CLS Press Statement: Warning And “Show Cause” Letters Issued To Herald

A series of warning letters culminating in a “show cause” letter have been issued by the Home Ministry to the HERALD-The Catholic Weekly in respect of articles carried by the paper which, according to an official from the Home Ministry, were allegedly “politically inclined and touched on Islamic issues”.

The Herald is a weekly publication printed by the Catholic Church in Malaysia. It carries news of current affairs and religious and educational articles with a view to propagating the Catholic faith.

The Herald is sold in churches and not by newsvendors. The Herald has a circulation of 13,000 copies per week and a readership estimated at 50,000.

In seeking to control the contents of the Herald, the Home Ministry’s warning and “show cause” letters go against Article 3 (1), Article 10 (1) (a) and Article 11 (3) (a) of the Federal Constitution i.e. the right to freely practice one’s religion, the general freedom of speech and expression and the right of a religious group to manage its own affairs. Such controls would deprive the Catholic community of current information and education relating to their faith and such an act by the authorities is tantamount to a curtailment of religious freedom.

The Honourable Home Minister has said that the Herald should restrict its articles to matter pertaining to religion only. In an article carried by the Sun on 14.8.2008, he was quoted as stating “If you are to write on religion, then you are supposed to touch on matters pertaining to

  • questions on rituals,
  • adherence to God,
  • followers
  • and anything related to your divine mission.”

It is significant that the Honourable Minister referred to matters pertaining to the adherence to God, followers and anything related to the divine mission. The Catholic Church teaches that it is the duty of Christians to contribute along with the civil authorities to the good of the society in a spirit of truth, justice, solidarity and freedom. This contribution of Christians to society is rooted in love. This love manifests itself in social and political charity. Social charity is to seek the good of all people not only as individuals but as a larger, social community. In order to promulgate social charity, it is necessary to organise and structure society in order that no member of society is left in need. Organising and structuring society requires the application of political charity. This teaching in found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and for the purpose of easy reference this can be read on pages 207 & 208 under the section “The Way of Love”.

The reporting in the Herald is in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church on social and political charity and on each Catholic’s mission as an adherent of the faith.

Ultimately, the interpretation of what constitutes religious matters should be left to the leaders and adherents of the faith in question. The Home Ministry is not in a position to dictate to Catholics (or for that matter, the proponents of any other faith) the scope of their religion.

The Catholic Lawyers’ Society of Kuala Lumpur calls on the Home Ministry to withdraw its warning and “show cause” letters and maintain the Herald’s publishing permit.

Mabel Sabastian
Catholic Lawyers’ Society Kuala Lumpur
18th August 2008

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