Karnataka’s anti-conversion law ‘a big letdown’ for Christians, says archbishop of Bangalore

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A Christian leader in Karnataka has expressed his displeasure after the state governor signed and approved the ordinance that puts the anti-conversion law into force immediately.

Karnataka became the 11th state to enact the Freedom of Religion Act, often known as anti-conversion law, when Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot gave his approval on 17 May 2022.

“The Christian community feels betrayed when its sentiments are not taken note of and its selfless services in the fields of education, healthcare and other social areas for the welfare of all communities are not taken into consideration,” Archbishop Peter Machado of Bangalore said in a statement.

The action was “a big letdown” for Christians in the state, according to the archbishop, who described it as sad and troubling.

Christians have constantly informed the state administration and the general public that the law was "irrelevant and malicious" and primarily geared at alienating Christians from other religious minorities, the prelate added.

The Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill was proposed in the Karnataka legislative assembly in December 2021, however it failed to pass since it lacked one vote. To get over this stumbling block, the state legislature enacted the limits as an ordinance. A cleared ordinance has the same legal status as a statute, but it must be approved by the legislative assembly by a majority vote within six months to become law.

The legislation makes it illegal to convert from one faith to another using deception, force, undue influence, compulsion, allurement, or any other deceptive methods. The bill also recommended a fine of 25,000 rupees and a sentence of three to five years in jail. When the infraction affects kids or women, the perpetrator faces a sentence of three to 10 years in jail and a minimum fine of 50,000 rupees.