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Norwegian Decision on Jehovah's Witnesses

Denial of claim for state subsidy - appeal - Jehovah's Witnesses, 879492742 The state administrator denied claims for state subsidies in a decision of 27.01.2022. In a letter dated 17.02.2022, society has complained about our decision. Complainants have the right to complain and the complaint is submitted within the deadline, cf. the Public Administration Act §§ 28-29. Background to the case There have been warnings from former members of Jehovah's Witnesses. The alerts have, among other things, acted on the religious community's exclusionary practice, including the exclusion of minor members. The Ministry of Children and Family Affairs asked the State Administrator to look more closely at the practice and assess whether it was grounds for refusal of grants. Based on Jehovah's statements Witnesses, we started the investigation case on 15.09.2021. The state administrator has the authority to supervise registered religious and philosophical communities. Jehovah witnesses were registered with the State Administrator on 15.10.1985, and are registered until 31.12.2022 after the transitional rules in the Religious Communities Act § 23 second paragraph. The faith community is subject to our supervision. As According to the supervisory task, we must ensure that the religious community fulfills its obligations under the law.

The reasons for the decision
The Religious Society Act sets several conditions for being able to receive state support. In our investigations, we revealed
several violations of the Religious Communities Act.
1. Right to free withdrawal according to the Religious Communities Act § 2
Persons who voluntarily leave the religious community shall be treated in the same way as excluded
members. This means that remaining members, family and friends, should not have contact with
the announced. The preparatory work for the Religious Communities Act § 2 indicates that the right to religious freedom presupposes
that withdrawal must be able to take place unconditionally and without obstacles on the part of the religious or philosophical community.
By having rules for how the members should relate to unsubscribed members, we found that
the religious community prevents resignation. We regard the practice as a violation of the Religious Communities Act § 2.

2. Baptized minors may be excluded The exclusionary practice applies not only to adults, but also to baptized minors. It means that children can be excluded if they break the rules of the religious community. We have considered this practice as negative social control, and that it therefore violates children's rights. Society describes itself practice as a «strong form of correction». We consider this a violation of the Religious Communities Act § 6. Minor members may be exposed to social isolation For other children in the congregation who have not yet been baptized but who are considered “unbaptized publishers” there is a similar exclusion practice. If unbaptized publishers break with the rules of society they are deprived of the status of preacher and the members of the congregations should avoid contact with them. We has considered this treatment as negative social control, and in violation of the child's rights. We also considers this a violation of the Religious Communities Act § 6. We considered the offenses to be systematic and intentional, and therefore refused state subsidies for 2021. This is in line with the Religious Society Regulations § 11 third paragraph. The content of the complaint In the complaint, it is mainly stated that the religious community does not violate the Religious Communities Act §§ 2 and 6, and that the State Administrator's decision is incorrect. It is also stated that the decision violates the §§ of the Constitution 16 and 101 and Articles 9 and 11 of the ECHR.

The faith community writes in the complaint that they do not prevent anyone from opting out and that the exclusionary practice theirs is protected according to ECHR art. 9. They also write that children in practice are not excluded, and that In any case, the state administrator has not proven that the exclusion harms the children. Our assessment of the complaint The religious community writes in section 42 of the complaint that members who withdraw from the religious community remain respected for their decision, and it is up to each individual who is affiliated with the congregation to use his personal religious conscience to determine if they want to limit or completely avoid contact with that person. As the State Administrator has referred to in the decision of 27.01.2022, the religious community writes in «Organized to do Jehovah's will ”page 153 on the other hand that“ if a Christian chooses to withdraw, he will be given a card information to the congregation that reads: "[The person's name] is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses." Such a person is treated in the same way as one who is excluded. " We know that exclusion means that one does not shall have contact with or associate with the person in question.

The consequences of opting out of the religious community may therefore be to lose contact with family and social network. For the State Administrator, this scheme appears as a form of sanction society inflicts on those who opt out. We understand that the individual person can decide for themselves how much contact they want to have people who no longer share the same values ​​as themselves. However, the contact is nothing the religious community can sanction without hindering the right to free withdrawal according to ECHR art. 9. EMK art. 9 precisely protects the right to change one's religion or belief. The Religious Society Act shall, among other things, ensure that the right to free withdrawal is safeguarded for the members of registered denominations. We therefore maintain our assessment that the practice entails a breach the Religious Communities Act § 2. Furthermore, the religious community states that there is no violation of the Religious Communities Act § 6. In sections 86-87 in the complaint shows the religious community that the children who are baptized are mature enough to understand the consequences of be a Jehovah's Witness, including that they are aware that baptism involves following certain rules and that you can be expelled if you break the rules and do not regret it.

