Norway is to deny Jehovah’s state subsidies
The Norwegian state is considering withdrawing the Jehovah’s Witnesses from state subsidies. The reason is the exclusiveness of the organisation. The JW might even lose their status as a registered religious community.
The status of a religious community is essential in Norway. That gives the right to marry people and own a cemetery to bury your members. Apart from that, losing the registration has a symbolic impact. According to Vart Land, the community is in danger of losing this status.
The Ministry of Children and Family Affairs has previously received warnings from ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses about the exclusion and expulsion of members. In the spring of 2021, the ministry sent out a two-part order: The state administrator should consider whether the information in the warnings may be relevant to JW’s application for government grants. In addition, they asked them to assess whether the information is important for the religious community’s registration.
On this basis, the Attorney General chose to create an investigative case in which they reviewed Jehovah’s Witnesses’ own statements and publications on exclusion. “In this review, the Attorney General has uncovered several violations of the Religious Communities Act”, he wrote in January, when it became known that they were refusing Jehovah’s state subsidies.
The Attorney General has not yet concluded whether JW meets the conditions for registration of religious communities.
No earlier examples
Vart Land quotes an expert on the status of religious communities, Ingrid Rosendorf Joys. She cannot remember earlier examples of religious communities that lost their status. “Perhaps during World War II. Before that, we probably have to go back to 1814”, Joys says. Joys is secretary-general of the Co-operation Council for Religious and Philosophical Societies (STL) in Norway.
According to Dagen, Joys says that the Jehovah’s can continue their activity even without registration. But then they lose their benefits and the right to marry.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway have announced they will appeal the case to the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. They say that “their faith and religious practices fully respect the rights and freedoms of others.”
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