India’s Anti-Conversion Ban Parallels the West’s Flirtation With Conversion Therapy Laws

“As India’s experience exemplifies, the inevitable consequence of anti-conversion laws in the West, will make Christians outlaws.”

An anti-conversion ban has given authorities in the North Indian Province of Uttar Pradesh the leeway to continue detaining a Christian Pastor, despite bail.

Vijay Masih, a pastor with the Evangelical Church of India, was arrested in April 2022, under the province’s 2020, Unlawful Conversion of Religion statute.

Masih was among 55 people alleged to have broken the ‘anti-conversion’ law after calling the church to prayer.

Chief among the pastor’s accusers were members of the militant, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP – translated: World Hindu Council), who claimed the church had ‘illegally converted 90 Hindus to Christianity.’

Masih is no stranger to the VHP.

Along with two other pastors, he was attacked by ‘50 VHP members during a two-day spiritual retreat’ in 2018.

Voice of the Martyrs said the three pastors sustained serious injuries, as police stood by, watched, then later ‘joined the mob’ in accusing the men of ‘doing forced conversions.’

After being granted bail, the Indian Pastor was rearrested in October.

Hindu media source, OpIndia, accused Masih of breaking his original bail conditions, by ‘secretively luring, brainwashing innocent, poor Hindus, and forcing them to convert to Christianity.’ 

On January 16, 2023, bail was again granted to Masih, because 6 ‘accused persons’ associated with “unlawful conversion” claims, had already been released.

Despite this, and a 100-day stint in prison, the pastor still hasn’t been released.

Reasons for his unlawful detention appear political.

2.3% of India’s population are Christians. 14.2% are Muslim, and 79.8% are Hindu.

The case tests the province’s pro-Hindu anti-conversion law, which is reported to be the ‘biggest test of conversion bans in history.’

Accusations against Masih come across as a blatant attack by VHP, on the Evangelical Church of India, and the country’s Christian minority.

Accusers have alleged the Church is associated with World Vision – a charitable children’s organisation, which, along with other NGO’s funded by foreign money, like Compassion, are now effectively banned in the country.

The ban even extends to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

The 2020 ‘ordinance,’ banning ‘conversion therapy’ was signed into law by Governor, Anandiben Patel.

Mechanisms within the law allow for accusations to be made through a ‘First Information Report (FIR)’ system, which grants an ‘aggrieved person’ a platform to lodge potential breaches.

Individuals found guilty of breaking India’s version of a ‘conversion therapy’ law, face one to five years in gaol with the added prospect of being fined 15,000 Rupees.

Higher punishments exist for anyone ‘found’ to have ‘forcefully converted’ minors (those under 18), and women.

Sentences can range from two to ten years, and incur a fine of 20,000 Rupees.

Any person guilty of ‘mass conversions’ (two or more) can find themselves hit with a three to ten-year prison term, with a fine of 50,000 Rupees attached.

Notably, through a financial compensation clause, the law potentially incentives false claims.

There are no clauses to dissuade false accusers.

Having said all this, not everything about the North Indian province’s ordinance is off-kilter.

Part of the law bans what Egyptian Coptic Christians call a Jihad of the Womb.

A known Islamist tactic often portrayed as Love Jihad, and dismissed – ironically by many in the #MeToo West – as ‘Islamophobia.’

Jihad of the Womb refers to the Islamist trafficking of women, by which forced marriage is used to force conversion to Islam.

Part of Uttar Pradesh’s law makes sense given the cultural context.

The big problem is subjectivism.

Like abstract, so-called “conversion therapy bans” in Western countries, the subjective nature of the province’s anti-conversion ordinance, makes the law ripe for abuse.

While I acknowledge fraudsters do exist in the Church, and the abuse of the pulpit takes place, in this case Pastor Vijay Masih seems to be a political pawn.

A historical statement for the Evangelical Churches of India spells out, in easy-to-understand language, that the church’s mission is prayer, transformation, teaching, and discipleship.

No references are made which indicated a hatred of Hindus, or ‘forced conversions.’

As India’s experience exemplifies, the inevitable consequence of anti-conversion laws in the West, will make Christians outlaws.

In India, the ordinance is weaponised, and it’s being used to intimidate, then crush Christians.

Prayer, Christian fellowship, and Christian discipleship will be a renegade’s road.

India’s anti-conversion law is empowering false accusations, wrongful imprisonment, and mob retaliation.

Its Western parallel is the Christian-hating, LGBT lawfare hiding behind ‘conversion therapy bans.’

The lessons here for discerning legislators in the West couldn’t be any clearer.

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