JW’s: Justice Minister: No room for two judicial systems in Finland

News 3.5.2014 18:36

Justice Minister Anna-Maija Henriksson has expressed concern over claims by a local NGO that Jehovah’s Witnesses in Finland have their own judicial committee meting out justice to wrongdoers. Responding to a report by the UUT which advocates for victims of religious organisations, Henriksson said that Finland has no room for two separate judicial systems.

http://yle.fi/uutiset/justice_minister_no_room_for_two_judicial_systems_in_finland/7219841

Anna-Maja+HenrikssonJustice Minister Anna-Maija Henriksson

Alongside a report into disciplinary practices by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the religious victims support group UUT called on Justice Minister Anna-Maija Henriksson to investigate the actions of the church.

Based on first-hand accounts of 18 former church members, the UUT report claims that an internal judicial committee handed down harsh sentences including ostracism to offending church members.

Henriksson avoided directly commenting on the actions of the church, but did say that Finland already has a judicial system.

“Of course it cannot be in Finland that we have another system outside the regular judiciary,” she said.

“It’s extremely important, also in religious communities to respect fundamental individual rights and freedoms. And that also includes thinking about our own behavior and practices from the perspective of respecting others,” Henriksson added.

The minister advised individuals to file a criminal complaint with police if they feel that they are being targeted in violation of Finnish law. She said that the courts are the final authority on whether or not the organs of a religious group are operating legally or illegally.

Henriksson said that Justice Ministry officials will look into the UUT report in greater detail next week.

The matter also falls to the Ministry of Education and Culture, which is responsible for freedom of religion legislation and matters relating to religious groups. Henriksson said she also plans to discuss the matter with the minister responsible for church matters, Päivi Räsänen.
Sources Yle

 

2 Responses

  1. Justice Minister Anna-Maija Henriksson’s point about “two separate judicial systems” is an interesting approach to a serious problem.

    At the same time, I think this principle calls for serious examination, both as to its strengths and its weaknesses. For example, how would “judicial system” be defined? Employment committees? Professional ethics and procedures committees? Both of these have the power to censure and punish, and both of them need to be defined especially by the employer or profession. We all can think of situations in which we would want to refuse a government’s absolute authority to tell an employer or professional body that they no longer have the right to decide if a person is fit to be one of their number. On the other hand, we already regulate such committees so that they cannot violate human and civil rights.

    Also, for this principle of no separate judicial systems to be extended fairly, why shouldn’t it be absolute and applied to every kind of association of people that currently enforce their constitutions? However, extending it to all associations has problems of its own and these need to be considered carefully.

    I will be reflecting further on this and hope to post about it properly. It’s a challenging approach, if meant just as it sounds, and needs careful consideration before it turns into something we can’t control.

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  2. The statement that sticks out to me in this report is the following.
    “Henriksson said that Finland has no room for two separate judicial systems.”
    Though I noted that the Interior Minister has a brief to oversee churches, I would be surprised if Finland does not have the separation of powers between Church and State?

    She takes it a step further and states, “Of course it cannot be in Finland that we have another system outside the regular judiciary,” she said.

    I would see this statement as very dangerous in regard to the freedom of religion.
    There are obviously separate legal systems. Each Church has its own canon law or internal rules. They must be respected however, if they involve breaches of human rights they must be challenged by civil society.

    “It’s extremely important, also in religious communities to respect fundamental individual rights and freedoms. And that also includes thinking about our own behavior and practices from the perspective of respecting others,” Henriksson added.

    This is fundamental. What I liked about the reports was the joined up thinking. She is going to consult with the Minister of the Interior and Education as well.
    Shunning or ‘Disfellowshiping’ raises a number of issues. In the New Testament the original concept of discipline taught by Jesus.

    Matthew 18 (New International Version)
    A Brother Who Sins Against You
    15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

    In the context we see that Jesus here is addressing how to deal with Church Discipline. At first reading it looks pretty heavy, but the purpose of giving a person time out is redemptive not destructive. It is to give the person time to reflect and the hope is they will return to the practice of their faith. How should they be treated?
    “Like a pagan or a tax collector.” In other words treat them with love and respect and try to win them like you did when they were living outside God’s will originally. The aim is discipline, not exclusion. Socialise with them and win them back through love..

    What the JW’s do is use this disciplinary process as a catch all to deal with dissent and not as a means to lovingly restore people to communion with their friends. It is used as a vicious means to separate and control people. They force families apart and so it is clear that a group which has this teaching must be exposed as trampling on people and trying to destroy them for raising questions. It is a means of ideological control and is in breach of Christ’s teaching and Fundamental Human Rights.
    A case was taken in Belgian by a person who had lost his family and friends because of Disfellowshiping.

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