This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
The prime minister of Israel is coming to the defense of Christians in the wake of a proposed law that would send believers to prison merely for sharing Jesus' message in the Jewish state.
"We will not advance any law against the Christian community," Benjamin Netanyahu, affectionately known as "Bibi," announced Wednesday on Twitter.
As WND reported Monday, legislation had been introduced by Knesset Members Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Asher, two ultra-Orthodox members of Netanyahu's coalition government, seeking to toss people in prison for spreading the Good News of eternal life offered by the Son of God.
The proposal would make it illegal to share Christian messages in conversation in person, online, as well as in print or by email.
Violators would be imprisoned for a year, with the punishment doubled to two years if believers are witnessing to someone under the age of 18.
An English translation of the measure states:
"Recently, the attempts of missionary groups, mainly Christians, to solicit conversion of religion have increased.
"At times these attempts do not involve monetary promises or material gains and are therefore not illegal according to the current law, but the many negative repercussions, including psychological damages, warrant the intervention of the legislature.
"This is particularly in light of the fact that most of the attempts to bring people to convert their religion target the weaker classes who, due to their social-economic standing, are more easily open to persuasion attempts such as these.
"Therefore, it is proposed that alongside the prohibition of giving favors as an incentive to convert religion, also prohibited will be the act of solicitation to convert religion, when it is done directly to a person.
"It is proposed to distinguish between a situation where the person being solicited is an adult – in which case the maximum penalty proposed is one-year imprisonment – and a situation where the person being solicited is a minor in which case the maximum penalty proposed is two years imprisonment. ...
"Also proposed is to make stricter the punishment for someone who holds a ceremony of religious conversion of a minor, and make it two years imprisonment, instead of 6 months ... ."
On Monday, Sam Brownback, former Kansas senator and governor as well as former U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, denounced the measure, tweeting: "Free and democratic countries simply do not outlaw the free exchange of ideas and that includes religious beliefs and convictions."
"Remember the whole issue of proselytization in Israel?" Israeli legal expert David Benjamin told CBN News. "There's always been a sensitive one, right? The Jewish state was set up, to protect the Jewish people. Many Jewish people have been lost over the centuries, obviously to genocide. But also by assimilation, forced conversion, et cetera. So it's a very sensitive point."
He thinks this legislation would likely violate Israel's Declaration of Independence.
"I think that the fundamental premise of the law is problematic in itself. I don't think it'll be, it'll be unacceptable to outlaw. A person trying to persuade another person to adopt any idea, whether it be a religion or any kind of idea. You know, the free flow of ideas, freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression or, or fundamental pillars of any democracy."
The Jewish Virtual Library reports Christians to make up almost 2% of Israel's population and accounted for 61% of tourists to the country in 2018. In fact, the largest percentage of tourists to Israel that year were Americans, numbering 813,000.
WND previously noted plenty of online reaction about the proposal, with comments including:
"Just so you're clear. They want to lock you up for believing in Jesus Christ✝️"
"Because Jews are actually putting their faith in Christ. A major threat to the Pharisees."
"Image the backlash if someone wanted to do this with Judaism. Don't expect any Republicans to denounce their donors for trying to ban Jesus."
"We gotta protect our citizens from being brainwashed by the followers of a guy who [checks notes] healed the sick and told people to love their neighbor. 🤡"
"Why is that news? Israel has for millennia believed that when the Messiah returns, it will be as a king, 'to set up his kingdom here on earth, and destroy their enemies.' Since Christ Jesus didn't do that when he was here, they naturally denied him. You know, that same kind of stuff Christians believe he's going to do ...Soon! 'Return as a king,' to set up his kingdom, and destroy their enemies." Both Jews and Christians are expecting the same thing. Only when He does return, Christians will deny Him, this time, because He's not coming to set up a Kingdom, and rule on this earth, and He certainly isn't going to come in the fashion that the ancient texts describe."
"The synagogue of satan wants to throw you in jail for speaking of Christ."
"There is no such thing as Judeo-Christianity. Jews have been persecuting Christians for 2,000 years and they continue to this day. They are of their Father the Devil. Any 'Christian' who supports Israel and Judaism hates Jesus and God."
"Desperation. The hard-core Jewish Orthodox political faction is terrified of Jews waking up to the lies of Judaism and returning to their biblical roots, i.e. Christ."
"Such a bill will never become law while Netanyahu is prime minister."
"What if I call him 'Yeshua'? Would that be OK?"