Court hears experts testify
on Blasphemy Law

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday heard experts’ testimonies in a judicial review of the 1965 Blasphemy Law.

Five experts, comprising religious leaders and professors of religious study, shared views on the controversial law.

Four of the experts were presented by the government. Rev. Franz Magnis Suseno, a Catholic intellectual and professor, came as the only expert witness from the petitioners’ side.

Franz argued that the state should not have a say in determining whether a teaching is deviant.

“The state cannot say which is true between, say, the Catholics and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, even if the Catholics have hundreds of times more followers than the latter,” he said.

Earlier in January, several NGOs and backers of pluralism requested the Constitutional Court review several articles they believed discriminatory toward religious minority groups.

The contentious articles, they said, regulate the government’s authority to dissolve religious groups whose beliefs and practices are deemed blasphemous by religious authorities.

Under the law, the government also has the authority to charge leaders and followers of suspected heretical groups with an article in the Criminal Code, which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years’ imprisonment.

Article 1 of the Blasphemy Law stipulates that it is illegal to “intentionally publicize, recommend or organize public support for a different interpretation of a religion practiced in Indonesia or do a religious ritual resembling that of another religion”.

It also says that “practicing an interpretation of a religion that deviates from the core of that religion’s teachings” is illegal.

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