Hindu American Leaders Raise Concerns with US Government Defense of Controversial Evangelical Church

Washington, DC (December 6, 2016) — Leaders of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) are disappointed today after a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in defense of Compassion International. Compassion International officials have been reporting that its projects in India have been thwarted for alleged violations of India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).

HAF submitted a written statement for the record to the Committee stating that intervention by the US government on behalf of Compassion — a registered church with a mission to target impoverished children around the globe for religious conversion through social services — could be viewed as an undue endorsement of one religion over others and official promotion of Compassion International’s questionable practices. It also contended that the intervention could be seen as a defense of a non-governmental organization accused of circumventing existing Indian law.

The testimony referenced resources created by Compassion International staff promoting a strategy referred to as the “4/14 Window,” which targets youth ages 4-14 as the most effective long-term investment for evangelical missionizing because of the combined vulnerability and “receptivity to the Gospel” of children suffering from poverty.

“We believe that Compassion International’s claim that it is a humanitarian organization only, while its publicly stated mission is evangelization, is disingenuous,” said Suhag Shukla, Esq., HAF Executive Director and Legal Counsel. “We are deeply concerned that diplomatic and congressional efforts on its behalf could be interpreted as a tacit approval of work that contradicts our nation’s principles of religious freedom and pluralism.”

Although Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel, alongside several Committee members, extolled the virtues of the growing relationship with India in terms of defense cooperation, trade, and counter-terrorism initiatives, they condemned the Indian government for its enforcement of FCRA and its particular impact on Compassion International. The Chairman noted that many members of Congress supported Compassion International directly. HAF’s request that the Committee allow for a perspective from faith communities targeted by Compassion International to be invited to the panel was unsuccessful.

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) criticized references to India’s use of FCRA and suggested that it was used by India to suppress criticism of Hinduism, equating it to laws in China that reject criticism of atheism. He also suggested applying the State Department’s Country of Particular Concern (CPC) status to India because of its enforcement of FCRA — a status applied to only the most egregious violators of human rights such as Saudi Arabia and North Korea.

“We are shocked that Congressman Smith would equate India with known CPC nations and find that equivalence absolutely absurd,” said Jay Kansara, HAF Director of Government Relations. ”While every nation must be held accountable for human rights and basic freedoms, we are profoundly troubled by the insinuation that India’s safeguarding of its indigenous religious and social traditions — such as Hinduism and other dharma traditions — through extant law is deserving of the vilification which it was subjected to today.”