To this we would like to note that section 6 of the Religious Communities Act shall protect all children, including the religious community
assesses are mature teens.
In sections 88-89, society states that there can be no violation of § 6 if the State Administrator does not
can refer to a specific incident where a child has been excluded and has been harmed by this. Further
The religious community points out that today only one person under the age of 18 is excluded.
Regardless of how many children are excluded from the faith community today, it is problematic that
the religious community has a scheme where it is possible to exclude children. The threat of being ostracized
and losing contact with family and friends appears to the State Administrator as serious for a child. As we
has referred to in the decision of 27.01.2022, the scheme is in our opinion negative social control.
In section 98, the religious community points out that it is up to the individual to decide whether they want to have
contact with an excluded child. To this we will show our assessment above which shows that the faith community
has rules that in reality prohibit just such contact.
In paragraph 110, the denomination states that unbaptized minors do not become social in any way
isolated. As we referred to in the decision of 27.01.2022, however, the religious community writes this in «Organized
to Do Jehovah's Will »pp. 154-155:
“If an unbaptized transgressor does not repent after two elders have had a meeting with him and have tried to
help him, it is necessary to inform the congregation. A brief statement is given which reads:
"[The person's name] is no longer recognized as an unbaptized publisher." The congregation will then watch
the offender as a worldly person. Even if he is not excluded, Christians will be careful
with associating with him. (1 Corinthians 15:33) The congregation will not accept any field service reports from him. "
We understand the passage as the child being socially isolated from the congregation, and that this is done in response
on the child's behavior. We therefore maintain our assessment that this treatment is also considered
negative social control on the part of the religious community and that the treatment violates the child's rights, cf.
With regard to the allegations that the decision of 27.01.2022 violates Sections 16 and 101 of the Constitution, and
EMK art. 9 and 11, we would like to point out that the decision applies to the religious community's claim for subsidy funds, and not
whether the religious community should be able to operate as a religious community in Norway and not restrict
how the religious community should be able to practice its religion. The decision does not cover or restrict either
the religious community's freedom of assembly. The Faith Society Act is a subsidy law where the state has set certain
conditions for religious communities to be able to receive public financial support. The state is free to choose how
one wants to support religious communities, and has no positive duties according to ECHR art. 9 when it comes to
government grants. We would also like to remind you that the EMD has stated that access to financial support does not affect
the individual's right to express his religion.
The rules in the Religious Communities Act apply to all registered religious communities in Norway.
Regarding the allegations about the State Administrator's case processing in section 146 of the complaint, we will refer to the letter
dated 15.09.2021 with notification of investigation case and letter dated 25.10.2021 with reply to
the faith community's questions about the advance warning. We announced that we were starting an investigation case on the background
of the inquiry from the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. The inquiry contained the warnings from Furuli and
Statement by Jehovah's Witnesses. In a letter dated 15.09.2021, we explained which inquiries,
statements and notices that were the background for the investigation case, and which provisions in
the Religious Communities Act which authorized our right to initiate an investigation, and which provisions we investigated whether the religious community had violated based on the mentioned inquiries, statements and the alerts. We were also clear that we did not instruct the religious community to answer further questions in this round when the religious community had already stated on several occasions about precisely these the inquiries and alerts. The religious community nevertheless had the opportunity to express themselves and chose to do so letter of 19.11.2021. This statement also formed the basis for our decision of 27.01.2022. We will maintain that we have given prior notice in accordance with the Public Administration Act § 16 and that the case was well enough informed before a decision was made, cf. the Public Administration Act § 17. After a review of the complaint, the State Administrator can not see that the case has been added new and significant information. We uphold the decision. The case is sent to the Ministry of Children and Family Affairs for a final decision. A copy of the case documents and other relevant attachments is included with the complaint. With regards Hege Skaanes Nyhus department director Legal department Hege Rasch-Engh section chief
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