After former members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Iceland came forward on the news discussion show Kompás, wherein they recounted psychological abuse and being shunned by their families after being forced out of or leaving the faith, Vísir now reports that the chair of the parliamentary general and educational committee is considering whether or not to cut off the church from national funding.
While Iceland has a national church, by Icelandic law every legally registered religious organisation in the country is entitled to some national funding. Allegations of widespread abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been reported on internationally, detailing psychological and sexual abuse, as well as the practice of shunning members who do not abide church edicts, often cutting them off from their families.
In light of this, Norway, which has a national religious system similar to Iceland’s, made the decision earlier this year to cut the Jehovah’s Witnesses off from government funding. In the wake of the Kompás reporting, Bryndís Haraldsdóttir, who chairs the parliamentary committee relevant to religious funding, believes it may be time to reconsider the church’s status in Iceland.
“It certainly gives us pause and it is definitely possible to wonder whether there is occasion to response in a legal sense,” she told reporters. “I find, more or less, that the recounting [of the women in the Kompás episode] details violence going on, which is forbidden by law, and no one should be able to get away with violating human rights or inflicting violence on others, even if they do so for religious reasons. That’s just against Icelandic law.”
While Bryndís concedes that it would be a significant intervention to remove national funding, she cites Norway as an example of other countries going this route. For the time being, she encourages the general public to alert Child Protective Services if they suspect any child, let alone one in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, is being subjected to abuse.
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