OSCE NORWAY: Arbitrary de-registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses: a case of discrimination denounced at the OSCE
Even the Russian Orthodox Church which supports Russia’s war on Ukraine and the Catholic Church marred with sexual abuse are not de-registered or barred from state financing
HRWF (05.10.2023) – On 5 October, Human Rights Without Frontiers denounced the arbitrary de-registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Norway, at the Plenary Session of the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference on Tolerance and Non-discrimination.
« Norway is generally considered a country friendly to religious liberty.
Norway, which has a system of registration of religious communities amended in 2020, has registered over 700 different religious groups. Until December 2022, none had been de-registered on account of an assessment of its beliefs and practices.
Even the Russian Orthodox Church has kept five religious entities registered and goes on receiving state grants, despite its vocal support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moreover, sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church clergy has not led either to the denial of public subsidies.
For 30 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have received state subsidies. These are not “gifts” but allocations provided to ALL religious communities by the Norwegian Constitution and laws to respect the principle of equality, since the Church of Norway, the Lutheran Church, is supported by taxpayers’ money.
In an administrative decision (1) of 27 January 2022, the County Governor for Oslo and Viken announced its decision to deny Jehovah’s Witnesses State grants on the basis of allegations from three disgruntled former members and a biased interpretation of the exclusion system of members of the religious community. With this decision, Jehovah’s Witnesses also lose the right to perform legally valid marriages.
Noteworthy is that the European Court (2) has found the practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses not objectionable and deserving the protection of international principles on religious liberty in dozens of cases.
To date, the government of Norway has not submitted any reliable evidence to substantiate the claims of revengeful former Jehovah’s Witnesses and no court has confirmed them either.
Human Rights Without Frontiers recommends that Norway
- Cancel the unfounded discriminatory decision to remove the registration of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religious community
- Restore the State grants they have been deprived of since 2021 as a consequence of this illegitimate decision.”
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