The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Cash scanner on evangelist

JOHN MARY

Thiruvananthapuram, June 9: A high-profile evangelist is under pressure to explain an “unaccounted” amount of Rs 900 crore his trust received from the US as Kerala’s crackdown on “commercial spiritualism” gathers pace.

Bishop K.P. Yohannan has been under the watch of regulators and police since the hunt for “fake godmen” began in the first week of May for having received the funds from the Texas-based Gospel for Asia in the past 12 years. Failure to explain could make him the subject of a probe.

The police claim that a trust closely held by Yohannan and his relatives had received Rs 1,044 crore for charity and church activities from Texas body since 1995 but spent only Rs 144 crore on such purposes.

Director-general of police (intelligence) Jacob Punnose has told home minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan about the “unaccounted cash” and recommended an inquiry to verify how the trust had used the Rs 900 crore. Chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan is aware of the matter.

The assets of Believers’ Church, Yohannan’s trust, were estimated at Rs 572 crore and Gospel for Asia’s at Rs 472 crore. The nature of the probe is yet to be decided since there are several departments and agencies concerned with the activities of Believers’ Church and Gospel for Asia.

Since the amount flowed in from a single source, the Gospel for Asia, the Reserve Bank will have to probe if any part of it had been spent on activities outside the country and whether it was done with permission. Another matter to be examined is how Yohannan’s trust has retained 2,500 acres when the law allows only 2,000 acres and whether it had secured special permission. The bishop was not available for comment.

Yohannan is not the only one facing the heat in the drive “commercial spiritualism”. Other Christian prayer-healing organisations like Swargeeya Virunnu (Heavenly Feast), run by Brother Thanku (Sam Kuruvila) and Brother Thomas Kutty are also under the scanner.

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