YLE Uutiset – 5th July 2014
Former Jehovah’s Witnesses: Cartographic provisions violate the Freedom of Religion Act
By law, everyone has the right to belong or not to belong to a religious community. Former Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that the requirement of a map of the community is contradicted by law.
Jari-Pekka Peltoniemi’s life as Jehovah’s witness ended in 2006 when he was separated from the community. The reason was mainly differences in vision.
– Jehovah’s Witness must always believe the current teaching. If you do not believe, or especially if you raise this unbelief, you will have to talk at least. Especially if he speaks to other such things, it can be followed by a legal committee and separation, Peltoniemi explains.
The most difficult separation was the mapping rule that denys Jehovah’s Witnesses all the contacts with the people who are separated from the community or who have been separated from the community. Almost all the Jehovah’s Witnesses, relatives and acquaintances who knew Peltoniemi broke their way to him.
– My sister has asked me to no longer contact you. Some people have dared to defy the absolute rule of life, but they do it at the expense of their own security and meet me secretly, Peltoniemi says.
Jehovah’s Witnesses did not want to comment on this.
Individuals and the community have their own rights
The Religious Victim Support Association has made two statements based on the experiences of the former members of the community. The reports were also submitted to the Ministry of Justice and the Interior in May. Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson has promised to inform the progress of the survey before her stay in the summer holiday.
By law, everyone has the right to belong or not to belong to a religious community.
– The Freedom of Religion Act, of course, requires that one has the right freely to leave the religious community. Nobody can be forced to belong to any community, says professor Veli-Pekka Viljanen of the University of Turku.
The professor recalls that the religious community also has the rights and a certain autonomy protected by law to decide on the community rules that a person commits to join.
As an extreme resort to the abolition of the community
If members of the community feel misunderstood, it is difficult for the authorities to intervene.
– Public authorities have a fair amount of means to address the activities of a religious community when it does not go unlawful, ie it does not speak of criminal activity, for example.
– The Freedom of Religion Act has the utmost means, such as a temporary ban and the abolition of a religious community, but they already require such a legal derogation from the rule of law that no such activity is involved, says Viljanen.
According to Professor, the best way to tackle the disadvantages of religious communities is to have a public debate on this topic.
– It is a way to increase tolerance also within religious communities. Then people can also evaluate in their own activities whether it is worth to belong to a religious community what kind of constraints it will lead to their own life, Viljanen adds.
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