Indian Christians Look to Supreme Court for Religious Freedom

Christian leaders and activists in India are pinning hopes on the Supreme Court to set aside guidelines made by a state court on individuals changing religion.

India’s top court on April 5 postponed hearing a petition of Christian leaders that challenged the guidelines of Rajasthan high court, saying the directions violate religious freedom guaranteed in the constitution. The court postponed the hearing after the federal government said it needed more time to offer a response to the petition.  

Christian leaders took up the case after the Rajasthan court on Dec. 14 last year passed general guidelines in restricting conversions. The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition regarding a Hindu girl who married a Muslim, presumably after changing her religion to Islam.

The court directed, among other things, that a person desirous of changing religion should inform the district’s top government official, who would publicize it for a week. “Only after a week's time, anyone converting for purpose of marriage can do so,” said the court.

The state court’s guideline “infringes upon the fundamental rights of all persons” and violates provisions of the Indian constitution, said Christian leader A.C Michael, whose Alliance Defending Freedom organization was first to object in the Supreme Court.

Hindu groups have often been accused of interpreting Christian mission work in education and health care as fraudulent or being carried out with the ultimate goal of conversion. Despite anti-conversion laws, no Christian has so far been convicted of conversion but in the last decade several cases have been filed.

Hindus form 966 million or 80 percent of India's population of 1.3 billion. Muslims account for 172 million or 14 percent while Christians comprise 29 million or 2.3 percent.

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Reported by: UCA News

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