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Lithuania Set to Mirror Norway's Approach on Jehovah's Witnesses

It is proposed to the Seimas not to grant state recognition to the religious community of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas), or simply the Seimas (Lithuanian: [sɛɪˑmɐs]), is the legislative body of the Republic of Lithuania.

Lithuania05/05/2024 09:30

Jehovah's Witnesses; baptism Associative / E. Ovcharenko / BNS photo.

It is proposed to the Seimas to refuse to grant state recognition to the Lithuanian Jehovah's Witnesses religious community.

Community representatives told BNS that they hope that parliamentarians, taking into account the practice of the European Court of Human Rights, will make a different decision.

The draft resolution registered by the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Seimas, Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, states that this community does not meet the requirements of the Constitution and the law, that its education and rites do not conflict with laws and decency.

"The Ministry of Justice has determined that the religious teaching of this community is possibly not compatible with the Constitution of our country in two aspects. The first is that Jehovah's Witnesses oppose blood transfusions due to certain aspects related to health care (...). Another aspect is the attitude of Jehovah's Witnesses not to participate in the defense of the state," TV Raskevičius told BNS.

The draft resolution of the Seimas states that the religious teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses regarding the prohibition of blood transfusion is incompatible with the human right to life enshrined in the Constitution, and the protection of people's health is guaranteed, with particular emphasis on the values ​​of the life and health of the child.

It also states that the religious teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses, which prohibits defending the state with arms or contributing to the defense of the state in an unarmed way, including military or alternative national defense service, encourages non-compliance with the Constitution and the requirements arising from it to defend the state against foreign armed attack.

This project was prepared based on the conclusions of the Ministry of Justice and experts.

The religious community of Jehovah's Witnesses appealed these findings to the courts, but lost.

Representatives of the Lithuanian Jehovah's Witnesses religious community told BNS that the argument regarding refusal to perform military service will become irrelevant, as the Seimas is currently considering amendments to the law providing for the possibility of alternative civilian service.

"This fundamentally refutes the argument of the Ministry of Justice that our refusal to perform military service is against the Constitution," states the comment submitted by the community's Public Information Department.

It also recalls the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in the cases of Jehovah's Witnesses.

"We are sure that the Seimas will take into account the decisions announced by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on these issues. The ECtHR has repeatedly emphasized that Jehovah's Witnesses' right to belief is guaranteed by one of the basic human freedoms - freedom of religion, enshrined in the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as that their beliefs are in accordance with the laws and values ​​protected by the Constitution", - claim the representatives of the Lithuanian Jehovah's Witnesses religious community .

According to them, after receiving state recognition, Jehovah's Witnesses would be able to legally register marriages in their meeting halls, as is the case with many other religious communities.

"And if the request were to be rejected, the peaceful community of Jehovah's Witnesses in Lithuania could become the object of discrimination and harassment," the comment states.

In 2017, this community submitted a request to the Seimas to grant it the status of a recognized religion.

Jehovah's Witnesses / E. Ovcharenko / BNS photo.

According to the Law on Religious Communities and Societies, non-traditional religious communities can be "recognized by the state as part of the historical, spiritual and social heritage of Lithuania, if the societies they support and their teaching and rites do not conflict with laws and morality". State recognition means that the state supports the spiritual, cultural and social heritage of religious communities.

Jehovah's Witnesses in the current territory of Lithuania began their activities in 1912 in Klaipėda region.

According to the data of the population and housing census, in 2021, 2,118 persons, or 0.075 percent, identified themselves as professing this religion. Lithuanian residents.

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