DECEMBER 18, 2019
Since January 1, 2000, the Swedish government has offered state funding to faith-based organizations under the Support for Religious Communities Act. Funding is only given to a religious group that “contributes to maintaining and strengthening the fundamental values upon which society is based” and “is stable and plays an active role in the community.”
Although Sweden approved State grants for most religions, beginning in 2007, it repeatedly refused to give funding to Jehovah’s Witnesses, criticizing our religious beliefs on political neutrality.
Having no other recourse, our brothers brought the Swedish government to court three separate times. Each time, the Supreme Administrative Court declared that the government’s decision to deny our organization State grants was unlawful and should be reconsidered.
Finally, on October 24, 2019, the Swedish government reversed its decision and concluded that Jehovah’s Witnesses “fulfill all legal requirements” for State grants.
The same issue was recently raised in Norway, where the government has routinely provided State grants to all religions, including Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, in recent months the government was asked to reevaluate the basis for providing State grants to Jehovah’s Witnesses because of our political neutrality. In response, our brothers provided the Norwegian officials with accurate information concerning our views on political neutrality. They also supplied the government with copies of the favorable rulings by the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden, as well as favorable rulings in similar issues by courts and administrative bodies in Germany and Italy.
We are pleased that on November 18, 2019, the Norwegian officials ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses should continue to receive State grants, concluding: “Voting in elections is a fundamental right for Norwegian citizens, but not an obligation. Abstaining from this right seems to be part of the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, . . . [but the government] cannot see that this . . . provides a legally sustainable basis for withdrawing state grants.”
Regarding these decisions, Brother Dag-Erik Kristoffersen, from the Scandinavia branch, states: “We are happy that we are recognized as being a positive force in the community. It is our hope that other countries that have similar arrangements take note of this ruling.” Above all, we give thanks to Jehovah, the Supreme Lawgiver.—Isaiah 33:22.