CLS Press Statement: Federal Court Decision on Lina Joy

Civil Society looks to the Judicial System of a nation as the ultimate guardian of enshrined constitutional rights.

In this respect the Catholic Lawyers Society expresses its disappointment in the majority Federal Court decision of Lina Joy -vs- Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan and 2 Others for failing to recognize an individual's right to profess the religion of her choice.

Article 11 of the Federal constitution entrenches Freedom of Religion as a Fundamental Liberty of an individual. Lina Joy as a citizen was merely asserting this right via the judicial process. It is disheartening to note that the apex court of this multi religious country would refuse to give recognition to constitutional guarantees and instead abdicate its responsibility by requiring Lina Joy to seek her redress in the Syariah Courts.

The growing trend of the Civil Courts to refuse to assume jurisdiction on matters pertaining to religious conversion namely Islam is indeed worrying especially when Malaysia is regarded as a secular state and people of all religion live and contribute to the growth of this country. It appears that the guaranteed constitutional rights of an individual is subject to the tenets of Islam even though one no longer professes that faith.

We commend the bold and just dissenting decision of His Lordship Dato' Richard Malanjum, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak whose grounds of judgment clearly demonstrates that all Malaysians irrespective of race or religion are entitled to equal protection of the law (Article 8 Federal Constitution) and “it is the tasks of the judges of the Civil Courts who had sworn to uphold the Constitution to ensure that it is upheld at all times by giving effect to what the founding fathers of this great nation had in mind when they framed that sacred document”.

The divided decision of the Federal Court is an indication of the uncertain state of the law. The Catholic Lawyers Society calls on the relevant authorities to remedy the situation by repealing Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution and to restore the Supremacy of the Civil Courts.

Dated 29th Day of March 2007
…………sgd ……………………..
Francis Pereira
Catholic Lawyers Society
Tel No: 03-2096 1533

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