Stavanger Aftenblad – 12th June 2018
This must be stopped, Jehovah’s Witnesses
EDITORIAL: The right to believe what you want is no right to do what you want against others. And simply not to deprive people of fundamental legal certainty.
This is not about freedom of belief. It is abuse of power.
In Jehovah’s Witnesses, the main rule is that brothers and sisters in the religious community should not use the police or the Norwegian judiciary against each other. Instead, they hold their own judicial committees. The so-called “Elders Book”, which is not to be read by anyone other than men with the position of Elder, discusses how the judicial committee will work.
The committee may give members public reprove or make a decision on exclusion. The latter has very big consequences for the excluded, everyone in the congregation, close family members are asked to cut all contact with them.
The committee must base its decision on facts, not just “a decision that the worldly authorities may have taken,” it says.
Only men can be the elders in the congregation, and in the judicial committee. They have no formal qualifications to be judges.
All members of the congregation are required to proceed with matters that are characterised as sin if they hear about them. Members who have to meet the committee must do it alone.
We must assume that the judgement committee in a congregation knows the people involved in one thing. And in the way the church is built up, it is clear that women’s voice counts less than men’s.
This is not about freedom of belief. This is about depriving other people of fundamental legal certainty, such as the right to get their case tried for an unharmed court and the right to a defender. It is abuse of power.
Internationally, Jehovah’s Witnesses in many countries are accused of keeping back information in cases of abuse they have known.
In Norway everyone must be equal to the law. There is no reason to believe that it applies when the judiciary of Jehovah’s Witnesses come together.
Most seriously, violence or other serious assaults may continue for a long time without the police being notified. It can also be punishable in itself, we have a detention order in Norway. You can be punished for up to one year’s imprisonment to fail to proceed with such information.
Jehovah’s Witnesses must realise the limits of their own power and competence, and ensure that all members have the same legal certainty as all other people in Norway. At the same time, Norwegian authorities must defeat such parallel legal systems with all available means.
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