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Fædrelandsvennen - In Print tomorrow - Full front page and 10 full pages - "Jehovah's witnesses own legal system"


Jack Ryan
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Massive article in print tomorrow, a follow up from the excellent "The Elder"-article printed earlier, that was made available for us in English version here.

https://www.fvn.no/nyheter/norgeogverden/i/xRWkJp/The-Elder

Tomorrow there's a huge follow-up, I will not share the full article now, due to respect of the amazing work that is done by the journalists, but I'm sure we will find a solution if you have som patience. Meanwhile there is a possibility to create an account and read the article in Norwegian here:

https://www.fvn.no/nyheter/i/yvrBLJ/Medlemmers-grove-lovbrudd-og-sexliv-handteres-i-egne-domsutvalg

I have made a translation of the headline and the intro:

Thus Jehovah's Witnesses operate outside the judicial system.

Members' gross offenses and sex lives are handled in their own judicial committee

Four Women - Four Stories - How Jehovah's Witnesses judicial committee operates serious matters internally, outside the Norwegian judicial system.

The elders manual, "Shepherd the Flock of God," shall not be read by anyone other than men who are elders in Jehovah's Witnesses. The book describes the tasks of the oldest. A large part of the book is about how the religious community will create and carry out its own religious tribunal.

Leak

After Fædrelandsvennen wrote the story of a 87-year-old elders in Jehovah's Witnesses who are imprisoned for sexual assault against a four-year-old, there were several tips and leaks of internal documents about how Jehovah's Witnesses are ruled.

The most important document in the leakages is the book " Shepherd the Flock of God ", the so-called "eldersmanual". Here's a detailed description of how Jehovah's Witnesses work with religious tribunals in Norway.

The main rule is that brothers and sisters in the religious community should not use the police and the Norwegian judicial system against each other.

Fædrelandsvennen knows people who have had to explain themselves to the judiciary in Sørlandet about a number of things.

A woman was interrogated by the men in a judicial selection on her sexual debut. Another woman feared expulsion and isolation after taking abortion.

One woman was saved in hospital. Violent blood loss during birth caused the doctors to intervene and inflicted blood while the woman was unable to explain. Afterwards, she had to respond to a court committee if she had done enough to oppose the treatment.

This is their stories:

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Link to the statement (behind paywall) https://www.fvn.no/mening/kommentar/i/OnJM8w/Maktmisbruk-i-Guds-navn Today we have TWO major articles as follow-up. Below is the editors statement:

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Link to the statement (behind paywall)

https://www.fvn.no/mening/kommentar/i/OnJM8w/Maktmisbruk-i-Guds-navn

Today we have TWO major articles as follow-up. Below is the editors statement:

Abuse of power in the name of God

Anyone who is concerned about receiving Islamic Sharia courts in our country should take the same fight against Jehovah's Witnesses practice!

They are nothing short of shocking, the stories we published Friday. They all focused on a religious congregation that addresses individuals. Judges and condemns them. In serious cases of violence and moral affairs. And in matters that concern individuals' privacy.

Everything outside of Norwegian justice. In the manual for the judicial committees which we have received as the first Norwegian newspaper, it is encouraged not to use the legal court system.

That is unacceptable.

This is a fine line between freedom of religion and the basic rules of society. Both parts are extremely important. Religious freedom must and must apply to all. Especially for minorities. Yes, that's what it's for. Those who do not believe in the same or who believe or practice their faith in a different way than the majority.

In many countries, Jehovah's Witnesses have been an oppressed minority. They have been persecuted for their faith and for the consequences they draw from it. In particular, their demands for non-military service provoked many regimes, both now and before. During World War II, several thousand witnesses were sent to concentration camps. While the Jews had to carry the yellow David star, Jehovah's Witnesses had to wear a small triangle.

The witnesses' struggle for recognition as a religious minority has helped promote this part of human rights in several countries. Paradoxically, they use their freedom to oppress single members in their own churches. This violation is also an offense of one of our fundamental foundations: the justice system.

Our legal system must be independent. It should treat everyone alike. And that should apply to everyone.

