Blacklisted American evangelist on Tourist Visa spreads hate in Manipur

Blacklisted American evangelist on Tourist Visa spreads hate in Manipur

The incidents of preachers entering India on tourist visas and then engaging in religious activities continue to emerge in the country. Also, such persons who illegally engage in proselytization activities, further spread hate against one particular community, specifically to be Hindus in India.

One such similar case has come to the fore amid the ongoing unrest in the state of Manipur, where a Christian missionary, a US National named Daniel Stephen Courney, who was deported and blacklisted from India in the year 2017 entered the country recently on a tourist visa. He was further seen involved in proselytization activities in Manipur under the pretext of doing social service (distributing blankets and mattresses) and preaching Christianity. He later also distributed Bibles and delivered hate speech against Hindus and the BJP-led Indian government.

As per the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, a foreign national entering India on the strength of a Tourist Visa is not allowed to preach and propagate his religion in India.

Government, BJP deliberately targeting Kuki Christians, Courney accused

The incident came to light after Daniel Stephen Courney posted a live video from Manipur on 5th August on Facebook saying that Christians were being persecuted and that the community was being deliberately targeted. “Christianity here is being deliberately targeted. There is a conflict between Meitei and Kuki people. So Kukis are tribal Christians and they are being systematically persecuted. They are being run out of their homes. Their villages are burnt due to their Christian identity,” he could be heard saying in the video.

Daniel Stephen Courney spreading hate against Hindus, Indian Government from OpIndia Videos on Vimeo.

Further in the 13-minute long live video stream, Courney called the Indian government a ‘radical Hindu government’ and blatantly accused it of allegedly fueling the violence against the Christians. “Several villages in the northeast are Christians. I have never seen so many churches in my life. There is a systematic attempt to expunge the growth of Christianity and expunge the rapid, exponential spread of Christianity here,” he added.

The US national also stated that the maximum population in the northeast is Christian and that it is the holy land of Christians. “Christianity is metastasizing here and the current ruling political party in India feels threatened and so they are attempting to exterminate and curtail the growth of Christianity.

‘Jealousy possessed by Meitis against Kukis is main reason for conflict’

Showering praises for the Kuki community, Courney said that the tribal Christians in Manipur are blessed by God and are prosperous. He also indicated that jealousy possessed by the Meiti people against the Kukis is the main reason for the ongoing conflict in the state. “Meities are Hindus and have a hold on Imphal valley which is the capital of the state. And the hilly regions of the state are inhabited by the Kukis who are Christians. Kukis are blessed. They have cars, refrigerators, washing machines, etc. When we think of tribals, we see bows and arrows, but these people are living the good life. Even those living in villages have all the amenities. And naturally, jealousy is growing. Meities are feeling threatened by the growth and prosperity of the Kukis,” he could be heard saying.

“Manipur issue revolves around a land dispute but this is mainly an identity crisis,” he stated accusing the BJP and PM Modi of deliberately persecuting the Christians and the Muslims in India.

‘Dr. BR Ambedkar repented of Hinduism, I wish he had become a Christian’

The US national also said that the current Indian government was making attempts to violate the Indian Constitution. He also broadly wished that the chief architect of India’s Constitution Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar should have converted to Christianity instead of Buddism. “The Indian Constitution guarantees the right for people to propagate their faith. The Constitution was written by Dr BR Ambedkar. He became a Buddhist. He himself repented Hinduism and became Buddhist. I wish he had become a Christian,” he said.

He pressed that Article 25 of the Constitution of India is not like the United States and allows the propagation of faith. He claimed that around 400 churches in several villages of Manipur had been burnt and many Kuki families have been forced to leave the villages and stay at the refugee camps.

Courney spread disbelief, hate against Indian Government in the minds of refugees

As per the information obtained by OpIndia, Daniel Stephen Courney went to several villages in Manipur and ‘preached’ Christianity. He also influenced the people negatively against Hinduism under the pretext of performing social service. He offered the people staying in the refugee camps mattresses, blankets, and cooking vessels and roped in their minds massive hate against the Hindu community. One such video was obtained by OpIndia in which the rabid Christian missionary could be seen delivering a hate speech against the Hindu community and spreading disbelief against the Indian government in the name of preaching Christianity.

