(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Knesset Finance Committee voted Wednesday not to extend tax benefits to a Christian nonprofit organization, saying it breaks the law by baptizing Jews.
The committee gave authorization to 54 organizations dealing in education, welfare, religion, sports, culture, and other fields for inclusion under Clause 46 of the Income Tax Ordinance, which allows donors to receive tax breaks for their contributions to such organizations, but took Yachad Ramat Hasharon off the list.
“The state does not need to fund groups that break the law. An organization that baptizes Jews is breaking the law and we certainly do not need to strengthen its activities,” Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) said. “Any organization that we find breaking the law will not get the benefit.”
“It’s against the law to baptize Jews as Christians and if we would have authorized the benefit for this organization, it would mean that the government is allowing and even encouraging fund-raising for missionary activities that undermine the Jewishness of the state,” Gafni warned.
Yachad Ramat Hasharon is a messianic Jewish congregation of Israelis based in Ramat Hasharon.
Despite Gafni’s comments, missionary work and converting to Christianity is not illegal in Israel.
There are two laws relating to missionary activity in the Israeli Penal Code 1977. Clause 174a prohibits offering material inducement to entice someone to convert, and clause 368a which prohibits missionary or proselytizing activity directed at minors.
Before NGOs can apply for Clause 46 approval, they must be audited by the Israel Tax Authority for good governance, which then recommends the request for this status to the Knesset Finance Committee. Clause 46 approval can be denied if the organization is found to be acting illegally or if it is not approved by the Tax Authority.
In the past, messianic Jewish groups and others have had their request for tax break status referred back to the Tax Authority by the Knesset Finance Committee, but were subsequently approved.sign up to our newsletter