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The heading is:

Jehovah’s Witnesses to Appeal Unconstitutional Ruling in Norway

The article says that “Jehovah’s Witnesses will appeal the decision of the Norwegian court that upheld the decision of the County Governor of Oslo and Viken to revoke the registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway.”

The reason for the state to deny registration is described as follows:

The position of the State now remains that it will continue to deny legal recognition to Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country of Norway unless we change our practices regarding the removal of unrepentant wrongdoers from the congregation.

This is a false claim. Neither the County Governor of Oslo and Viken nor the District Court demanded that Jehovah’s Witnesses must change “their practice of removing unrepentant wrongdoers.”

It was not disfellowshipping per se that the court found to be a violation of Norwegian law. But it was the shunning and social isolation of those who were disfellowshipped or had resigned. The court found that this was “serious violations of the rights and freedom of others”

The focus of the court was on the shunning of those who resign. This “seriously violates the freedom to change religion and conviction,” particularly for children. I quote two statements from page 25 of the ruling of the District Court.

Through the guidelines and practice of disfellowshipping, Jehovah’s Witnesses urge members to shun those who are disfellowshipped or who resign, with the result that, with few exceptions, they are experiencing social isolation from the remaining members of the community. The Court agrees with the State that this has effects that must be viewed as serious violations of the rights and freedom of others, and this gives basis for the refusal of state grants and registration,  § 6, cf §§ 2 and 4.

What is mentioned here, is that children must be protected against the effects of the practice of disfellowshipping, which seriously violates the freedom to change religion and conviction. In Norway, the religious legal age is 15 years, cf the Religious and Life Stance Communities Act § 2. 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. 

A translation of the main points of the ruling is found at:

Rolf Furuli

Author Rolf Furuli

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