Nygard receiving free legal aid
Shunned: Gry Helen Nygård is grateful for the legal help she now receives from the law firm Schjødt.

NORWAY: Nygard Receiving free legal aid

COURT CASE: The Schjødt law firm assists Gry Helen Nygård with a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. – This case is fundamentally important, says the lawyer
Originally published in Norwegian on VÅRT LAND on November 5, 2022 by Maria Lavik.

In 2018, Gry Helen Nygård lost her entire social network, including contact with her two sons. She was expelled from Jehovah’s Witnesses after telling about what she perceived as abuse.

She went to court to have the expulsion lifted. In May she lost in the Supreme Court.  In July she appealed the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Now Vårt Land can say that the Schjødt law firm is involved in the case. In September, they submitted a new version of the complaint, and took the case for free on behalf of Nygård. The case was first reported by the trade magazine Juristen.

“This case is fundamentally very important. That’s why we want to contribute with our expertise,” says process officer Thomas Horn to Vårt Land.

He is not aware of similar cases in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). He believes that the ECHR will deal with the case.

Facing each other

Gry Helen Nygård was expelled in 2018 from Jehovah’s Witnesses due to alleged sexual immorality. Nygård herself has said that she was subjected to abuse. She has belonged to Jehovah’s Witnesses since she was 15 years old. When she was expelled, all contact ceased with friends, her own children and the rest of her family in the community.

“In this case, one must weigh between important human rights: Freedom of religion on the one hand, and on the other Gry Helen Nygård’s right to privacy, her reputation and the violation that has occurred,” says Thomas Horn.

In May this year, the Supreme Court concluded that freedom of religion means that they cannot set aside the decision of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They point out that courts cannot set aside a religiously founded decision made by a faith group, exclusively on the basis that the decision is grossly unreasonable.

“We believe that the Supreme Court has not weighed these human rights against each other. They have considered freedom of religion to be almost absolute, and I think that is incorrect. She has not been able to exercise her human rights in the proper way,” says Horn.

The consequences

In August, Schjødt lawyers Elisabeth Dolva Sandøy and Eirin Tinnesand wrote a comment in Rett24. After that they were contacted by Gry Helen Nygård and her supporting player Rolf Furuli.

Furuli is a former elder in Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in July he wrote a complaint on behalf of Nygård to the ECHR. So the Schjødt law firm has now submitted a new version of the complaint.

The complaint that the Schjødt law firm has submitted will initially go through a screening process, where it will be decided whether the case shall be dismissed or taken forward.

“I don’t wish this on anyone”

“I am incredibly grateful for the work Schjødt does. They have shown great commitment. The work they do gives me hope,” says Gry Helen Nygård to Vårt Land.

She says she hopes that a case at the ECHR can help others in similar situations.

“I wouldn’t wish what I’ve experienced on anyone. If the verdict against me stands, women – especially in religious circles – will be reluctant to seek help if they are subjected to abuse.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Fabian Fond, information officer for the Jehovah’s Witnesses branch office in Scandinavia, wrote in an e-mail to Vårt Land that they agree with the decision from the Supreme Court.

He refers to the judgment, which, among other things, states that: “Freedom of religion does not give anyone the right to become a member or to remain a member of a particular religious community”.

“This harmonizes with established case law at the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights,” he writes.

He also refers to a comment in Rett24, as a response to the post from the Schjødt law firm.

Jehovah’s Witnesses
and Shunning

In 2018, Gry Helen Nygård was expelled from Jehovah’s Witnesses. She has tried to have the expulsion lifted, but lost in the Supreme Court. The case is now being appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Jehovah’s Witnesses write on their website that they expel people who “make it a habit to break the moral standards of the Bible and do not repent”, and refer to 1 Corinthians 5:13 “Remove the evil man from your midst”.

In January, 2022, it became known that the State Administrator in Oslo and Viken is denying Jehovah’s Witnesses state subsidies for 2021 because of the shunning practice. The Ministry of Children and Family recently confirmed the decision.

Thomas Horn

Thomas Horn, legal representative

“We think this case will be dealt with by the ECHR,” says process officer Thomas Horn. Photo: Schjødt

Thomas Horn has thorough expertise in Human Rights, and holds a PhD in this field of law. He has served as a member of the Human Rights Committee of the The Norwegian Bar Association, and has held many other positions in the Human Rights field as well. He has been involved in a number of court cases and has written scholarly articles that has influenced the legal development in this field, also concerning the rights of companies and commercial actors. He is a member of Schjødt’s pro bono committee. 

Read more on schjodt.no.


