Christians ask for law to protect church assets
Should the Christian churches in India be governed by a government law? Some argue that their needs to be “accountability and transparency in church property transactions.” Others worry that if legislation comes into play, churches will see their properties grabbed up by the government.
By Babu Thomas
06/25/2012 India (ChristianToday)- Christians are calling for a new law to bring in accountability and transparency in church property transactions.
The All India Catholic Union (AICU), a representative of the Catholic laity, has reiterated its demand for a law to govern church properties spread across the country.
Stating that the Church in India suffers from a “case of plenty”, AICU President Remy Denis said church authorities in India control funds equivalent to the Indian Navy’s annual budget.
Echoing similar concern, Eduardo Faleiro, a former Union minister and Goa NRI Commissioner, said the "Church is not a symbol of power but service, and democratic laws must apply to it equally".
"All religions must be kept on the same footing,” he said. Faleiro was speaking at a conference that was called to debate whether church properties in India should be governed by the government.
Muslim Wakf and Sikh Gurdwara Acts, enacted under the provisions of Article 25 of the Constitution of India, are protecting the property and assets of those minorities without government intervention.
Christians are calling for a similar law to protect properties, assets and institutions of the church that are worth several thousands of crores.
Regrettably, leaders of several mainstream denominations, including the Church of South India (CSI) and Church of North India (CNI) have in recent past been embroiled in illegal sale of church properties.
“I feel the opposition from the Christians is on account of a fear that a provision for judicial scrutiny is likely to expose the expenses and magnitude of wealth of the denomination,” Thomas was quoted by the Deccan Herald, as saying.
"The head of the Believers Church had recently acquired a huge plantation in Kerala for Rs 123 crore. This was apart from the vast assets already held by the denomination."
Thomas dispelled notions that the Parliament by bringing a legislation would grab the properties of the church.
He clarified that all religious denominations have the right to own and acquire properties, establish and maintain religious institutions.
“But, in matters of administration of your properties you have to abide by the law," he said.