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Monday, June 5, 2023

Lutheran Church bishop accused of luring people to convert for government job

A Lutheran Church Bishop has been accused of corruption in appointing teachers in government paid positions and converting people by luring them with government jobs. Followers of the church have filed a complaint with CM MK Stalin in this regard and requested him to save the church’s properties from the bishop.

The Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church is a popular Christian denomination in India and was established in 1919. It is headquartered at Tiruchirappalli and runs  many educational and medical institutions across Tamil Nadu. It has established more than 200 churches, schools, 40 orphanages and homes for the destitute, 4 eye care hospitals and an Arts and Science college. Pastor Daniel Jeyaraj was consecrated as the 13th bishop of the church in January, 2019.

The bishop, despite reaching the age of 65(the upper age limit for holding the position) and thus should have retired from his position in March, 2020, didn’t leave the office. He dissolved the Church Council and continues to be bishop till this day. The council members took the issue to court which is pending.

Allegedly the bishop appointed his loyalists in the administrative positions and as the principal of the Christian Girl’s Higher Secondary school in Thanjavur which is a government aided institution. He has been accused of accepting bribes to appoint teachers in the school. Teachers in government aided institutions are paid by the government.

His critics have accused him of accepting a bribe of Rs.34 lakh to appoint one Hemavathi as a teacher in the school. There is also an accusation of converting Hemavathi overnight to give her the job. Bishop Daniel allegedly suspended Principal Ravindran who questioned this appointment and appointed his loyalists Benjamin Jeyaraj and Anitha Pramilapoorni as the Principal and Headmistress respectively.

The bishop has been accused of refusing to leave the office despite opposition from the laity and has allegedly appointed some gundas for his protection. Followers of Lutheran Church allege that there have been many complaints against the bishop which were taken to the Chief Educational Officer(CEO) but we’re never investigated. Allegedly the bishop has received more than Rs.25 crore as bribe for appointing teachers in government paid positions.

Citing these bishop Daniel’s critics and laity have appealed to TN CM MK Stalin to look into the matter and rescue the church from the holds of the bishop. They have accused the officials of the education department of accepting a bribe of Rs.50,000 from the bishop and acting in his favour.

Allegedly the new HM appointed by the bishop has been harassing the girl students and one of them even tried to kill herself. The concerned student was denied the right to be promoted to 12th standard citing lag in attendance, despite the fact that she attended school regularly. Other allegations of verbal sexual abuse, fleecing in the name of donations, etc fly thick and high.

The Tamil Evangelistic Lutheran Church (TELC) operates in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Andaman, Pondicherry and Karnataka. Followers of the church estimate the value of its properties to be around Rs.15,000 crore. TELC, an FCRA registered NGO receives Rs.4-5 crores every year. From 2015-2020 it has received Rs.21.66 crores from foreign donors. Daniel Jeyaraj is the chief functionary of the NGO.

All the institutions run by TELC are accorded minority status and thus are eligible to receive government aid. Teachers appointed in the institutions are paid by the government and incase of them being priests or nuns they are exempted from TDS. All these institutions are eligible for the Infrastructure Development in Minority Institutes(IDMI) scheme that offers upto 50 lakhs or 75% of the estimate for expansion of infrastructure.

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