Christians could be sentenced to a year in prison for encouraging the conversion of their faith, according to controversial new legislation being introduced in Israel. The legislation proposed by ultra-Orthodox members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government would also prevent Christians from engaging in religious discussions with Jews.
Entitled Proposed Penalty: Amendment – Prohibition of Solicitation for Religious Conversion – 2023, the legislation has been introduced by United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher. The law would apply to anyone trying to persuade someone to change their religious beliefs, but the legislation specifically mentions the Christian faith, saying that “recently, efforts have increased of missionary groups, mainly Christians, to seek religious conversion.”
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“Solicitation”, according to the text of the legislation, refers to anyone who “solicits a person, directly, digitally, by post, or online to convert their faith” and the penalty for such solicitation is “one year of imprisonment; and if the person is a minor, the penalty – two years imprisonment.”
According to All Israel News, the bill appears to “make it illegal for followers of Jesus (“Yeshua” in Hebrew) to explain why they believe that Jesus is both the Messiah and God in the hope that Israelis might consider him a continue.” The Jerusalem-based news agency explained that under the new legislation, “it would suddenly be illegal to produce and publish online videos explaining the Gospel to Jewish or Muslim people in Israel – and to those of any other religious faith”.
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It would also be illegal to publish books, other printed literature, online articles, podcasts, or other forms of media that explain the life and ministry of Jesus and his message found in the New Testament.
The proposal created friction with the American evangelical community which is a strong supporter of Israel. Prominent evangelical Christians are publicly urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scrap the legislation, according to Haaretz. Apparently, Netanyahu and his allies have publicly and privately emphasized the importance of evangelical support as US Jews are increasingly critical of Israel’s right transition.
The bill is expected to be heavily criticized in Washington by both Democrats and Republicans.
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