Although universal in nature, religious liberty is not universal in practice the world over. And a law designed to prevent conversions to Christianity in India is exhibit A for the truth that, in some countries, religion is but one more aspect of life controlled by government or ruthless factions that fear no government.
And this is why legal victories restoring or broadening religious liberty abroad are so important, particularly when those victories unburden a people who theretofore had been required to alert local magistrates before changing religions. In Evangelical Fellowship of India v. State of Himachal Pradesh, the High Court of the State of Himachal Pradesh ruled against just such a law.
The law required those intending to change religions to provide a district magistrate with “prior notice of at least 30 days…of his intention to do so.” Failure to provide advance notice of conversion required a mandatory police investigation, prosecution, and sanctions. And if notifying the local government magistrate of one’s new religion wasn’t invasive enough – all persons desiring to change their religion were listed in a public registry, scanned regularly by fundamentalist Hindu extremists that make it a daily routine to retaliate against, persecute, and even murder new Christian converts. And of course the public notice law did not apply to anyone changing their religion to Hinduism.
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