JANUARY 11, 2023
Norwegian Court Grants Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Request to Suspend Deregistration
On December 30, 2022, the Oslo District Court granted our brothers’ request for a temporary injunction to suspend the government’s attempt to deregister Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religious community in Norway. This became necessary because the County Governor of Oslo and Viken announced her decision to revoke our national registration. The injunction allows us to keep our registration until the matter is further considered by the court. The Ministry of Children and Families is challenging our injunction.
The district court’s injunction has immediate benefits for our brothers and sisters, including several engaged couples. In Norway, the government only appoints religious wedding officiants from registered religious communities. When the government announced that it would be deregistering Jehovah’s Witnesses, it meant that Witness officiants would lose their appointment and authorization. However, the injunction now allows engaged couples to be married at a local Kingdom Hall and have one of Jehovah’s Witnesses perform the ceremony.
Brother André Bjørnstad and Sister Yasmin de Andrade Montelo are one of the engaged couples directly affected. Their comments were included in the injunction filed on December 28, 2022. Brother Bjørnstad acknowledged that some might question why he and his fiancée felt so strongly about being married by one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He explained: “People have a connection to their faith and beliefs. When you lose that, it can feel like you are losing a part of your own identity.”
Prior to Norway’s decision to deregister Jehovah’s Witnesses, the government denied us the right to State grants, which we had received for more than 30 years. These grants offer financial assistance that the government distributes to over 700 registered religious denominations in the country. On December 21, 2022, Jehovah’s Witnesses filed a lawsuit against the Norwegian government, challenging the denial of State grants.
The government of Norway objects to our Scriptural beliefs and practices regarding disfellowshipping. The governor went so far as to require that Jehovah’s Witnesses change their disfellowshipping arrangement in order to keep their registration. The actions against Jehovah’s Witnesses are not based on any expert opinions or court decisions.
The governor stated that the loss of registration does not hinder religious freedom. But in similar cases involving the denial of registration of our organization, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that these represent a violation of the religious freedom of Jehovah’s Witnesses. a
Brother Jørgen Pedersen, a member of the Scandinavia Branch Committee, states: “Jehovah’s Witnesses have peacefully worshipped in Norway for more than 130 years. Our fundamental rights and freedoms are protected by the Norwegian Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights. If the Norwegian courts rule in our favor, it would further solidify the rights and freedoms of all citizens of Norway.”