Chinese officials have warned Christian parents that if they continue to take their children to churches not approved by the government, their offspring will be banned from attending college or serving in the military, and will face legal action.
According to a report from China Aid, a local government office in China's central Guizhou province last month delivered the chilling ultimatum to parents who attend house churches.
After the notice was issued, members of Huaqiu Church were forced to sign a document saying that they would no longer take minors to church, or their children would be ineligible for the college entrance exam or admittance into a military academy. Additionally, parents who brought their children to church would be sued per the contract.
One elderly church member was forced to endorse a document forbidding him from attending church services so that his grandson's acceptance into a military academy would not be withdrawn.
China Aid notes that according to Chinese legislation, children under the age of 18 may not receive any religious education. The government sanctioned Protestant church, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, specifically forbids its members from "brainwashing" teenagers with religious beliefs and bringing children to religious activities.
"This notice was sent to all of the schools in Huaqiu," Mou, the person in charge of Huaqiu Church, said. "They (public security) intend to cleanse us and ask us to join the Three-Self Church."
He added, "Yesterday morning, I questioned a government official in our township, saying, 'We do not accept the way you handled our church's public meetings ... What regulations does the central government have prohibiting [church] meetings? Let us see them.' He said, 'The higher level leadership ordered us to do this; we are just doing [as they say].' Huaqiu is in a dark place."
China's government has exhibited a growing discomfort with Christianity, whose followers are said to rival in number the 86 million members of the Communist Party. The Pew Research Center puts the number of Christians in China at 67 million, 58 million of whom are Protestant and 9 million Catholic.
In an effort to suppress the growth of Christianity, local governments have removed more than 1,200 crosses from churches and other buildings since 2014, citing regulations on illegal structures. 500 activists and lawyers who opposed the cross demolition campaign have been detained in the last year, with many still imprisoned.
Despite the government's efforts, Christian congregations in China continue to skyrocket, prompting experts to speculate that by 2030, the country will be not just the world's number one economy, but also its largest Christian nation.
"By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon," Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule, told The Telegraph.
"It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change."