Prison Time In Israel For Sharing The Gospel? Bibi Comes To Christians Defense
By Joe Kovacs/WND News CenterMarch 23, 2023
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The prime minister of Israel is coming to the defense of Christians in the wake of a proposed law that would send believers to prison merely for sharing Jesus' message in the Jewish state.
"We will not advance any law against the Christian community," Benjamin Netanyahu, affectionately known as "Bibi," announced Wednesday on Twitter.
Netanyahu has long been a great friend and ally of Christians all over the world.
He routinely speaks to Evangelical Christian audiences at conferences, hosts an annual “Christian Media Summit” in Jerusalem for Evangelical journalists, and loves to invite Christians from all over the world to come and tour the Land of Israel.
Netanyahu has also been a strong and unwavering defender of protecting the human rights of free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience for all Israelis, including Christians.
What’s more, over the years Netanyahu and his center-right Likud party have consistently shot down any bills that would have threatened the rights of Christians in Israel, even though they don’t agree theologically with Christians about who Jesus is.
As WND reported Monday, legislation had been introduced by Knesset Members Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher, two ultra-Orthodox members of Netanyahu's coalition government, seeking to toss people in prison for spreading the Good News of eternal life offered by the Son of God.
The proposal would make it illegal to share Christian messages in conversation in person, online, as well as in print or by email.
Violators would be imprisoned for a year, with the punishment doubled to two years if believers are witnessing to someone under the age of 18.
An English translation of the measure states:
"Recently, the attempts of missionary groups, mainly Christians, to solicit conversion of religion have increased.
"At times these attempts do not involve monetary promises or material gains and are therefore not illegal according to the current law, but the many negative repercussions, including psychological damages, warrant the intervention of the legislature.
"This is particularly in light of the fact that most of the attempts to bring people to convert their religion target the weaker classes who, due to their social-economic standing, are more easily open to persuasion attempts such as these.
"Therefore, it is proposed that alongside the prohibition of giving favors as an incentive to convert religion, also prohibited will be the act of solicitation to convert religion, when it is done directly to a person.
"It is proposed to distinguish between a situation where the person being solicited is an adult - in which case the maximum penalty proposed is one year imprisonment - and a situation where the person being solicited is a minor in which case the maximum penalty proposed is two years imprisonment.
"Also proposed is to make stricter the punishment for someone who holds a ceremony of religious conversion of a minor, and make it two years imprisonment, instead of 6 months."
On Monday, Sam Brownback, former Kansas senator and governor as well as former U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, denounced the measure, tweeting: "Free and democratic countries simply do not outlaw the free exchange of ideas and that includes religious beliefs and convictions."
"Remember the whole issue of proselytization in Israel?," Israeli legal expert David Benjamin told CBN News. "There's always been a sensitive one, right? The Jewish state was set up to, to protect the Jewish people. Many Jewish people have been lost over the centuries, obviously to genocide. But also by assimilation, forced conversion, et cetera. So it's a very sensitive point."
He thinks this legislation would likely violate Israel's Declaration of Independence.
"I think that the fundamental premise of the law is problematic in itself. I don't think it'll be, it'll be unacceptable to outlaw. A person trying to persuade another person to adopt any idea, whether it be a religion or any kind of idea. You know, the free flow of ideas, freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression or, or fundamental pillars of any democracy."
Christians currently make up 2% of Israel's population and typically account for the largest percentages of tourists in the country every year.