“The Hindus many times tried to kill me for preaching about Jesus. They put ropes around my neck. They beat me with sticks. They threw me on the ground and stepped on my head. They say you must say Jai Shri Ram or else we’ll kill you. And I said I will not wear tika (kumkum on forehead), I will not praise your God. They hit me in my face as I refused to say, Jai Shri Ram. I am Christian. I follow Jesus. Once they hit me so hard that I fell unconscious for 15 minutes. The Government of India might not help you but Lord will,” he said.

Fanatic Christian missionary Daniel Stephen Courney defaming Hindus in the name of preaching in Manipur from OpIndia Videos on Vimeo.

The Legal Rights Protection Forum (LRPF), a legal rights activists body from the state of Telangana took cognizance of the event and wrote to the Ministry of Home Affairs demanding strict action against the US national who is a repeat offender. The letter written by LRPF on August 14 mentioned that the US national stays in Nepal and regularly sneaks into India for Christian evangelist activities.

“His visit to Manipur is fraught with serious risks to the fragile peace in place in Manipur at this point in time. He has joined hands with Christian evangelists from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in stoking the fire in Manipur. After visiting Manipur Daniel S Courney and his fellow evangelists are putting out social media posts and videos accusing one community of harming Christians. This is leading to a dangerous situation and developing hatred between Christians and non-Christians,” the complaint letter read.

About Daniel Stephen Courney and his evangelical activities in India

The American evangelist named Daniel Stephen Courney entered India on a “Tourist Visa” in the year 2009 and stayed for over ten years. He actively participated in and supervised conversions to Christianity throughout what was formerly Andhra Pradesh. He stayed with his pastor friend in Gantur who advised him that he would have to marry locally if he wished to stay in India forever. So he got married to a Guntur District Telugu local and managed to safeguard his “Conversion Mission.”

Following a sustained follow-up by members of the LRPF team with the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer (FRRO) of Hyderabad and the Foreigners Division, New Delhi for more than two months, the missionary was deported in 2017 and placed on a blacklist by Indian immigration authorities.

His talks are highly vehement and outright offensive to other religions, specifically Hinduism, and they also criticize the Indian government.

Image- VSK Telangana

Once, he was found guilty on two charges of violating the public order with racial and religious motivations in 2018.

He has been reported to have used a drone to spy on an abortionist in Englewood, Colorado in 2021. He was apprehended after being spotted using the drone, which had a microphone and camera, outside Metropolitan Medical Associates on Engle Street. In the past, Courney and other pro-life campaigners also frequently held demonstrations there. He also made an effort to keep individuals out of the clinic that provides reproductive health care. He was then forbidden to enter even a distance of 25 feet from the Englewood clinic.

He is also said to have been charged in 2021, along with two other Christians, for violating the state’s anti-bias intimidation law, specifically for “shouting homophobic rhetoric directly in front of Allure Salon,” following a sermon to the openly homosexual salon owner and an employee.

Christian Missionary’s Journey in Manipur

The Facebook page of the Christian Missionary reveals that he is a father of six children. His Facebook page further indicates that he flew to Assam in the first week of August 2023, and he has reportedly been travelling the North-Eastern states with the alleged assistance of the West Bengal Joint Secretary and the International Human Rights Council.

He announced on his Facebook page on August 3, 2023, that he had distributed 50 Assamese New Testaments on Platform No. 6 of the Guwahati Railway Station, Assam, with one M.S. Kumar, a man from Hyderabad.

Screenshots of Facebook posts obtained by OpIndia

On August 5, 2023, he travelled to Senapati in Manipur State and broadcast a live video criticizing the Indian government, branding it a “Radical Hindu Government,” and accusing it of continuing to persecute Christians in the region.

