Participating via teleconference from the United States, Professor W. Cole Durham, Jr. testified concerning Indonesia’s blasphemy law at a session of the Indonesia Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi) in Jakarta on 24 March 2010. Recognized as a world expert in this matter, Professor Durham – who is Director of the International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University and Member of the OSCE/ODIHR Advisory Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief – spoke during a Court session on a civil society petition for a review of the blasphemy/heresy law, in response to a request by seven non-governmental organizations: the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation; Imparsial, the Community Advocacy Studies Institute; the Indonesian Legal Aid Union; the Association of Human Rights and Democracy Study Centers; the Setara Community Association; and Desantara Foundation.
Professor Durham testified about relevant international norms, comparative experience, and why striking down Law No 1/PNPS/1965 on Abuse and/or Defilement of Religions would help promote social stability. This law prohibits heresy and blasphemy: it prevents individuals from public expressions or “religious based activities” that “resemble the religious activities of the religion in question, where such interpretation and activities are in deviation of the basic teachings of the religion.” He responded to questions from the Constitutional Court justices, representatives of the Indonesian government, and the Ulema Council, Indonesia’s leading Muslim clerical body. “It was a great honor and a privilege for me to be able to address the Court,” said Professor Durham.