Do NOT Register with ROS
The Registrar of Societies (ROS) has clarified at a meeting with NECF Malaysia that churches are not mandated to register with it (ROS) as they have the right to exist under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.
However, many churches are registering as societies to resolve practical problems such as opening bank accounts and holding properties.
"Properties can be held through a company or trustee," explained NECF Malaysia Secretary-General Sam Ang. "Hence, there is no need to become an ROS member just so you can hold properties."
As for the issue of opening bank accounts, ROS informed NECF that it would seek clarification from Bank Negara whether churches must be registered as societies first before they could open a bank account.
Article 11(3)(a) of the Federal Constitution clearly states that every religious group has the right to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes.
The word "institutions" must necessarily include churches, temples and the like. The very expression "religious group" used here already assumes that religious practice is often a group experience.
No conditions are found in Article 11 or in the rest of the Constitution that require a religious group to form a legal association before it can be regarded as lawful.
On top of this, Article 11(3)(a) of the Federal Constitution states that every religious group has the right to manage its own religious affairs.
This implies that these groups cannot be compelled to form legal associations as in doing so, they subject themselves to many additional requirements.
For example, by incorporating as a company or registering as a society, religious groups make themselves subject to all the requirements of the Companies Act 1965 and the Societies Act 1966.
They are also subject to the authority of the Registrar of Companies and the ROS who may direct them to do certain acts or comply with certain conditions.
Therefore, NECF's stand is that churches do not need to be registered as societies.