An Indian court has said that controversial evangelist Benny Hinn will be allowed to visit the state of Karnataka despite protests and petitions from fundamentalist Hindi groups against him.
"India is a secular country. It has so many sects, languages, beliefs and religions as well as social and cultural groups. Tolerance is the need of the hour. We are shocked that the courts are used for these kinds of issues," said Karnataka's High Court, according to Asia News.
Hinn, who is scheduled to speak at a Christian Prayer Conference in Bangalore later this month, attracted protests from close to 2,000 Hindus who on Jan. 3 gathered in the city and called for officials to ban him from visiting.
He is being accused of having a "hidden agenda" of converting Hindus to Christianity, accusations he faced in his previous visit to Bangalore in 2005. Back then, several court cases were filed against him, with plaintiffs arguing that he was trying to convert locals.
The event will be held at Bethel Assembly of God Church, Jan. 15-17. Organizers said the prayer conference will not be a "healing crusade," even though prayers for the sick will be provided.
The Karnataka court has warned the Hindu petitioners that they should not be claiming superior rights against other citizens.
"We welcome the decision of the High Court," said Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians.
"Unfortunately, a small number of Hindu fundamentalists will stop at nothing to oppose anything that is Christian," George noted, arguing that such groups "don't seem to care much for the welfare of the nation or constitutional provisions, conveniently forgetting the fact that India is a well-respected democracy in the world."
Hinn, who holds "healing service" and prayer events several times a year in different countries around the world, noted that he will participate in all three days of the Bangalore prayer conference. On his website, he promises that the "life-changing event will feature an in-depth teaching from the Word of God, anointed worship and a powerful move of the Holy Spirit!"
The evangelist has been criticized over the years for false prophecies and claims about miracle healings that supposedly occur in such gatherings.
According to the CIA Factbook, over 80.5 percent of India's population, the second largest in the world, is Hindu. Muslims make up 13.4 percent, while Christians, only 2.3 percent.