Linguist & author Rolf Johan Furuli (bottom-left corner) and Jan Frode Nilsen (bottom-right corner) is expected to testify at the 2024 trail.

Norway: Religious Abuse on Trial

“But know this, that in the last days Jehovah’s Witnesses, will be lovers of money, they will lose state funding….” – 2 Timothy chapter 3

Written by Lester Somrah - December 8, 2023

Jehovah’s Witnesses known for their minimalist view of material possessions and money, would continue their chase for financial aid in 2024 when they go before Oslo courts to defend their entitlement for Norwegian state funding.

Expected to testify on behalf of the State, are seven (7) former Norwegian Jehovah’s Witnesses including Jan Frode Nilsen, linguist and author Rolf Johan Furuli.

At the heart of the 2024 court trail is whether the infringing of rights and freedoms of individual Jehovah’s Witnesses by their religious beliefs, constitutes a legal and valid reason for denying them State funding under Norway’s new Religious Communities Act (24 April 2020).

Under scrutiny will be the ability or deliberate lack thereof, of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religion, to reciprocate the same freedom of speech and religion they enjoy, to their own church members.

Under scrutiny will be the ability or deliberate lack thereof, of their religious beliefs to guarantee the rights and freedoms of church members (‘congregation publishers’) and individuals, as per the Norwegian Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations; and the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’), Council of Europe.

In particular, whether the threat of mandated shunning and it’s institutional promotion by church leaders (Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses) and congregation elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses:

1. Prevents Norwegian congregation publishers from using their freedom of speech to question and criticize the religious beliefs and practices of their religion.

2. Prevents Norwegian congregation publishers from resigning/leaving/exiting their religion.

3. Whether (1) above is an infringement of “the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference” (Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

4. Whether (1) and (2) above is an infringement of “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom” (Article 18, Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

5. Whether (1) above is an infringement of “right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference” (Article 10, ECHR).

6. Whether (1) and (2) above is an infringement of “the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom” (Article 9, ECHR).

It should be noted that in the verdict of the Oslo District Court on April 26, 2023 regarding the injunction brought by Norwegian Jehovah’s Witnesses, District court judge Terje Reinholt Johansen upheld the above infringements.

Judge Ole Kristen Øverberg would be presiding over the 2024 court trail.

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway are still able to exercise their lawful right to religious practice unimpeded and unrestricted.

Timeline of Events

2024

January 2024

Oslo District Court will preside over a civil lawsuit brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses to determine the “validity of decisions on refusal of state subsidies”.

Expected to testify are seven (7) former Norwegian Jehovah’s Witnesses including Jan Frode Nilsen, linguist and author Rolf Johan Furuli.

Note: Content is in Norwegian.

2023

July 24, 2023

Borgarting Court of Appeal rejects the appeal by Jehovah’s Witnesses, regarding the Oslo District Court revocation of the December 2022 temporary injunction.

The State Administrator can now de-register Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religion effective January 2023. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses also lose the right to marry couples effective January 2023.

April 26, 2023

Oslo District Court revokes the December 2022 temporary injunction brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses against the State Administrator and is also ordered to pay the legal costs of the State Administrator.

Note: The above documents are English translations.

2022

December 30, 2022

Oslo District Court grants Jehovah’s Witnesses a temporary injunction that allows Jehovah’s Witnesses to be registered as a religious community under the Religious Communities Act, until it is clarified whether the State Administrator decision’s of December 22, 2022 is invalid.

December 22, 2022

The State Administrator in Oslo & Viken informs Jehovah’s Witnesses that they have “withdrawn the registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religious community”.

December 14, 2022

Jehovah’s Witnesses responds to the Notice of De-registration in which they did not address what actions they took to rectify the conditions that caused their de-registration.

December 2, 2022

Law Firm Glittertind AS writes on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the State Administrator in Oslo requesting “in the event that the State Administrator should make a decision on de-registration, that a deferred implementation is granted until the case has been fully processed or dealt with by the courts.”

November 14, 2022

The State Administrator in Oslo & Viken grants the extended response deadline, refer the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the sections of the Religious Community Act that have been breached, and accommodate their request for a meeting.

November 8, 2022

Jehovah’s Witnesses write to the State Administrator in Oslo & Viken stating that they oppose the notice, ask for a postponement of the deadline, clarification about which conditions the religious community should rectify, and request a meeting.

October 25, 2022

The State Administrator in Oslo & Viken issue a notice to Jehovah’s Witnesses that they may delete the religious community from the register of religions.

September 30, 2022

The Ministry of Children & Families uphold the State Administrator’s decision to refuse state subsidies for 2021.

April 25, 2022

The European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses writes to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman requesting a brief meeting seeking “possible recommendations in connection with the issue.”

April 7, 2022

The European Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses writes to the Minister of Children and Families requesting a brief meeting “to offer accurate information about our religious practices.”

March 30, 2022

The Ministry of Children & Families receive the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ complaint.

February 17, 2022

Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal the decision of the State Administrator.

January 27, 2022

The State Administrator decides to refuse state subsidies to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Note: The above letters are English translations of those sent between Jehovah’s Witnesses Branch in Denmark and the Government of Norway.

2021

November 19, 2021

The State Administrator receives a statement from Jehovah’s Witnesses.

October 25, 2021

The State Administrator responds to the inquiry from Jehovah’s Witnesses.

October 4, 2021

Jehovah’s Witnesses ask for further clarification on the basis of the investigation and possible refusal of grants.

September 15, 2021

The State Administrator contacts Jehovah’s Witnesses again referring to further enquiries and informs the religious group that the information in the inquiries could have an impact on the processing of their claim for state subsidies, and asked for comments within 3 weeks.

June 23, 2021

Jehovah’s Witnesses respond to the request from the State Administrator.

May 27, 2021

The State Administrator contacts Jehovah’s Witnesses for an explanation.

April 15, 2021

The Ministry of Children & Families forwards the inquiry to the State Administrator asking whether the information provided a basis for conducting further investigations.

March 15, 2021

The Ministry of Children & Families receives an enquiry from a former Jehovah’s Witness who explained the religious community’s shunning practice.

February 26, 2021

Jehovah’s Witnesses make a claim for state subsidies for 12, 727 members.

January 1, 2021

The new edition of the Religious Communities Act comes into force.

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Lester Somrah

Lester Somrah writes about the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses on his social media platforms and was baptized as a member in 1998.

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