In Bhutan, a new law may penalize Christians who proselytize and try to convert you:
The amendment bill would punish “proselytizing” that “uses coercion or other forms of inducement” –- vaguely enough worded, Christians fear, that vigilantes could use it to jail them for following the commands of Christ to feed, clothe and otherwise care for the poor.
“Now, under section 463 [of the Penal Code of Bhutan], a defendant shall be guilty of the offense of proselytization if the defendant uses coercion or other forms of inducement to cause the conversion of a person from one religion or faith to another,” reported the government-run Kuensel newspaper on July 9.
… the National Council had proposed that offenses under the proposal be classified as misdemeanors, punishable by one to less than three years in prison.
They don’t specifically call out Christianity in the law, but that’s the underlying subtext. It’s not like Buddhists are knocking on your door.
But since attempting to convert other people is a requirement of their faith, some Christians are rightly worried that this is really just a law to crack down on their freedom of religion. Even helping the poor may be seen as an underhanded way to spread the faith.
What qualifies as proselytizing, anyway?
Christian: Bless you.
Bhutan: YOU’RE GOING TO JAIL!
For what it’s worth, Christians make up under 1% of the population in Bhutan and don’t have any churches in the country — this proposed law would just be another in a long line of rulings to hamper the practice of Christianity.
Here’s the kicker:
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the government has not officially recognized the presence of Christians, whose practice of faith remains confined to their homes.
One government official tried to explain how this anti-conversion law would be justified given the whole “freedom of religion” thing:
Home and Culture Minister Lyonpo Minjur Dorji told Compass that Bhutan’s government had “no problems” with Christianity or any other faith.
“But Bhutan is a small country, with a little more than 600,000 people, and a majority of them are Buddhist,” Dorji said. “We have Hindus, also mainly in southern parts. So why do we need more religions?”
You don’t. No one does. But everyone has a right to practice whatever faith they want, and the Christian demands are relatively harmless.
This is ridiculous and completely hypocritical. I’m an atheist who finds Christian proselytizing annoying as hell. But I defend their right to annoy the crap out of me. Here’s hoping all of you do, too.
(Thanks to Edward for the link)