May 3, 2023

Norwegian Jehovah's Witnesses lose temporary right to marry couples

Norwegian Jehovah's Witnesses lose temporary right to marry couples
Northern Europe
May 5, 2023

The Oslo district court has stripped the community of Jehovah's Witnesses of their right to seal marriages. They lose their temporary registration as a religious community.

As a consequence, they can also no longer receive subsidies from the government, Vart Land reports. In addition, they have to pay the costs of the legal procedure, which amount to 240,000 NOK (over 20,000 euros). At the same time, the community is allowed to keep practising its faith.

Nevertheless, the Jehovah's Witnesses are disappointed with the ruling. Earlier, they had attempted to fight the government's decision to withdraw their subsidies and registration as a religious community.

Their lawyers went to court at the end of last year to request a temporary registration as a religious community so they could continue sealing marriages as long as the final decision about their registration was pending. At the end of December, the judge granted them this request. However, with the new ruling, this benefit is also immediately revoked.

Legal battle

The legal procedure around the Jehovah's Witnesses started when the Norwegian State Administrator ruled that the community violated the Religious Communities Act on free expression by their exclusionary practice. When a member decides to break with the community and the faith, he or she is shunned and socially isolated. Children are not exempted from this exclusionary practice. Therefore, the State Administrator also ruled that the Jehovah's Witnesses violated children's rights. Therefore, the governmental body decided that the community should no longer be registered as a religious community.


Lawyer Anders Stray Ryssdal, who represented the Jehovah's Witnesses in court, says that the decision is a big disappointment for the community, Dagen reports. During the court case, he stated that "no other religious community has been stripped of its status due to the state's assessment of belief and practice. No one else has had their theology censored the way Jehovah's Witnesses are exposed."

In an e-mail to Vart Land, the lawyer writes that "the court itself states that the loss of the right to marry is a strong intervention. However, the court does not find that other harmful effects, such as increased stigmatisation, are due to loss of registration. We disagree with that."


The court case will be decided later as judges still need to look at the case in its entirety, Anders Stray Ryssdal points out. "We will now carefully study the ruling on the temporary injunction and decide on the question of an appeal against it. What is clear, however, is that the main case will go ahead as planned later this year, which is very important."

Jehovah's Witnesses spokesperson Fabian Fond is disappointed by the decision; he writes in an e-mail to Dagen. At the same time, he states that the community is "confident that they will win the next battle when the case goes to court later this year."

No comments: