The Baptist Church in Meghalaya on Saturday said that no political party has offered it any "money or sops" ahead of February 27 assembly polls to influence its members.
The statement comes a day after Union Tourism Minister K.J. Alphons rubbished the contention of Congress President Rahul Gandhi that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was trying to buy the churches in this poll-bound state.
"No political party has offered any money or sops to the apex Baptist Church organisation with a view to influencing our members. Separation of Church and State is one of the distinctive (features) of the Baptist Church polity," said Rev. J.R. Sangma, the general secretary of the Garo Baptist Convention, in a statement.
"The Garo Baptist Church is apolitical and neutral in its political dealings. While it does not believe nor indulge in influencing its members to vote for a particular political party or candidate, it has always stood for what is right, just and fair," Sangma said.
The Church leader urged the electorate of the state to exercise their franchise "wisely and prayerfully without fear or inducement" so that a stable, pro-people government could be formed for a prosperous and peaceful Meghalaya.
"Irrespective of which party forms the government after the elections, it will continue to play its prophetic role in the society by fighting against all that is evil and detrimental to the secular democratic fabric of the country in general and Meghalaya in particular," Sangma said.
The Congress president had attacked the BJP, saying it had offered money to churches ahead of the polls as "their entire idea is always to divide, oppress and to be nasty".
"They think that they can come here and they can buy the church, the religion and the God," Gandhi had said.
However, Alphons, a Christian himself, questioned the Congress as to what it had done for the Christians in Meghalaya when they were in power for 70 years at the Centre and for 40 years in Meghalaya.
"Rahul Gandhi has accused the central government of trying to buy the churches in Meghalaya. This is because the central government had sanctioned Rs 70 crore to develop religious and spiritual circuits in the state," he said.
"Now, if the government is doing something for a community, you are saying that were are trying to bribe the churches now. Does he (Gandhi) think the Church is purchaseable. He thinks it is available to be purchased with money. It's very shameful that president of a national party is insulting the Church in Meghalaya," said Alphons, who is also the party in-charge for the state polls.
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