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HVK Archives: Faith healing row deepens

Faith healing row deepens - The Times of India, Ahmedabad

Posted By Ashok Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
October 9, 1998

Title: Faith healing row deepens - Haren Pandya threatens 'strict
Publication: The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Date: October 9, 1998

The controversy surrounding US-based faith healer Roger Houtsma has come
to the boil with minister of state for Home Haren Pandya accusing him of
violating regulations and the latter maintaining, "Testimony and words
of the Bible are my weapons and I cannot give it away to anyone except

Asserting "We will take strict action against the faith healer if he
does not behave," Mr Pandya accused him of using a spiritual discourse
venue in Rajkot to make claims of supernatural powers for healing polio
victims, thereby "misguiding" the 800-strong audience. "Houtsma invoked
the name of Jesus Christ to prove how he had cured five polio victims
and a deaf person, in violation of his assurance..." Mr Pandya said.

"Houtsma has been issued show-cause notice under Section 33(1)," the
minister said, adding, it is surprising that he went to such an extent
despite a High Court ruling."

Not ruling out the possibility of Houtsma using the occasion to convert
people to Christianity, the minister said, "An organisation called
Twenty Coastal Church had sponsored the programme in which Brother
Nathan from the US, Peter Orman from Ahmedabad and Father Joseph from
Rajkot took an active part."

The minister claimed it was the first time that action was being
initiated against so-called faith healers.

"These people generally garner a huge amount by using such occasions to
fool people," said a senior official, adding," In Rajkot, a rationalist
society had come forward to demand action against Houtsma."

Meanwhile, it is reliably learnt that strict instructions have been
issued by the Home ministry to the Rajkot police authorities not to
allow the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to jump into the affair. The VHP
leadership is believed to have been told, in no uncertain terms, that
any plans to confront the faith healer would draw flak from members of
other communities and hence no campaign should be carried out.

In Rajkot, the issue the organisers of Houtsma's prayer meetings refused
to give a written assurance to the police commissioner that 'miracles'
and 'testimonies' will not farm part of the programme being organised at
the Race Course ground.

"I am ready to die rather than change my words (on miracle cures),"
Houtsma asserted, setting the stage for confrontation between the
organisers of his prayer sessions on one side and the police, the VHP
and the Jan Vigyan Jatha volunteers on the other.

Police commissioner Sudhir Sinha told TOINS that Rev T K Joseph, pastor
of a Rajkot church, had verbally assured him that Thursday's meeting
would be confined to rendering of religious hymns devotees' offerings.
The meeting was called off after half an hour. The organisers, m the
meanwhile, have faxed a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi,
President, President K R Narayanan, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
and Union Home Minister L K Advani claiming that VHP - Bajrang Dal
demonstrations had prevented smooth conduct of Wednesday's meeting.

Earlier, Mr Sinha had issued a notice to the organisers asking them to
explain why the permission granted for prayer meeting should not be
withdrawn. it was to be replied to by afternoon. However, the
organisers sought time to go to court. They pleaded the commissioner
should not stop their meetings, contending it was an attack on the
fundamental right to offer prayers at any place.

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