JW Bulletin

Jehovah's Witnesses in the Media

Translation: YLE Uutiset – 2nd July 2018

YLE Uutiset – 2nd July 2018

The Working Group Proposes: The Exemption of Jehovah’s Witnesses from Armed Services should be abolished – Jehovah’s Witnesses: “Doctrine of Misguidance of Every Conscience”

The Ministry of Defense proposes that Jehovah’s Witnesses repeal the law on military service. The note has a long way to go, but if the proposal goes ahead, it will have to refuse Jehovah’s Witnesses in the future as a total ban to a jail.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have so far been the only religious group in Finland to have been exempted from military service on account of their beliefs. The law has placed Jehovah’s Witnesses differently in relation to other religions or beliefs.

Now, this release law is announced for revocation (you go to another service).

In April, the Ministry of Defense set up a working group to evaluate the law on the exemption of Jehovah’s Witnesses from military service. The task of the working group is to reform the law so that it is compatible with the equality requirements set by the Constitution.

According to the working group’s report, equality should be ensured by overturning the separate exemption of Jehovah’s Witnesses. If the results of the report proceed as a law, the male Jehovah’s Witnesses would have to carry out military or civilian service like other Finns.

This means that refusing to serve would be put to jail in the same way as other total ban.

Teemu Penttilä, chairman of the working group, believes that the change of law would not be a problem for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

– Jehovah’s Witnesses were first heard in our work group and their attitude to civilian service is neutral. They said that any negative consequences for someone from their members being civilian do not coincide, Penttilä says.

As a boundary, the safeguarding of military service

The report outlines the waiver in the transitional period.

The transition would work in the proposal so that Jehovah’s Witnesses who, before applying for revocation, would apply for a deferment for the commencement of their service, could still apply for exemption from military service. After the transition period, exemptions would no longer be granted.

In the current system, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been granted a moratorium on military service for up to three years at a time, exceptionally, until they are 29 years of age freed from full age.

In principle there were several alternatives to the solution to the situation (you go to another service). However, the report’s condition was that the proposed measures should not endanger general conscription. In practice, this excluded the possibility of extending the exemption to other religions or beliefs. The third option would have been a separate civic service for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

– We did not think so. But in such a separate service, there is only the problem that it will not get rid of this problem of equality with the constitution, “says Teemu Penttilä.

Separate station for over thirty years

Separate release of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been in effect since 1985 . The number of Jehovah’s Witnesses exempts from military service varies, but they are about 100 per year. The total number of total refusers is about 30-50 per year.

Other full-length rebels are legally convicted of imprisonment. The length of the penalty is half of the service time being served as civilian service. In practice this means about half a year imprisonment. It is executed as a surveillance penalty, that is, in the case of panicking, open fire, or sometimes in a sealed prison.

Jehovah’s Witness Exemption Law has long been considered a problematic issue for equality. In February , the Helsinki Court of Appeal ruled that the current law discriminates against total refusals. After that, Minister of Justice Antti Häkkänen (ECB), among other things, stated that without taking a stand on the court’s ruling, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ special status should be re-examined . Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö (son) has also expressed his personal opinion that he hoped that the law on exemption would be repealed .

Veikko Leinonen, a spokeswoman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, is not yet taking a fresh memo.

– It’s about to say anything really. Doomlessness is the question of each Jehovah’s Witness witness, and everyone is in favor of it under current legislation, Leinonen says.

According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Bible tells them to refrain from violence, and accordingly refuse to accept military service. Some of Jehovah’s Witnesses have completed civilian service already within the current framework (moving to another service).

* all translations provided on JWBulletin.com are for information purposes only and are sourced from automated translation services.  These are not checked for accuracy.  To ensure accuracy, please refer to the original language text.

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