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Court rules against Indian Baptists banning Catholics

Village edict excluding other religions, denominatons unconstitutional, judge says

Court rules against Indian Baptists banning Catholics

Catholics from northeastern India pray near the Sacred Heart Cathedral in New Delhi in this file photo. A court recently declared a village law in Manipur state that banned Catholics living there unconstitutional. (Photo by Bijay Kumar Minj)

February 6, 2018

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The top court in India's eastern Manipur state has declared illegal the expulsion of four Catholics from a Baptist-majority village.

They were expelled on the pretext of a village edict banning other religions.

Manipur High Court last week struck down the edict imposed by authorities in Leingangching village after four Catholics petitioned against it saying they were expelled after they converted to Catholicism in 2009.

Chief Justice N Kotiswar Singh said the regulation goes against the guarantees of the Indian constitution, which provides every Indian citizen the freedom to profess, practice and propagate a religion of choice.

"The villagers of Leingangching have every right to follow Baptist Christianity and accordingly, also manage their affairs in tune with the Baptist principles and practices," the court said.

But that right does not authorize them to deny the same right of others who chose to follow another faith or denomination, the court noted.

The Baptist-Catholic row made headlines last August after the village denied a burial plot for a woman who converted to Catholicism.

Christian leaders have also condemned the sectarian provisions in the village rules.

Baptists form the majority of the 1.14 million Christians, or 41 percent of the 2.8 million people in the state. 

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