Just last year, my parents were in a panic about politics in Indonesia. My parents are Indonesian immigrants, but have gone to university in the U.S. and have built their lives and careers here. However, they still have strong ties back to Indonesia and are surprisingly very politically active for those living outside their own country.
The news that had them in an uproar was the imprisonment of Ahok, a “ liberal” Chinese and Christian candidate for president. Indonesia being a majority Muslim country with a horrid history with its Chinese minority are split on their opinion of the candidate. Ahok was charged with “blasphemy” against Islam and will be in prison for years should his sentence be upheld. This shows a great back step to Indonesian democracy, as this is a blatant stance proving that Indonesia is moving away from the freedom of speech and separation of church and state (or in this case mosque and state).
It is an American experience in itself to see my parents struggling to make sense of the politics of their homeland in comparison to U.S. democratic policy, but for myself to truly see what happens under different countries’ laws is striking. It makes me very appreciative of the guaranteed constitutional freedoms we are allowed here. There is of course religious freedom guaranteed in our First Amendment, but also, between the lines is the separation of church and state. While the term doesn’t blatantly appear in the constitution itself, the Court ruling in Everson v. Board of Education stated “the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State.’” It is implied, and so the combination of these rights means that I could in theory slander about anyone including the president and any religion, and not fear the prospect of ending up in jail. Thank God.