Christians could face one year prison sentence for encouraging conversion to their faith, according to a new controversial legislation being introduced in Israel. The legislation which is being proposed by ultra-Orthodox members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition would also proscribe Christians from engaging in religious discussion with Jews.
Titled Proposed Penal Law: Amendment – Prohibition of Solicitation for Religious Conversion – 2023, the legislation is introduced by United Torah Judaism’s Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher. The law would apply to anyone who would attempt to persuade someone to change their religious beliefs, however the legislation specifically mentions the Christian faith, saying that “recently, the attempts of missionary groups, mainly Christians, to solicit conversion of religion have increased.”
“Solicitation”, according to the text of the legislation, refers to anyone “who solicits a person, directly, digitally, by mail, or online in order to convert his religion” and the punishment for such solicitation is “one year imprisonment; and if the person was a minor, the punishment – two years imprisonment.”
According to All Israel News, the bill “appears to be making it illegal for followers of Jesus (“Yeshua” in Hebrew) to explain why they believe that Jesus is both Messiah and God with the hope that Israelis might consider following Him.” The Jerusalem based news agency explained that under the new legislation “producing and publishing online videos explaining the Gospel to Jewish or Muslim people in Israel – and to those of any other religious faiths – would suddenly become illegal.”
Publishing books, other printed literature, online articles, podcasts, or other forms of media that explain the life and ministry of Jesus and His message found in the New Testament would also become illegal.
The proposal has created friction with America’s evangelical community who are strong supporters of Israel. Leading evangelical Christians are publicly urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to scuttle legislation, according to Haaretz. Apparently, Netanyahu and his allies have publicly and privately stressed the importance of evangelical support as US Jews have grown increasingly critical of Israel’s rightward shift.
It is expected that the bill will be sharply criticised in Washington by both Democrats and Republicans alike.