Church leaders in India have joined the chorus of protest against the BJP-led government, known for espousing a Hindu nationalist agenda, hurrying through an “anti-conversion law” in the eastern state of Jharkhand. The Freedom of Religion Bill, which was introduced and passed on the same day (Aug. 12) in the Jharkhand Assembly, seems harmless in name but in reality prevents people from having the freedom to choose to change their religion.

Under the new law, offenders—those deemed to have “forced” another person to change their religion—could face three years’ imprisonment and fines of 50,000 rupees (U.S. $800) or four years’ imprisonment and a 100,000-rupee fine if the person converted is a minor, a woman or a member of the less educated classes, such as Dalits. “This is their style. They don’t want any debate. They just do what they want,” Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, the Archbishop of Ranchi (Jharkhand’s capital), told World Watch Monitor. READ MORE