Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Unintended Consequences?

YNet reports on a bill filed by Shas to prohibit proselytizing in Israel:

Shas was also sure to defend the bill from accusations of violating Israel's freedom of religion principal, saying that "we do not mean to violate freedom of religion or freedom from religion. We mean to allow everyone to believe in their own religion, and prevent harassment by any source trying to harm the basic democratic right according to which 'every man may live in his religion.'"

The proposal pointed out that the law does not specify which religion it applies to and therefore also forbids the proselytism of non-Jews to Judaism.

"The law also applies to Jewish sects bringing Muslims from the Old City to convert to Judaism," it said.

I worry about the (hopefully)unintended consequences of this bill. (I also worry about the intended consequences, but that is another issue). Will this bill hinder efforts to enable non-Jewish Russian immigrants to convert? Will the Reform movement be forbidden to offer 'Introduction to Judaism' classes? How will the government distinguish between efforts at conversion and simply making educational efforts available? Will it be ok to open an Xtian science reading room, but forbidden to advertise its existence? Will atheism be considered a religion, and organizations such as Footsteps be outlawed in consequence? In principle, could Aish Hatorah be required to confirm people are Jewish before letting them into a Torah codes lecture?

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