Jehovah’s Witnesses denied state aid for 2021 – NRK Norway – Overview of news from different parts of the country
In a message on their website, the Attorney General writes that they have found several violations of the religious community law by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“After receiving warnings from previous members regarding exclusion and expulsion of members, the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs has asked the State Administrator in Oslo and Viken to review Jehovah’s Witnesses’ own statements and publications. In this review, the State Administrator has uncovered several violations of the Religious Communities Act “, they write.
According to the State Administrator’s exclusionary practice that members are denied contact with unsubscribed members. In practice, this means that those who sign up can not have contact with family and friends in the congregation, the State Administrator believes.
“In our opinion, this prevents the right to free withdrawal, and is contrary to the Religious Communities Act § 2. This means that the State Administrator violates the right to free withdrawal and section 2 of the Religious Communities Act.”
- NRK Brennpunkt has through the documentary series «God’s elect» had a number of cases concerning religious denominations, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and their practice of exclusion
Will appeal the decision
Fabian Fond at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Scandinavia, writes in an e-mail to NRK that they are disappointed:
“The decision will be appealed. The appeal process will give us an opportunity to clearly explain why our faith and religious practices fully respect the rights and freedoms of others. “
Fond further writes that no one is forced or pressured to become, or continue to be, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses:
“It is worth noting that trials in several lands have confirmed the right of Jehovah’s Witnesses to exclude persons who choose not to live by the moral standards of the Bible. As a registered religious community in Norway, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been eligible to receive government grants for more than 30 years. “
The Ministry of Children and Family Affairs is to process a complaint.
- Benedict had to explain himself in the “religious judgment committee” – the internal court of the religious community
– Prevents the right to free registration
The state administrator writes in his decision that they are also critical of the religious community opening up to exclude baptized minors.
“This means that children can be excluded if they break the rules of the religious community. We believe this is negative social control and violates children’s rights “, writes the State Administrator.
– We have considered the offenses to be systematic and intentional, and have therefore chosen to refuse subsidies.
The current Minister of Culture and Gender Equality, Anette Trettebergstuen, said in 2019 that Jehovah’s Witnesses were violating human rights and should lose state support.
– This feels like a victory
Former Jehovah’s Witness member Louise Myrland is delighted with the decision.
– I was super happy. I went straight to social media and contact friends. This feels like a victory, that I have won a case, she says to NRK.
– I myself am an offer for this exclusion scheme that Jehovah’s Witnesses have. It involves not seeing my family or friends I grew up with.
She told her story in the Brennpunkt documentary God’s Chosen as well Ida Kårhus.
The Data Protection Agency announced after wanting to investigate whether Jehovah’s Witnesses store information about members’ sex lives.
– The idea that I pay tax money that has gone, among other things, to support the religious community that runs this exclusion scheme, has never been right for me since I was 21 years old. It has been hard to support something that takes away my joy, she says.
- The breakup with Jehovah’s Witnesses saved Ramona’s life. Now she is fighting for the religious community to lose state support.
The state administrator in Oslo and Viken, Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, says that they were notified by former Jehovah’s Witness members about what they believe is a crime.
– The religious communities law we now have has been changed, so that we are obliged to supervise the religious communities so that they follow the legislation. And then we see that they have an exclusionary practice that is not in line with the legislation we have, she says to NRK.
She states that in their investigations, they have had conversations with both members and ex-members of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
16 million kroner
According to an overview from the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs, 12,686 contributing members of Jehovah’s Witnesses were registered in 2021. According to the State Attorney, they will now miss out on NOK 16 million in support.
What does it take for Jehovah’s Witnesses to receive state aid again?
– Then they must look at the new religious community law and follow it. And then they may have to apply again, says Svarstad Haugland.
How serious would you say this case is for a religious community?
– To put it this way: it takes a lot before one deprives a religious community of state support. But this time we think it’s so serious that we have to do it.