legislators also want to increase “the punishment applicable to those who conduct a religious conversion ceremony of a minor.”
Such a person should receive “two years in prison, instead of six months, as stipulated today,” Gafni and Asher argued.
Religious conversions matter in Israel as the country grants Jewish people certain immigration rights under the Law of Return.
The law gives Jews worldwide ― including people who convert to Judaism ― the right to live in Israel and gain citizenship.
Liberal-leaning strains of Judaism have clashed with Israel’s chief rabbinate, which maintains jurisdiction over religious rituals, such as marriage and conversions.
The rabbinate, controlled by strictly observant Jewish leaders, doesn’t recognize the validity of Reform and Conservative Judaism.
Yet, Israel’s highest court ruled two years ago that people who convert to the Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism in Israel are “Jewish under the law and are entitled to Israeli citizenship.
Devoted Messianic Jews are among others facing pressure. They believe that Jesus, called “Yeshua” in Hebrew, is the Jewish Messiah as prophesied in the Scriptures.
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