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Ahmad Nurcholish (right) with an interfaith couple (UCA News)

Indonesia’s top court has issued a circular requesting courts not approve interfaith marriages, which contradicts the court’s 1986 ruling which makes interfaith marriages legal in the Muslim-majority nation. Source: UCA News.

In the July 17 circular, Supreme Court chair Muhammad Syarifuddin emphasised the need to establish guidelines to “provide certainty and unity in the application of law in adjudicating applications for the registration of marriages between people of different religions and beliefs”.

The Supreme Court stressed that “a valid marriage is a marriage that is carried out according to the laws of each religion and belief” in accordance with the 1974 Marriage Law.

The circular contradicts a 1986 Supreme Court ruling that states interfaith marriages are legal in Indonesia by way of a court order. The order later became the jurisprudence for judges in deciding similar cases.

This order was banked on by religious institutions, including the Catholic Church, to conduct interfaith marriage ceremonies.

The new circular came after Muslim groups protested against several court decisions that recently granted a nod to marriages between Muslim and Christian couples.

Fr Yohanes Aristanto Heri Setiawan, executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference Family Commission, said yesterday that he was not ready to comment on this circular and the conference was “still discussing the response to the circular letter”.

Ahmad Nurcholish, a Muslim cleric who is a counsellor for interfaith couples, said the circular was “an extraordinary setback for the Supreme Court” because it contradicted the 1986 ruling

Bonar Tigos Naipospos, vice chairman of Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, an advocacy organisation for religious freedom, said the circular was “a setback and closed room for the advancement of the judiciary in guaranteeing the rights of citizens from diverse backgrounds.”


Indonesia’s top court issues circular against interfaith marriage (UCA News)