In Jehovah's Witnesses, judicial committees can not judge anyone in punishment in a legal sense. But they have assumed violent power over the lives of other people. Those who sit in these committees, without legal qualifications, abandon themselves to be entitled to have a faction on who of the right and who to be condemned. Thus, they inflict on a small group of people who lose a massive social penalty. Which may include public punishment from the congregation's chair.

In a democracy like ours, there can not be a parallel legal system

Another threat is social exclusion and isolation. For us outside such a sect or church it may seem strange that people who have experienced such abuse and lawlessness want to return to the church. But it is often something far more than that. The church is the social framework. Where you have grown up. There are close family members and friends. It's also where you've learned that everyone outside is wrong. A woman we mentioned on Friday's case used the following description on a life outside the church: "It is perceived as a death sentence."

That's the way it's meant. The members must be scared, not to leave the church, not to question the way it works - and not to challenge the verdict.

And as almost always in religions, established for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years ago, who will make up the right and wrong: the rules are established by the men. The women are losers.

The right to believe and practice this is a human right. But human rights also protect the individual from injustice and abuse. Among other things, from religious leaders.

In a democracy like ours, there can not be a parallel legal system.

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Then we have another major article, with responses from politicians:

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https://www.fvn.no/nyheter/i/6n0Ere/Avsloringen-av-Jehovas-vitners-domsutvalg---Jeg-reagerer-med-avsky

The disclosure of Jehovah's Witnesses' Judicial Committees: - I respond with disgust

"Such attempts to establish parallel legal structures must be combated with the utmost importance," says Lene Vågslid (AP), chairman of the justice committee at the Norwegian Parlament.

OSLO / KRISTIANSAND: Politicians from a number of parties respond strongly to the revelations of Jehovah's Witnesses practice with their own judiciary on the side of the public justice system.

Fædrelandsvennen has received the internal book that the elders in the closed faith community use as guidance as they govern the organization and establish a judicial selection.

Fædrelandsvennen told Friday the story of four women who have met for the juidical committees, where only men with privileges as elders can judge.

The cases were about family violence, divorce after assault complaints, sex outside of marriage and abortion.

This is one of the controversial passages in the book "Be Shepherds of God's Herd", which has been leaked to the fathers' relatives. The book explains how the elders in the community of Jehovah's Witnesses will work with their own judiciary on the side of the official judiciary: “There is no difference between suing a single brother or sister, and to sue a company where all the owners are Jehovah’s Witnesses. The spirit in 1. Corintians 6:1-8 will be humiliated if someone turns to secular courts to settle business conflicts between companies that is owned by brothers.”

Labour Party: Reacts with disgust

"I react with disgust. Such attempts to establish parallel legal structures must be combated with utmost seriousness," said Lene Vågslid (AP), chairman of the justice committee at the Norwegian Parlament.

The Labor Party has previously raised issues related to social control and honorary culture in other religious communities, and VÃ¥gslid has been contacted by people with a background from Jehovah's Witnesses.

“Therefore I have heard about the problem before. But I have to say I am very pleased that you are in the press, now we are looking at this and showing what this means," said Vågslid.

She believes that an important limit is crossed when the religious community is explicitly encouraged not to use the public justice system.

"In men-dominated environments, both this and others, the legal certainty for children and women is important to take care of. All attempts to undermine our legal state are unacceptable", she says.

Minister of Culture: - Abuse of powers

"In Norway there is no one over the Norwegian legal system, and we are all equals to the law. We should not accept that anyone is standing outside or on the side, whether they call it Sharia law or they are called Jehovah's Witnesses", says Minister of Culture Trine Skei Grande (V).

She believes parallel systems seem to be undermining for the judiciary and the community of sinstitutions.

"It's totally reprehensible to create systems on the side of this. So simple, I have to say that. Those who do this abuse their power as religious leaders."

Krf (Christian Political Party): Warns strongly

Kjell Ingolf Ropstad in the Christian People's Party also reacts.

"I would strongly warn against the development of internal courts and parallel societies. We have a court and it is important that everyone relate to it. Offenses must be notified to the police and it is serious if for example gross violence and abuse are hidden.

