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By 8. March 2024Writings


Massimo Introvigne has written an article with criticisms of the decision against Jehovah’s Witnesses by the District Court in Oslo. The link is:

Introvigne is a strong defender of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that is his privilege. Usually, his arguments can be discussed in a logical way. But his attempt to question the motives and the competence of the judge in this case questions his own objectivity

I have made some comments on this article below where I also ask some questions. Introvigne has refused to answer these questions.


The first rule of a balanced scholarly discussion is that the focus must be on the case and not on the person. Introvigne has not followed this rule. We read on page 4:

In the end, the Oslo judge found it safer to focus on minors who are first baptized and then, if they become unrepentant sinners, shunned.  One can measure the cultural distance of the judge’s own feelings from those of any conservative religious group, not only the Jehovah’s Witnesses, when he wrote that he finds it “reasonable to expect” that most minors would engage in “sexual relations with their boyfriends or girlfriends.” Apart from the cultural problems of the judge in understanding conservative religion, he accepts the opinion of an “apostate” ex-member that minors are baptized and become Jehovah’s Witnesses when they are not mature enough to understand their obligations. But surely this is a drastic conclusion one cannot arrive at on the basis of one witness or a few anecdotical examples. What would be required is a quantitative study of those baptized as minors. Nothing similar is quoted in the decision. Although Norway has introduced a system of “youth punishment” with more lenient penalties for them, minors can be tried from criminal offenses from age 15. If they are mature enough in Norway to stand a trial before a criminal court, perhaps they are also mature enough to make informed religious decisions.

There are several things that should be discussed in this paragraph.


The words “the judge found it safer” question the judge’s competence. It implies that the judge did not objectively evaluate the arguments of both parties and the testimonies of all 24 witnesses before making his decision. Instead he found a loophole for his decision where he felt safe and could avoid criticism.


The words “One can measure the cultural distance of the judge’s own feelings from those of any conservative religious group” and “Apart from the cultural problems of the judge in understanding conservative religion” are again ad hominem arguments. Introvigne implies that the judge’s feelings and personal viewpoints were behind his decision.


I continue with the quotation. Introvigne writes:

One can measure the cultural distance of the judge’s own feelings from those of any conservative religious group, not only the Jehovah’s Witnesses, when he wrote that he finds it “reasonable to expect” that most minors would engage in “sexual relations with their boyfriends or girlfriends.”

This quotation is wrong. My translations of the words he refers to are as follows:

Here, it must be stressed that it is “reasonable to expect that several youths, during the process of becoming adults—as part of the development of creating their own identity—will violate rules that can lead to disfellowshipping, such as sexual relations to a girlfriend or distancing oneself from an outlook on life that he is not certain of.”

The Norwegian words are “en del ungdom” An alternative to my rendering of “several youths” can be “some youths.” Introvigne’s use of “most minors” is wrong.

The only meaning of the word porneia in the Christian Greek Scriptures is “sexual intercourse with a person to whom one is not married.” The Governing Body has invented several new meanings for porneia. Because of this, it is my experience that in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, more than half of the teenagers who grow up have been summoned before the elders because they have been guilty of porneia. So, even if the judge had used stronger words, his expectation would have been correct.

I continue with another quotation:

Apart from the cultural problems of the judge in understanding conservative religion, he accepts the opinion of an “apostate” ex-member that minors are baptized and become Jehovah’s Witnesses when they are not mature enough to understand their obligations.

This is a claim that is taken out of thin air. No place in the written decision of the court is this stated. So, I have the following challenge to Introvigne: Who is this “apostate”? What did he say? And how do we know that the judge believed this testimony? On page 19 the judge refers to three of the witnesses: “Nordeng, Viste, and Pilot were 11, 12, and 13 years respectively when they were baptized.” Other witnesses were 14 and 15 years when they were baptized. So, there was no need for the judge to believe an “apostate,” because he had several witnesses who were baptized very early. Will Introvigne say that persons who are 11, 12, and 13 years “are mature enough to understand their obligations”?  I think that most sociologists will not accept such a claim.

I make the following quotation from page 2 in Introvigne’s document:

Shunning is the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teaching recommending that members do not associate with those who have been disassociated as unrepentant of serious sins or have publicly disassociated themselves from the organization (as opposed to simply becoming inactive).

The word “recommending” is wrong; the right word is “demanding.” Shunning disfellowshipped and disassociated persons is a requirement, a law. Violating this law can lead to disfellowshipping.

