Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday that he will not allow any legislation to be passed banning Christianity after two members of the Israeli government proposed the bill earlier this year, according to the All Israel News.
The bill was introduced into the Israeli Knesset, Israel’s legislative body of elected officials, from Israel’s United Torah Judaism Pary’s Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher on Jan. 9, according to All Israel News. Following rising outcry against the bill, Netanyahu addressed concerns that Israel was gearing up to ban the Christian faith. (RELATED: Nearly A Third Of Americans Rank Evangelicals As The Most Unfavorable Religion: POLL)
“We will not advance any law against the Christian community,” Netanyahu said in a Wednesday post on his Twitter account.
לא נקדם שום חוק נגד הקהילה הנוצרית.
We will not advance any law against the Christian community.
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) March 22, 2023
The bill would mean that Christians in Israel could face up to one year in prison for sharing their faith or attempting to convert someone, and will be charged with a harsher sentence if they share their faith with a minor, according to All Israel News.
“[S]omeone who solicits a person, directly, digitally, by mail, or online in order to convert his religion, the punishment – one-year imprisonment; and if the person was a minor, the punishment – two years imprisonment,” the bill’s text read, according to All Israel News. “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.”
Christians make up nearly 2% of Israel’s population and comprised 61% of tourists in Israel in 2018, according to the Jewish Virtual Library. Tourists from the United States were also the largest percentage of visitors to Israel at 813,000 in 2018.
Former US ambassador for international religious freedom Sam Brownback came out against the bill on Twitter earlier this week.
“Free and democratic countries simply do not outlaw the free exchange of ideas and that includes religious beliefs and convictions,” Brownback said in a post on March 20.
— Sam Brownback (@SamuelBrownback) March 20, 2023
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