He sees that religious communities need to defend their teachings, but believe what he has read now goes beyond a boundary.

"I am a strong defender of freedom of belief, but when religious communities rely on the right to deal with abuse and violence it is very serious and I would strongly warn against this," says Ropstad.

What do you think that members of this community are strongly encouraged not to use the "worldly justice system"?

"It is very problematic if trust in our common justice system is being destroyed, no matter what contexts it takes place. We must do our utmost to enable people to trust the judiciary, and try to establish better dialogue with the faith communities so that we can prevent the development of such self-sufficiency systems as referred to in this case.

SV: - Nobody should be denied protection

"There is nothing in the freedom of belief that allows such business. One can not hide such freedom when establishing such systems, " said Petter Eide, Justice Policy Spokesman in SV (left-wing party).

Prior to becoming a politician, Eide's background includes being the Secretary-General of Norwegian People's Aid and Amnesty. He has worked a lot with human rights, and believes the right to believe what one does not mean you can do what you want.

"There is nothing wrong with conflict resolution mechanisms. But you can not put obstacles in the way people use police and public justice. In the worst case, you are guilty of concealing crimes in this way. No citizen shall be denied the protection found in the judicial system, " said Eide.

He reacts strongly to the history of family violence. The mandatory laws allows you to be penalized for not reporting to the police.

Eide also draws a line to Norway's efforts for human rights in other countries.

Taking the matter to the Parlament

"Norway is often quick to criticize other countries whose local courts violate human rights in matters such as legal protection for women in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Then we have to clean up here at home when we see we have tendencies to this. What you point to here shows a very traditional male-structure that is completely outdated in modern society. There is a huge female suppression in the way this was put on, he says.

Now, SV will take up the case with Minister of Justice Tor Mikkel Wara, in the form of a written question in the Parlament.

"Parallel legal systems, as Jehovah's Witnesses practice, prevents individuals from being protected by fundamental human rights, such as the right to defendants, the right to get the case tried in an ordinary court," said Eide.

Democrats: Flashback from Iran

Makvan Kasheikal, party leader of the Democrats , is originally from Iran. He says he slept badly after reading the article on Thursday night.

"I got a flashback from my old home country. Iran is a country where religious men decide everything. There you call it Sharia law. So suddenly I sit in calm Kristiansand and read the rhetoric of killing and blood damage and I know it all too well again. This is shameful to read about in Norway! Yes, for any civilized society, he thunders."

Kashikal says that Fædrelandsvennen has revealed is completely unacceptable.

"It violates basic principles of law. We must have freedom of religion, but we must have the opportunity to safeguard individuals' rights. We shall not have other laws governing Norway's laws in this country."

Ministry of Justice: "A Public Task"

Fædrelandsvennen has tried to have an interview with Justice Minister Tor Mikkel Wara about the matter. He had no opportunity for it on Friday, but after going through the article, the communications department in the ministry has put the matter before him and sends the following statement:

"Treatment of abuse and violence is and should be a public task. There should be no room for serious cases to escape prosecution. The prosecutor is required to investigate and possibly prosecute criminal offenses they are familiar with. At the same time, this case shows that the police do not always receive such information. This is regrettable. The Ministry emphasizes that if you get to know, for example, serious abuse of others, retrieving information about such circumstances may in some cases be punishable as collusion or breach of contract. Retaining such information can be highly criticized and seriously harm the people concerned.

It is not allowed to make binding rules or agree to the right to report matters or to contact the police or other public authorities, no matter what the matter may be. The "court of law" must nevertheless relate to Norwegian law. Church communities have no greater or lesser right than other associations to adopt legally binding rules for the members.

A self-determination scheme may probably extend far beyond private law issues, as long as there are questions that you can freely regulate in accordance with general contractual rules, etc. Under no circumstances can the right of association exclude the legal test of prescriptive (compelling) rules. A number of other questions may also be tested to a greater or lesser extent by the judiciary, no matter how much "self-esteem" applies to the association. "

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