Christians from two churches in Malaysia rejected a requirement that they will need a police permit to sing Christmas carols in their parishes or homes.
Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing, head of the Malaysian bishops' conference, told Vatican-based Fides news that the country will soon be in “a police state” if authorities continue demanding such “bureaucratic requirements.”
Two churches in Klang outside the city of Kuala Lumpur recently received notices from police asking for the names and addresses of people who were singing Christmas carols, claiming that a government mandated permit was required for those wishing to sing carols in their homes or churches.
Father Andrew Lawrence, head of the diocesan “Herald” newspaper, called the police action “a strict interpretation” of current regulations on “worship and freedom of religion” in the country.
He noted, however, that after protests by local Christians, “government representatives have denied the need for such authorizations.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had promised voters in 2011 that he would overturn unpopular laws which stifle the press and allow for detentions without trial.
Instead, the Malaysian Congress sparked widespread protest after passing a new measure titled the “Law on Peaceful Assembly” which enables more government control.
According to Teresa Mok, the national secretary of the Democratic Action Party, the new norm is “an abuse of power by officials” and “an attempt to violate religious freedom.”