Editor’s Note: A follow-up article to this piece was published on March 25, 2023: Israeli lawmakers table bill to imprison Christians for sharing their faith in Jesus Christ
JERUSALEM (LifeSiteNews) — Two pivotal members of Israel’s majority coalition in the Knesset (parliament) have proposed legislation to punish anyone who shares their faith in Jesus Christ with significant prison time.
Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher from the United Torah Judaism party (UTJ) are sponsors of the legislation which penalizes anyone “who solicits a person, directly, digitally, by mail, or online in order to convert his religion” with “one year imprisonment” and if the person is under 18 years of age, “two years imprisonment,” according to a translation provided by All Israel News (AIN).
Though the legislation applies to anyone having a conversation about their faith with Israelis of a different religion, in their official explanation of the bill, Gafni and Asher emphasized their motivation to target Christians in particular.
“Recently, the attempts of missionary groups, mainly Christians, to solicit conversion of religion have increased,” the UTJ legislators warned. Such activities involve “many negative repercussions, including psychological damages, [which] warrant the intervention of the legislature.”
Jewish Evangelical Christian Joel Rosenberg writes, “[t]he bill’s primary objective, therefore, appears to be making it illegal for followers of Jesus (‘Yeshua’ in Hebrew) to explain why they believe that Jesus is both Messiah and God with the hope that Israelis might consider following Him.”
Rosenberg, who is the editor-in-chief of AIN, concludes that if the bill is passed, not only will face to face communications of this type be prohibited, but “producing and publishing online videos explaining the Gospel to Jewish or Muslim people in Israel – and to those of any other religious faiths – would suddenly become illegal.”
The FBI is planning to intensify its “assessment” and “mitigation” of “Radical Traditionalist Catholics” over the next 12 to 24 months according to an explosive document from a former agent turned whistleblower.
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The bombshell 8-page memo was released by former FBI agent Kyle Serpahin on his website UncoveredDC Wednesday. The report, written by an FBI analyst in Richmond, Virginia, was published for internal agency use only on January 23, is titled, “Interest of Racially or Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremists in Radical-Traditionalist Catholic Ideology Almost Certainly Presents New Mitigation Opportunities.”
Seraphin describes the briefing as an “intelligence product” that, though not being exhaustive, can be used as an initial reference point for the agency to “prop up” future investigations on the subject. He says he obtained the document from an anonymous Baptist employee for the agency.
“This is the first FBI Richmond domain product to focus on the interest of racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists in the Radical Traditional Catholic movement,” the document states. “A search of FBI databases indicates this is also the first FBI finished intelligence product to specifically address this environmental variable.”
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Among the most controversial aspects of the memo is that it directly cites a defamatory study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on the subject “Radical Traditional Catholicism.” The SPLC has long been rejected as a legitimate resource for the FBI, Seraphin says, but in this instance, it is being relied on as a primary source to justify its efforts. The memo also references three anti-Catholic smear articles (here, here, and here) published by leftwing websites Salon and The Atlantic to defend its monitoring.
The report alleges that its real motivation is a concern that “Radical Traditionalist Catholic Ideology” possesses an “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT, and white supremacy” outlook, and that this presents a threat to the US’s domestic well-being. The report further claims that adherents to RTC ideology “frequently share language and symbolism, such as crusader references or anti-Semitic discourses” online that pro-life white nationalists also support.
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FBI whistleblower releases docs showing agents are surveilling "Radical" Traditional Catholics in Virginia
Breaking the story on Sunday, Rosenberg, who lives in Israel, emphasized that unlike previous years when bills of this nature had little to no chance of passage, this year is different since the UTJ holds seven seats in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 64-member majority coalition, out of 120 total representatives.
Therefore, since their presence in the coalition is necessary for Netanyahu to remain Prime Minister, the UTJ’s negotiating position, along with similar coalition parties, is much stronger than it has been in the past.
Furthermore, there are also proposals for the Knesset to consider an “override clause” which would permit the legislative body to override Israeli Supreme Court decisions with a simple 61-vote majority. “This could severely endanger the human rights and civil liberties of all minorities in the country, including religious minorities, such as followers of Jesus,” Rosenberg warned.
If the Gafni – Asher bill becomes law and is then struck down by the Israeli Supreme Court as a violation of freedom of speech and religion, a simple majority in the Knesset could nullify the high court’s judgement.
“That would enable the current Knesset to go forward with banning all forms of evangelism in Israel and would provide no legal recourse whatsoever to Jewish and Gentile people – Israelis or foreigners – who love Jesus and want to tell others about Him,” Rosenberg concluded.
Catholic authorities in the region have also recently expressed concern over “the legitimization of [such] discrimination and [even] violence in public opinion” against Christians due to “the current Israeli political environment” since Netanyahu was sworn into office for the sixth time last December.
A report from Axios at the time called Netanyahu’s coalition “the most right-wing government” in the nation’s history, including powerful minsters who espouse “racist and Jewish supremacist” views.
These include Itamar Ben-Gvir and his Jewish Power party, who during his election victory speech last November praised his fellow party member Bentzi Gopstein who referrers to Christians as “blood sucking vampires” and “the Christian church” as “our deadly centuries-old enemy” while calling for the expulsion of all Christians from the country.
A member of the Knesset, Ben-Gvir is a resident of an Israeli settlement in the West Bank which is deemed illegal under international law. He was sworn in as Minister of National Security late last year giving him unprecedented authority over police and border paramilitary units that operate among the 2.9 million Palestinians under military occupation in the West Bank.
A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that nearly half of Israeli Jews believed Arabs (including Christians) “should be expelled or transferred” from the country.
Earlier this year, Catholic leaders in the Holy Land issued a statement condemning the “growing succession of serious acts of hatred and violence against the Christian community in Israel” following several acts of violence and vandalism.
In December 2021, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders in the Holy Land sounded an alarm with a formal letter addressing “countless incidents of physical and verbal assaults against priests and other clergy, attacks on Christian churches, with holy sites regularly vandalized and desecrated, and ongoing intimidation of local Christians.”
They called these terrorist tactics “a systematic attempt to drive” Christians “out of Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land” while lamenting with “grave concern” how “the declared commitment of the Israeli government to uphold a safe and secure home for Christians in the Holy Land … is betrayed by the failure of local politicians, officials and law enforcement agencies to curb the [violent] activities of radical groups.”
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