State Administrator issues Jehovah's Witnesses notice of loss of registration
MAY LOSE REGISTRATION: "We will now consider whether the conditions that came to light in our investigations may also have an impact on the registration of Jehovah's Witnesses", writes the State Administrator in Oslo and Viken in a letter to Jehovah's Witnesses. (Photo: Vidar Ruud/NTB)

NORWAY: State Administrator issues Jehovah’s Witnesses with notice of loss of registration

JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES: The shunning practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses is the reason why they recently lost the state subsidy for last year. It could have an impact on their registration as a religious community, warns the State Administrator in a recent letter.
Originally published in Norwegian on vårtland on Thursday, November 3, 2022.

“It will be another historic attack on freedom of religion in Norway,” Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about the potential deregistration.

In January this year, it became known that the State Administrator in Oslo and Viken is denying Jehovah’s Witnesses state funding for 2021 due to their shunning practices. The decision was made on the basis of investigations that the State Administrator itself has carried out on the religious community.

Jehovah’s Witnesses appealed against the decision, but were not successful. Recently, the Ministry of Children and Families confirmed the decision. The decision is final and cannot be appealed. The subsidy for Jehovah’s Witnesses’ 12,686 members last year amounted to approximately NOK 16 million ($1.6 million).

Now the decision may have an impact on Jehovah’s Witnesses’ registration as a religious community.

“We will now assess whether the circumstances that came to light in our investigations may also have an impact on the registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses”, writes the State Administrator in Oslo and Viken in a recent letter to the religious community.

Should the Jehovah’s Witnesses lose their registration, they will also lose the right to claim state subsidies. In addition, their right to perform marriages ends. They are, however, free to practice their religion and their activities independently of a public registration, according to the State Administrator.

"Negative social control"

In the letter, which is entitled “Notice of loss of registration”, the State Administrator points out that registration can be withdrawn if the religious community has violated section 6 of the Religious Communities Act, which the State Administrator – and recently also the ministry – believes that Jehovah’s Witnesses have done.

“In our decision of 27 January 2022, we refused grants on the basis that the religious community had breached the Religious Communities Act section 2 and 6. Since we have concluded that the conditions for refusing grants have been met, the society’s registration as a religious community can also be withdrawn”, writes the State Administrator.

The state administrator believes that section 6 has been breached, as in their investigations of the religious community they have concluded that Jehovah’s Witnesses allow for the shunning of baptized minors.

“We believe this is negative social control and violates children’s rights. Unbaptised children who break the religious community’s rules may be exposed to social isolation. This is also perceived as negative social control and a violation of children’s rights. Such treatment of children is contrary to the Religious Communities Act section 6”, wrote the State Administrator in its decision from January.

Have been given time to rectify the situation

In the assessment of whether Jehovah’s Witnesses should be stripped of their registration, “particular emphasis must be placed on measures that the faith or belief community has taken to prevent such conditions”, writes the State Administrator. Furthermore, emphasis must be placed on how serious the relationship is and whether it appears to be intentional,” the letter states.

The religious community has been given a deadline to rectify the conditions that led to the refusal of grants, and must send documentation that this has happened “within four weeks from the date of this letter”.

“If we have not received the requested documentation by the end of the deadline, we can decide to withdraw the registration,” they write.

"Don't jump to conclusions"

Jehovah’s Witnesses have constantly disputed the basis for the State Administrator’s decision to deny them state subsidies. In their complaint earlier this year, they claimed, among other things, that “higher courts around the world” have repeatedly concluded that shunning is “perfectly legal religious procedures that are protected by freedom of religion and freedom of assembly”.

Jørgen Pedersen in the public information department of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Scandinavia confirms that they have recently received the notice of loss of registration, and states that they are in the process of assessing the matter.

“In the meantime, we encourage you not to jump to conclusions before the case has been properly dealt with, since a potential de-registration of our religious community will be on uncertain grounds legally”, he writes in an e-mail to Vårt Land.

He points out that Jehovah’s Witnesses are “a recognized Christian religious community which has existed in Norway for over 120 years, and which is freely allowed to practice its faith in over 200 countries”.

“Our beliefs and religious practices have time and again been recognized as completely legal by the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee,” writes Pedersen.

"Very worrying"

Furthermore, he refers to the State Administrator’s notice of loss of registration as “very worrying”.

“As in the case of the discriminatory decision to deny us state support, deregistering our religious community will be another historic attack on freedom of religion in Norway, a decision that not only violates sections 16 and 101 of the Norwegian constitution, but also the fundamental rights and the the freedom protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, Articles 6, 9, 11 and 14”, he believes.

“As far as we know, no other internationally recognized religious community in Norway has been the victim of similarly systematic bad treatment by the authorities”, writes Pedersen.

Notice of
De-Registration

The notice of de-registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses by the State Administrator was issued on October 25, 2022. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have four weeks to respond or they could lose their state subsidies for good, and will not be permitted to perform legal marriages.

Download Notice

Further Reading

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Jason Wynne

Jason Wynne is a husband to one wife, father to two children, and writes extensively on the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses having been baptized as a member in 1995.

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