Norway Jehovah Witnesses Deregistered


Oslo District Court removes the status of religious organisation from Jehovah Witnesses

The Oslo District Court has removed the status of religious organisation and denied subsidies, previously received by the organisation for 30 years, and given to all registered religions. This is not a prohibition of their religion or practices as they can still practice their religion freely , just not as an officially registered organisation.

This removal of status centres around the religious practice of “shunning” – a 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). Cohabiting relatives are not shunned, although they are excluded from the family’s religious activities.

In a similar case in Belgium in 2021 the first by the Court of Ghentfined the Jehovah’s Witnesses for their practice of shunning. However this was overturned by Court of Appeal in Ghent which concluded that shunning can be freely taught and practiced in Belgium. In 2017 the Italian Supreme Court ruled that what was termed as “ostracism” is also protected by the principle of non-interference. The European Court of Human Rights, in a 2010 case Jehovah’s Witnesses of Moscow v. Russia confirmed that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a “known religion” and stated that “it is a common feature of many religions that they determine doctrinal standards of behavior by which their followers must abide in their private lives.”

Comparisons can be drawn to when one party in a marriage cheats on their spouse and goes off with another partner. It is not unheard of for the children and former spouse to ‘shun’ or ‘ostracize’ the offending spouse. Similarly, someone changing political parties may well be shunned by people from the party that has the person has left.

Regardless, the decision undermines the fundamental right for religions to establish their own understanding, interpretation and practice of theology without interference from the State.

No doubt the decision will be appealed and likely repealed but this is an example of religious intolerance creeping into society. Whether one agrees with the practice or not, it is still a fundamental right which should be upheld and not eroded.

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