On August 10, 2023, he wrote on his Facebook page that at least 400 churches were burned to the ground and asked for donations from abroad for the ‘victims’ of the unrest in Manipur. “Hundreds of Christians kills. Countless families had their homes and entire villages razed to the ground,” he wrote. 

Screenshots of the Facebook Post obtained by OpIndia

He also ‘preached’ religion to the people staying in the refugee camps and influenced them against the Indian Government saying that the Government of India might not help them but Lord will.

LRPF seeks a permanent ban on the US National

In its complaint, the LRPF stated that Daniel S Courney distributed Bibles (in the Assamese language) to people at Guwahati Railway Station. “Courney is a habitual offender, once deported from India but again visited India with the same objective of converting people to Christianity. He is making false accusations against the government of India and provoking the people of Manipur with his hate-filled speech,” the complaint read.

“Despite being deported in the past, Mr Daniel Stephen Courney has not mended his ways and continues to abuse the visitor visa granted to him. He is lurking on the Indo-Nepal border and sneaking into India regularly. Only permanent blacklisting of Mr. Daniel Stephen Courney will put an end to his nefarious evangelist and Christian conversion activities,” it added demanding a permanent ban on him from entering India by declaring him as ‘Persona non-Grata’ to the Government of India.

As per the Ministry of Home Affair, a foreign national entering India on the strength of Tourist Visa is not allowed to preach and propagate his religion in India.

Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, propagation and conversion

While Courney, as mentioned above, claimed that the Constitution of India allowed its citizens to propagate religion, the Supreme Court in the year 1977 had ruled that the right to “propagate” did not mean the right to “proselytize”.

“Subject to public order, morality, and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion,” says Article 25 (1), laying out the fundamental right along with reasonable restrictions. 

The Supreme Court declared in Rev. Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Others (1977) that the freedom to propagate does not entail the right to proselytize. The top court then also rejected the Odisha High Court’s position that proselytism fell under the purview of Article 25 because it is fundamental to the Christian faith.

“The word ‘propagate’ has been used in the Article as meaning to transmit or spread from person to person or from place to place. The Article does not grant right to convert another person to one’s own religion but to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets,” said the five-judge Supreme Court bench in Stanislaus (1977) verdict.

The court also emphasized that if a person is given the right to convert, then the other person’s freedom of religion would be affected.

Foreigners on Tourist Visa not allowed to propagate religion in India

In the given case, as complained by the LRPF, Daniel Stephen Courney arrived in India on Tourist visa and was seen involved in Christian proselytization activities across Indian states including in Manipur recently. He also distributed Bibles and delivered hate speech against the BJP-led Indian Government.

Notably, as per the Ministry of Home Affair, a foreign national entering India on the strength of Tourist Visa is not allowed to preach and propagate his religion in India. Hence, Courney is supposed to have violated the law by entering India on a Tourist Visa and engaging in evangelical activities.

MHA’s Reponse to RTI by LRPF (document obtained by OpIndia)

Ongoing unrest in Manipur

As reported earlier, the ongoing violence in Manipur erupted after a rally by the All Tribal Students Union of Manipur (ATSUM) on May 3 in protest against the proposed inclusion of people belonging to the Meitei community in the list of Scheduled Tribes (STs).

While the tribal groups have been opposing the demand of the Meitei community’s demand for ST status for years, the recent protests and violence were triggered by a Manipur High Court order on 27 March, directing the Manipur state government to submit recommendations to the union government for the inclusion of Meitei in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list. The court had issued the order after several petitions filed by Meitei activists seeking the said direction.

The high court also criticized the state government for dragging the issue for over 10 years. The demands by Meities started with a memorandum submitted to the governor in November 2012 by the Scheduled Tribes Demand Committee of Manipur Valley (STDCM). The committee then met Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh in December 2012 with the demand and then met prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh in July 2013 with the demand. However, the PM then asked them to discuss the matter with the state cabinet.

The recent violence however got massive attention after the horrifying viral video of women being paraded naked surfaced from Manipur. The video sent shock waves across the country attracting demands of strict punishment against such heinous crimes. The perpetrators were later arrested by the state police.

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