The expression “serious sins” is almost amusing. If a person has smoked a cigarette ta few  times, he can be disfellowshipped. If a youngster touches the breasts of his girlfriend on a few occasions, he can be disfellowshipped. If a person sends a girl text messages that she or her parents view as sexualized a few times, ha can be disfellowshipped. If a person looks at certain kinds of pornography a few times, he can be disfellowshipped. Gry Nygård, whose case has been discussed on this website, was raped while she slept. There were no witnesses, but nevertheless, she was disfellowshipped, and she has been refused reinstatement. There are many more such “serious” sins.


Regarding the issues of the court, it is difficult to see if Introvigne has understood what this case was all about. I say this because he brings in several subjective elements, such as cultural distance and a failure to understand conservative religious groups on the part of the judge.

The issue the judge had to consider was strictly objective. The Religious and Life Stance Communities Act § 6 says:

If a religious and life stance community, or persons who act on behalf of the community, exercise violence or coercion, make threats, insult the rights of children, violate prohibitions against discrimination based on law, or in other ways violate the rights and freedom of others, the community can be denied grants or the grants can be reduced. Grants can also be denied if the community call for or support violations that are mentioned in this paragraph.

The County Governor decided that Jehovah’s Witnesses had violated this law, and on page 25 we read:

The County Governor has in its decisions referred to that both the right of free resignation and the rights of children are violated, while the Department — in the case dealing with state grants for 2021 — only pointed out that the right of children were violated with the procedure of disfellowshipping baptized children.

The judge has in a detailed way discussed the rights of children, particularly in connection with their rights to change their views and freely resign from a religious community. He also concluded that shunning prevented the right of free resignation for anyone. His basic conclusion was that Jehovah’s Witnesses violated the rights of children in connection with their shunning practice.

The judge did not find a loophole for his decision, where he hid, but he discussed in a thorough way the real issues of the case. So, the objective situation that must be attacked by those who disagree with the judge, is whether the fact that disfellowshipped and disassociated persons are shunned violates the rights of children and the rights of anyone to freely resign.  The basic issue is clearly stated on page 25:

For baptized minors at this age, it would be practically impossible to apply the right of free resignation, when the consequence is to lose the normal contact with family and friends., as well as parents, siblings and others in the household when they move out of the home. Also, when they reach adulthood, it will be very difficult.

Those who disagree with the judge must show that in spite of shunning, children and anyone else have the free right to resign from the community.


I am not aware of any non-Witness who has more knowledge of court cases of Jehovah’s Witnesses than Introvigne. In his writings he has quoted from a great number of court cases, particularly those who are favorable to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I know that the conclusion of some court cases has been that to practice shunning is the right of a religious community such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and that no one can attack the Witnesses for the hardships they get because of shunning.

But I have the following questions:

Has any court discussed the following issues and have made a decision?

  • Does shunning violate the rights of children to freely resign from a religion?
  • Does shunning violate the rights of anyone, including adults, to freely resign from a religion?

If these questions have been discussed and decided, please quote the court decisions.

If these questions have not been discussed, the Norwegian case is unique compared with other cases where Jehovah’s Witnesses have been involved.

I quote from page 6:

It is difficult to disagree with professor of religious history, Dag Øistein Endsjø, who told the leading Norwegian Christian daily newspaper “Vårt Land” that the verdict is against numerous decisions rendered in other countries, as well as against the case law of the European Court of Human Rights where it would have limited chances to survive.

In the newspaper Vårt Land, today (March 7) there is an article about one who disagrees with Endsjø, and that is Professor Vibeke Blaker Strand who is a Professor of Law.

She disagrees with Professor Endsjø, pointing out that the European Court of Human Rights sided with Jehovah’s Witnesses when they lost their registration in Russia and Austria. But she points out the situation in Norway is very different from the situation in these countries because the Witnesses function in all respects after losing their registrations, except in connection with wedding ceremonies. She also says that she believes that the State has a good case and that if the case goes to the European Court of Human rights, she believes that Jehovah’s Witnesses will lose.

The real issue is the autonomy of the religious community versus the autonomy of the members of the this community. In the old Act relating to religious communities, there were almost no demands or requirements for the religious communities. With the new law this has changed, and the members of a religious community have received more rights at the expense of the religious community. It does not appear that Introvigne has the knowledge of this change in Norway.


Introvigne has written many articles about court cases of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and when they lose, he is very critical of the court’s judgment. His problem, in this case, is that he was not present in the court, he did not hear the judge’s questions, and he did not see how the judge presided over the court. His source is only a translation of the court’s written decision.

After I had given my testimony to the court, I was able to follow the proceedings for seven days. The judge is experienced, and he is also a teacher for law students. My impression is that he was balanced and that he was a person with attention to detail. And this is also seen in the way he wrote his decision.

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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