Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The cost of free worship

I have been gripped by this issue.
This article in theSun published on Feb 18, 2008 has brought us straight into the fundamental principles rocking the Draft Local Plan.

The Federal Constitution clearly provides for an individual’s right to profess and practice his religion. If there is a need to apply for permit, we immediately assume a possibility of rejection. Freedom to practice one's religion is violated the moment a law is imposed to restrict such freedom. Even if there is only a tiny chance of such an application being denied, then this rule would instantly amount to a violation of freedom to practice one's religion.


If such permits are not granted, churches would be forced to move out from shop and factory lots. Where to then? Churches must go on a hunt for a suitable place to ‘
practice their religion’ in a country where “church land” is not easily acquired. Alternatives must always be considered before such implementation. How long would such applications take? No church services while waiting for approval?

And RM1,000 for admin fees? To be extremely conservative - suppose there are 100 places of worship under MPSJ’s jurisdiction. That would mean MPSJ will be generating RM100,000 annually from these permits; working out to RM1million in 10 years – all from non-profit making institutions. We seem to be drifting farther away from the hallmarks of a developed nation when the town council demands RM1,000 every year from places of worship.


What would happen to churches who are not able to pay RM1,000 for such annual permits? The poor would be discriminated. How do you justify such a hefty price? Churches are not profit making institutions. How could our fundamental rights be impinged upon? That’s not
freedom!


Time for change.