Mandated shunning news from Norway

Norway


Information about mandated shunning legal cases will be added as they are shared and make their way through the courts


Norway's Timeline for Progress in Stopping Mandated Shunning


2019


Several ex-JWs begin to share their stories about being the victims of mandated shunning. These stories are validated and documented for future reference. 


2021


January 1: Norway enacts a new edition of the Religious Communities Act. This law outlines the conditions that religions must meet to register as a religion and receive grants. It specifies several grounds for when the state can refuse state subsidies. The new law clearly states that the use of violence, coercion, threats, violation of children’s rights, or the serious violation of the rights of others may lead to a grant being reduced or denied entirely.  Broadly speaking, the law is there to ensure “resources are used … to achieve socially beneficial purposes”.

February 26: Jehovah’s Witnesses make a claim for state subsidies for its 12,727 members.

March 15: Norway’s Ministry of Children & Families receives an inquiry from a former Jehovah’s Witness (JW) explaining the JW policy of mandated shunning. It is a violation of human rights, particularly for minors, and the new Religious Communities Act.

April 15: This Inquiry from a former JW is forwarded to the State Administrator, asking whether March 15 information is the basis for an investigation.

May 27: The State Administrator contacts JWs and informs them of an investigation pending on their policies.

June 23: JWs respond.

September 15: The State Administrator contacts JWs again and shares allegations from ex-JWs. Asks them to comment and get back with responses in three weeks.

October 4: JWs ask for clarification.


2022


January 27: After a thorough investigation, the State Administrator decides JWs violate the human rights of its members and decides to refuse state subsidies (approximately 1,5 million dollars per year). This is effective as of January 1, 2021 and JWs also lose their status as a religious community in Norway.

February 17: JWs appeal this decision

March 30:  JW appeal is sent to the Ministry of Children & Families where it is denied.

April 7: The European Association of JWs write to the Ministry and explains the practices of JWs. They ask for a brief meeting.>

September 30: The Ministry of Children & Families upholds the State Administrator’s decision.


2023


March 30: JWs are given notice that they can have their day in court in 2023 to make their demand for a temporary injunction, which would allow them to restore all financial grant rights until all court processes are exhausted and final. That could take several years.

June 30 : After making their case for a temporary injunction to the Norwegian court, citing that they have been denied religious freedom, JWs lose their second appeal. The Court upholds the State Administrator’s decision. The Judges also rule that the human rights of its former members supersede the rights of an organization. During the court proceeding, JW attorneys asserted that shunning of former members was a member’s personal choice. However, the court was presented with irrefutable evidence from JW literature and public lectures to show that JWs practice mandated shunning.


2024


January 12 & 15: JWs and former JWs – victims of mandated shunning – have two days in the Oslo Courts to make their case to three judges. JWs assert their freedom of religion is at stake here. Several former JWs share their personal stories of being abused and mistreated.

March 4: The Oslo Appeals Court upholds the State Administrator’s original decision, JWs violate the human rights of its current and former members. Human rights take precedence over organizational rights. No religious group is allowed to harm its members. They must stop the practice of mandated shunning before they will be allowed annual state subsidies of approximately 1.5 million dollars. JWs argument that shunning is a personal choice is not true.

In its decision, the Norwegian government pointed out that JW publications make it clear that members are not to have contact with expelled members. Such a practice pressurizes members to remain in the group.  The information contained therein indicates that shunning involves a strict form of negative social control and psychological violence. Furthermore, the shunning affects not just adults but also children under the age of 18 who have been baptized and subsequently disfellowshipped. This is an alarming revelation for the government of Norway.

Summary


When Jan Frode Nilsen, a former JW, was in the courtroom and asked by the JW attorney why he was now an activist supporting the case against JWs in Norway, Mr. Nilsen said, “I am here on behalf of all the former JWs who are alone and cut off from their families. Those who lie like dead meat on the side of the road because they can’t cope with life after everyone they know disappears. Those who can’t bear to speak for themselves.

“I speak for many. I am an activist for JWs as well, for those whose faith is long gone. But who must deny their inner beliefs, because if they speak up, they too will be the victims of mandated shunning. And, they will lose someone they love; maybe everyone they love.”>

Jan shared his thoughts on the trials: “The UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12 states: ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.’ JWs have created a system, a cobweb, in which family is used as a weapon, and its mandated shunning policy is a clear violation of human rights.”

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There are several European court cases underway that will prosecute either a specified high control group, or will set a legal precedent that mandated shunning is a crime. We are seeking to fund cases with the ICC in the Hague and the European Court of Human Rights.

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