Interestingly, in many jurisdictions, including
Recently, I read an article about religious freedom, a frequent hot topic of late. In that article, someone claimed that such freedom included the right to convert people from one religion to another, a contention that is a must for evangelical Christianity. Even the most ardent and vocal proponent of religious freedom probably recognizes and even requires some limit on that freedom. Absolute freedom would mean no limits at all, and rarely do we hear anyone describe freedom in that way. In fact, our freedoms invariably are claimed in relationship to a written code which automatically defines what freedom means. Absolute freedom does not require codification.
Including the right to convert other religiously affiliated people as a part of the definition of religious freedom was an eye opening addition for me. What kinds of activities are allowable under this religious freedom to convert others. Church history has documented some rather nefarious practices as a means to conversion. Can the church legally engage in criminal activity in order to convert? Can they perpetrate fraud for instance? This latter question is particularly intriguing since so many religious people point to other religions or sects as fraudulent.
A more pertinent question might be whether the church can commit criminal assault in its conversion efforts. Can they threaten the potential convert in an effort to convince them to convert? Is the attempt to convert limited to persuasion only or can an element of coercion be introduced without crossing the boundaries of acceptable religious practice under the auspices of freedom of religion?
It is noteworthy that many evangelical messages lack a direct reference to the divine threat supposedly associated with conversion. Preachers routinely speak about being saved without saying specifically what the hearer is being saved from. It is generally assumed or understood that people know about the threat of harm which the conversion process is designed to avoid. Therefore the messenger can confine his or her instructions to the less objectionable aspects of conversion, like enjoying fellowship, gaining life purpose, etc. People seem to realize that assault is not welcome even in religious practice.