Indonesia, a secular democratic country with a clear Muslim-majority population, guarantees all people in Indonesia the freedom of worship, each according to his or her own religion or belief system. But the Constitution also orders that the state shall be based upon the belief in "the one and only God", a condition which also forms the first principle of the Pancasila, Indonesia's state philosophy. This sentence is, however, in conflict with the previous statement about embracing religious freedom (and is also in conflict with a religion like Hinduism, one of the officially recognized religions in Indonesia, that acknowledges a variety of gods).

Problematically, the Indonesian government only recognizes six official religions (Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism). Every Indonesian individual is required to embrace one of these religions as it is mandatory personal data that is mentioned in official documents such as passports and other identification cards. However, there still exists a minority in Indonesia that follow other belief-systems (ethnic religions) and they prefer not to be identified as - for example - a Muslim or Hindu. In a 2000 census, approximately 400,000 Indonesians identified as embracing beliefs outside the six main religions (the actual figure could be higher as not all people dare to express their true faith).

Meanwhile, atheism is not an option in Indonesia and, in fact, is a socially unacceptable ideology (however there is no law that bans atheism either).

On Tuesday (07/11), however, Indonesia's Constitutional Court recommended the preparation of an additional religious category (in addition to the existing six categories) on Indonesians' ID cards (a sort of catch-all category) for those who do not want to identify as (1) Muslim, (2) Protestant, (3) Catholic, (4) Hindu, (5) Buddhist or (6) Confucian. Problematically, those Indonesians who refuse to take up one of these six officially recognized religions have limited access to education, employment, and (legal) marriage.

The legal challenge occurred after followers of some of the country's ethnic religions (or faiths) launched the challenge in response of 2013 Civil Administration Law that denied recognition and legal rights to followers of ethnic faiths. Unanimously, the Constitutional Court (consisting of a nine-judge panel) decided that articles in the 2013 Civil Administration Law were discriminatory and violated the principle of equality before the law. Presiding judge Arief Hidayat said "these articles are not legally binding as they contradict the 1945 Constitution.

It is indeed a big ruling. Local activists welcomed the ruling and called it a "new chapter for religious freedom" in Indonesia where many activists and citizens are concerned about the rising influence of hardline Islam on political and judicial decision-making.

Read more:

Overview of Indonesia's Political System
Overview of Religions in Indonesia

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