Mixed reaction to a ruling on Sri Lanka’s anti-conversion bill.

By August 19, 2004

Sri Lanka (MNN)–Sri Lanka’s anti-conversion bill faces a long road to passage. Voice of the Martyrs’ Todd Nettleton explains it requires a 2/3 majority vote in Parliament and a peoples’ referendum before it becomes a law.

Christians and other religious minorities had challenged the constitutionality of the bill, forcing the Supreme Court to review it.

The court review, ending last week, didn’t appear to completely appease anyone. The ruling was conveyed to the speaker of Sri Lanka’s Parliament Tuesday morning.
It has been promoted by Sinhala Buddhist nationalists to stop alleged forced conversions of Buddhists by Christian groups.

It’s really the tone behind the bill that causes concern for believers, especially since a court challenge against it, failed. Nettleton says,”The court did not choose to say, ‘The Sri Lankan Constitution says we have freedom of religion here. Therefore, a bill that says you cannot change your religion is fundamentally unconstitutional.’ I think the Christians there, and the religious minorities there, that’s what they were hoping the courts would say.”

He goes on to say that even though the bill hasn’t become law, those in evangelistic work are already moving cautiously. “Obviously, it presents kind of a fear factor of saying ‘look what’s coming down the road. Be careful about expanding your ministry here. Be careful about being a Christian worker.’ So, I think even at this stage it’s kind of the fear factor, even though it’s not in force, even though it’s still kind of in the future.”

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