People from various religious backgrounds participate in an interfaith ceremony at the Dwarawati Temple complex near Kejajar in Wonosobo district, Central Java, in Aug. 2017. (Antara Photo/Anis Efizudin)

Indonesia's Constitutional Court Says Yes to Indigenous Faiths


NOVEMBER 08, 2017

Jakarta. A decision by Indonesia's Constitutional Court on Tuesday (07/11) to allow followers of indigenous faiths to state their beliefs on their national identity cards, or KTP, has been lauded as a major step forward for religious freedom in the country.

The Court declared that "... the word 'religion' on Article 61 [1] and Article 64 [1] of the Civil Administration Law contradicts the 1945 Constitution and is not legally binding."

The same ruling applies to Article 61 [2] and Article 64 [5] of the Civil Administration Law.

The Court recommended the creation of a seventh category – "believers of the faith," or penghayat kepercayaan – in addition to the six officially recognized religions – Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism – in Indonesia.


In 2016, followers of four indigenous faiths, or aliran kepercayaan – Marapu, Paralim, Ugamo Bangsa Batak and Sapto Darmo – filed a judicial review, arguing that the aforementioned laws violated the principle of equality before the law and were discriminatory.

Indonesian citizens are required to fill in the "religion" column on their identity cards, but are also allowed to leave the section blank, Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said last year.

CNN Indonesia quoted Constitutional Court judge Maria Farida Indrati as saying that leaving the "religion" column blank "does not provide a fair guarantee or legal certainty for believers of other faiths," and often leads to difficulties in obtaining family registration cards (KK) and e-KTP.

Judge Saldi Isra said efforts to create an orderly civil administration must not "lessen the rights of citizens, including the right to freedom of religion and belief," according to a report from state news agency Antara.