The Constitutional Court chief Mahfud MD said on Sunday that no one could be punished for being an atheist or communist, reaffirming his controversial statement on Indonesia’s freedom of religion which he made last Tuesday.
Atheists and communists, he said, were considered in violation of the law if they formed an organization which acted against the state’s Pancasila ideology.
“They can only be punished if they breach laws or threaten [the nation’s ideology]. If they revive the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) or establish an atheist organization, they can be sentenced for opposing Pancasila,” he said in Jakarta on Sunday evening as quoted by kompas.com.
Despite allowing people to adhere to atheism or communism, Indonesia still possesses several laws that combat their existence. Several measures have been taken to make people in these groups equal to followers of other faiths, but such initiatives have so far failed.
Indonesia ‘s ban on communism and Marxist/Leninist ideology is based on the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Decree XXV/MPRS/1966.
The late president Abdurrahman Wahid had tried to revoke the decree, but eventually backed down amid widespread protests.
Law No. 5/1965 on Blasphemy stipulates that the state recognizes six official religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
In 2010, seven non-governmental organizations and three individuals, including Abdurrahman Wahid, requested a judicial review by the Constitutional Court, arguing the law was discriminatory, intolerant, and close-minded toward religious diversity and freedom.
All but one of nine judges at the court considered that the law was necessary “to maintain public order and respect for the rights of others “ and, therefore, upheld it.
“The petitioners’ request has no legal basis either formally or materially,” said Mahfud MD when reading out the verdict in April 2010.