10 Responses

  1. Why is it okay to abuse people just because it is ‘n the name of religion?!
    It is just wrong.
    I was born in this religion. And left it at age 40. I know what i’m talking about.
    These people don’t feel…they only read, and live by rules. Not thinking about what they do to the people who don’t want to live by those rules anymore.
    As long as you live by these rules you are ‘a good person’?!

    Brrrr, it is just scary….

  2. If you are kicked out of a group by breaking their rules, to which you agreed, should you go to another group ie. a government and have them try to force them to let you back? Is it not logical to appeal to the the group directly? Showing an attitude that you want to return? Or is it expected that a government can force your friends to accept you back? Your friends want you back and so does Jehovah.

    1. Friends?!!! Do friends leave you in the most difficult part of your life to make you handle everything on your own?

      Are you really a parent if you leave your child just because they made a mistake? Or if they decide another way of living?
      And don’t tell me this is all done ‘out of love for the person that leaves, or out of protection of the JW community.

      It destroys you when everyone you believed to be your ‘family’, who claim to have the biggest loving religion in the world, just act as if you don’t exsist. As if you are air.

      Where is the love if these people when you need it the most…. People take their own lives because of these things…

  3. Commit the crime. Do the time. Why should everyone be subjected or associated with someone who delibrately practiced immorality and refuses to repent. Instead wasting time, energy and money on secular courts to prove what? Force people to like her? Sounds like a control freak. If you choose the path you want to go then go. Don’t drag others who are happy with their course.

  4. I don’t understand how the courts can’t see the difference between a religion and a dangerous mind-bending cult like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  5. Jason, how can I contact these lawyers? I want to be absolutely sure that they take these arguments be to the appeal court.
    1.) Freedom of religion without repercussion also means freedom From religion without repercussion.
    2.) Given that JW doctrine proves that it is every bit a cult, as a quick search of the definition of cults proves, does the court recognize cults as coming under the umbrella of religions anyway, and therefore having the same freedom of setting their (particularly punishing) doctrines as religions do?
    3.) What about the unfortunate children born into it and other minors who were made to go into it? Is it right that they are doomed to a life of no reasonable choice to have freedom from religion without repercussion?
    Jason, I am so grateful that you put out an update on this poor woman. I remember this woman from a documentary a year or two ago. She seemed very lost and said she was lonely and felt severely isolated. I searched for her and found her name on Facebook, so I wrote to offer my support, but received no reply. She doesn’t appear to use it.
    Also Jason, I think I speak for the entire XJW community in expressing sincere gratitude for the large role you take in trying to end the dub madness! 💙

    1. Surely this must explode in the face of Watchtower soon! Keep up the good work – Linda, Jason and Thomas Horn.
      George Walsh – X Elder and Regular Pioneer. – Australia

  6. I will never understand (now I am out of the religion) why someone who no longer wishes to be identified as a Jehovah’s Witness, has to lose every single person, family, friends, social network. All the Jehovah’s Witnesses lose is one person. The shunned person loses everyone. How can this not be against your human rights?? When will the courts wake up and see that just because a religion makes a decision to shun someone – the persons own human rights is overwhelmingly destroyed. It should not carry on like this. Things have to change. Religion is not more entitled to destroy a person against their own human rights. It is wrong. It is unjustified. And it can end up in suicide. Please courts make the changes!!

    1. If a person doesn’t repent after after committing a sin, that means they are effectively choosing to be disfellowshipped.
      1 Corinthians 5:9-13 say:
      “In my letter I wrote you to stop keeping company with sexually immoral people, 10 not meaning entirely with the sexually immoral people of this world or the greedy people or extortioners or idolaters. Otherwise, you would actually have to get out of the world. 11 But now I am writing you to stop keeping company with anyone called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. 12 For what do I have to do with judging those outside? Do you not judge those inside, 13 while God judges those outside? “Remove the wicked person from among yourselves.”
      Comment from AvoidJW.org: 2 Corinthians 2: 5-11 says:
      5  Now if anyone has caused sadness, he has saddened, not me, but all of you to an extent—not to be too harsh in what I say. 6  This rebuke given by the majority is sufficient for such a man; 7  now you should instead kindly forgive and comfort him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sadness. 8  I therefore exhort you to confirm your love for him. 9  For this is also why I wrote to you: to determine whether you would give proof of your obedience in all things. 10  If you forgive anyone for anything, I do also. In fact, whatever I have forgiven (if I have forgiven anything) has been for your sake in Christ’s sight, 11  so that we may not be overreached by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs.
      This exhortation is to the congregation, not to the penitent. The possibility of being “overreached by Satan” is directed to the congregation’s unwillingness to forgive. Who is happier that the congregation is brought before the courts, “ignorant of his designs”, and stubbornly holds to its unforgiving attitude and thus ensuring Ms Nygard is “overwhelmed by sadness”?

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