Norwegian Jehovah’s Witnesses are no longer registered as a religious community. The State Administrator in Oslo and Viken withdraws its registration.
The State Administrator sent a notice to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in October already to warn them about the possibility of losing their registration, the Administrator writes in a press release. That would mean that they would no longer be able to receive state subsidies and lose the right to seal marriages. The statement asked them whether they wanted to change the conditions that would lead to this loss of registration.
The reason for the withdrawal is the exclusionary practice that the Jehovah’s Witnesses uphold when someone in the community breaks religious rules, Vart Land reported on Thursday. “In our opinion, the religious community violates the members’ rights to free expression. We believe this violates the members’ right to freedom of religion”, the statement of the State Administrator reads. In addition, the government body argues that the Jehovah’s Witnesses violate the rights of children by allowing the exclusion of baptised members.
However, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have already indicated that they will not change their practices.
The removal of registration as a religious community does not ban the activities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Vart Land writes. They can continue to practise their religion.
Vebjørn Selbekk, the editor-in-chief of Dagen, sees this step as part of a “crusade” against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He writes so in an opinion article in Dagen. According to Selbekk, the State Administrator decided “that this is a group for which life should be made as difficult as possible.” Earlier, the State Administrator had already cut the grants for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Respect for religious minorities and their rights is actually an important temperature gauge for the health of democracy. And it is weakened when the state uses its means of power to punish a religious community because of their religious teachings and practices”, Selbekk writes.
The editor-in-chief is worried about the new Religious Communities Act introduced by the government last year. The new law gives more power to the state to intervene against religious communities “that break society’s norms.”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses recently announced that they will sue the state for refusing state funding in 2021. That is reported by Vart Land. The summons against the state was sent to the Oslo District Court on Wednesday, the Jehovah’s Witnesses told Vart Land in an e-mail.