A Christian man from the Roman Catholic Denomination named Jerome Anto has approached the Supreme Court filing a Writ Petition seeking action against deceitful religious conversions done by other Christian denominations.

The Petitioner claims to be a politico-religious observer and an anti-conversion activist.

"I have been a victim of multiple solicitation for conversion by other Christian denominations to abandon my way of Catholic Worship and adopt their way of worship. Some of the denominations that have approached me are the Protestants, Jehovah’s witness and Church of Christ. They claim that we the Roman Catholics are worshiping Jesus wrongly and are Devil’s disciples and will go to hell", the petition says.

The petition under Article 32 of the Constitution has been filed through Advocate Bharti Tyagi seeking appropriate directions and stringent steps against the fraudulent religious conversion by intimidation, threatening, and deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits, offending Articles 14, 21, and 25 of the Constitution.

It is stated by the petitioner in his petition that the incidents are reported every week throughout the country where conversion is done by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits, and also using black magic, superstition, and miracles but the Centre has not taken stringent steps to stop this menace.

The petitioner has sought introduction of the anti-conversion law in India stating that “I have understood that conversion is a kind of cultural terrorism which will prey upon indigenous people and their culture.” It is further pointed out by him in the petition that “… every possible means is used both from within the country and outside the country to mobilize conversion. The fact that FCRA was revoked for many Christian NGOs is testimony that money is being used for conversion in the garb of social service.”

It is further submitted by the petitioner that the act of conversion will destroy India as Christianity is contrary to Hinduism be it food, habits, festivals, observances, worship, ayurveda, ceremonies, yoga, etc.

The petition says, “Due to inaction of Centre, many individuals, NGOs and institutions are involved in conversion of poor people to other religions by intimidating, threatening, deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits.”

It has been pointed out in the petition that in 2010 alone, a Houston-based Missionary proselytized over 3,20,000 people and converted over 19,600 in Central India and that in October 2010, Joyce Meyer Ministries (an NGO based in Fenton, Missouri) conducted one-week medical outreach in Kolkata in which over 2,200 people were treated and 1,300 people were converted. Also, at Source Light Ministries (South Africa NGO), 25 child evangelists and 100 'church planters' are trained monthly and Church planting is a process that results if a new church is established, the petitioner says.

The petitioner has further submitted, “Several unethical predatory conversion strategies are commonly used. One method is material enticement in which humanitarian aid or economic, educational, medical or social assistance is offered on the condition that the person converts. Another is the denigration of the person's religion to make a new religion appear superior. A third unethical, a predatory method is the promotion of 'bigotry' i.e. knowingly and intentionally promoting religious hatred and violence. Predatory proselytization tears apart the fabric of the communities where it occurs and has led to the annihilation of cultures.”

The petition states that several evangelical groups are active that are working upon a goal i.e., ‘plant a church a day’ targeting about 4,80,000 unreached villages and that there are more than 20 such groups active in tribal-dominated Bastar District to convert the tribals.

The petitioner submitted, “Most missionaries say: 'You cannot worship two gods; you cannot be a Hindu as well as a Christian'. The missionaries insist that if one becomes a Christian then that person must not participate in Hindu festivals or worships. This creates friction at village and family levels. … Christian evangelists insult Hindu saints and gods through leaflets published by evangelical groups.”

It is further submitted by the petitioner that the evidence of deceitful religious conversion can be accessed through social media, primarily on YouTube and Facebook and that the foreign-funded individuals and NGOs are provided with a road map and a monthly target about the number of religious conversions to be carried out. According to the petitioner, as per the 2011 census, Hindus are 79% and down from 86% in 2001, and presently, the Christians are a majority in Mizoram (88%), Nagaland (88%), Meghalaya (75%) and there is a significant population in Manipur (42%), Arunachal Pradesh (31%), Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal while the Muslims are a majority in Lakshadweep (97%), Kashmir (96%), Ladakh (46%) and there is a significant Muslim population in Assam (35%), Bengal (28%), Kerala (27%), Uttar Pradesh (20%) and Bihar (18%).

The petitioner has pleaded, “… social organizations were outraged in December 2021 when eight children from Saint Joseph School, a Missionary School in Vidisha district in Madhya Pradesh were forcefully converted to Christianity. The Ahirwar Sarnaj Sangh had lodged a complaint with the Vidisha District Magistrate at the time. A video went viral showing children being converted by sprinkling water on them during a prayer meeting. Social organization claimed that the school was being used as a front to run a conversion racket.”

The petitioner further pointed out the alleged incidents happening in locations such as Raisen (M.P.), Gandhinagar (Gujarat), Sagar (M.P.), etc. The incidents related to teaching books of Christianity in hostels, teachers cutting off Rakhis from the students’ wrists, punishing girl students if found with henna (mehendi) on their hands, feeding cow meat to Ashram students, etc. have been mentioned in the petition.

The petitioner has stated, “Practices adopted by Christian organizations to convert are (i) By opening orphanages, (ii) By giving loans, (iii) By Missionaries schools, (iv) By hospitals and other charity works, (v) By arranging International and National seminar in the name of Environment protection for human right protection, (vi) By using social, electronic or print media, (vii) By impersonation and adopting Hindu cultural activities for Bible and Yeshu such as Isa Bhagwat, Isa bhajan etc.”

It is further contended by the petitioner that the main emphasis of the Christians for conversions is on the poor illiterate tribal people residing in remote or forest areas in North East States, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh by providing medical facilities, loans, food, etc, and that the statistics show an alarming increase in the Christian population in many of such States.

The petition says, “… Hindus have become minority in many states due to conversion by intimidation threats, gifts and monetary benefits, offering other help like school admission, medical benefits and using superstition and black magic.”

The petitioner has also referred to the cases such as Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd v Essar Power [(2016) 9 SCC 103], BCCI v. Bihar Cricket Association [(2016) 8 SCC 535, AP Pollution Control Board [(2001)2 SCC 62], etc. in his petition stating that the wrongful religious conversion brazenly offends Articles 14, 15, 21, 25, and 29 of the Constitution.

The petitioner has prayed before the Apex Court to direct Centre-States to take stringent steps to control fraudulent religious conversions and religious conversion by intimidation, threatening, and deceivingly luring through gifts and monetary benefits.

During the last hearing of the batch of cases pending before the Apex Court against deceitful religious conversions, the Supreme Court had asked the Attorney General to assist the Court in the matter.

During an earlier hearing, the Court had observed that the purpose of charity should not be conversion.

The batch of pending matters will be heard next on February 7.

Cause Title- Jerome Anto v. Union Of India & Others, Diary No. 1307-2023