You're in the Army Now: Jehovah's Witnesses No Longer Exempt From Finnish Draft

by Tahoe 16 Replies latest jw friends

  • Tahoe

    The Finnish government has ruled that the current law allowing Jehovah's Witnesses to avoid military service, in place for several decades, is discriminatory and contradicts the constitution.

    In the future, Finnish Jehovah's Witnesses* will be obliged to either serve in the nation's military or perform civil service on the same terms as everyone else, the government ruled, submitting a corresponding proposal to parliament, national broadcaster Yle reported.

    According to the 1987 law, Jehovah's Witnesses were not only freed from the military draft, they were freed of any obligation to perform community service as a pacifist alternative, a common option among other young people in Finland. The Finnish government has decided that this preferential treatment is discriminatory and contradicts the constitution. Repealing the law will allow all religious groups to get equal treatment in terms of conscription, the government's press release said.

    The government proposed a three-month transition period. Those applying for suspension within the three-month period before the new law enters into force shall be allowed to skip military service. After the transition period, exemptions will be no longer granted.

    READ MORE: Finland Rules Jehovah's Witnesses Draft Exemption 'Discriminatory'

    Abolishing the Jehovah's Witnesses' draft exemption has been considered several times before, in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2013, but nothing came of the discussions. However, the debate was re-kindled this year, when the Helsinki Supreme Court overruled a prison sentence against a conscientious objector who refused to perform community service. The court found it discriminatory to sentence a conscientious objector, when Jehovah's Witnesses don't need to do any military or community service whatsoever.

    "Today we have a kind of two-storied definition of personal convictions. Jehovah's Witnesses enjoy statutory liberation from military service, while others with pacifist convictions don't," former Defense Minister Stefan Wallin, who has long pushed for the abolition of differential treatment, explained.

    Veikko Leinonen, a Jehovah's Witnesses information officer in Finland, said this isn't a "working solution."

    "It's problematic. The belief the Jehovah's Witnesses follow opposes all forms of war and killing," Leinonen stressed. "Ideally, we should keep the system that exists today. It has worked well and does not violate anyone's rights," he added.

    This move is expected to cover some 130 people annually. According to Teemu Penttilä, the leader of the task force behind the investigation, the number of "total objectors" refusing both military service and community service won't rise significantly. In 2017, 33 conscientious objectors were sentenced in Finland.

    The Finnish Defense Forces operate on the principle of universal male conscription, although women are allowed to volunteer and have been availing themselves of this opportunity increasingly. With a peacetime strength of about 16,000 troops, Finland is capable of mobilizing up to 230,000 troops and service personnel within four weeks, making it the largest force in Scandinavia.

    The total number of Jehovah's Witnesses is estimated at about 20,000 in Finland.

  • Vidiot
    Veikko Leinonen, a Jehovah's Witnesses information officer - "...It's problematic. The belief the Jehovah's Witnesses follow opposes all forms of war and killing... Ideally, we should keep the system that exists today. It has worked well and does not violate anyone's rights..."


    Like the WTS gives an at's rass about anyone's "rights".

  • neat blue dog
    neat blue dog

    Avoiding government service is un-Christian. Jesus said 'if someone puts you into service for a mile, go two miles'. Joseph, Daniel, Mordecai, Cornelius and others held different government and law enforcement positions. To refuse even alternative service is not only wrong according to their own Bible, it's contradictory and patently absurd! They quietly reversed that rule years ago, but not before many suffered for it. (Similar to Malawi and elsewhere.)

  • sir82

    Actually not that big a deal for JWs. They are already OK with "civilian service" in many other countries which have military conscription.

  • AverageJoe1
    or perform civil service on the same terms as everyone else

    You mean that they didn't already? That's crazy!

    I've never understood why someone wouldn't want to help their country out, nothing to do with nationalism, especially in time of war. I totally understand not fighting but can't get my head around not helping your fellow man via civil service.

  • OrphanCrow
    "...Ideally, we should keep the system that exists today. It has worked well and does not violate anyone's rights..."

    Yeah, it was working well for you.

    This is typical. The response reveals their ignorant attitude to those who aren't part of their special elite group of JWs.

    They don't give a rat's ass about anyone's rights except their own.

    The law as it existed in Finland discriminated against everybody else's rights because the JWs were getting concessions that were denied to others.

    JWs have a myopic view of the world - it is them and then all the others who belong to the bird food class.

    Narcissistic - no consideration for anyone but themselves

  • Diogenesister

    When does it make sense to say we don't PRAY in KH's in Mexico because they are a "business" not a religion ( who knew?!!), but doing alternative service in hospitals or helping their community in other ways is not ok for a Christian??!

    I know when.....when it doesn't increase the coffers in wtbts bank balance!!!

  • blondie
  • “Keep Yourselves in God’s Love” p. 214-215

    Civilian service. In some lands, the State requires that those who reject military service engage in some form of civilian service for a period of time. When faced with a decision on this matter, we should pray about it, perhaps discuss it with a mature fellow Christian, and then make our decision on the basis of an informed conscience.​—Proverbs 2:1-5; Philippians 4:5.

    God’s Word tells us to “be obedient to governments and authorities, to be ready for every good work, . . . to be reasonable.” (Titus 3:1, 2) With that in mind, we might ask ourselves the following questions: ‘Will accepting the proposed civilian work compromise my Christian neutrality or cause me to be involved with false religion?’ (Micah 4:3, 5; 2 Corinthians 6:16, 17) ‘Would doing this work make it difficult for me to fulfill my Christian responsibilities or even prevent me from fulfilling them?’ (Matthew 28:19, 20; Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 10:24, 25) ‘On the other hand, would engaging in such service involve a schedule that would allow me to expand my spiritual activities, perhaps sharing in the full-time ministry?’​—Hebrews 6:11, 12.

    If a Christian conscientiously concludes that he could perform civilian service rather than go to prison, fellow Christians should respect his decision. (Romans 14:10) If, though, he feels that he cannot perform such service, others should respect that position as well.​—1 Corinthians 10:29; 2 Corinthians 1:24.

  • User99

    Well, if it’s not for religious reasons that they want to avoid the draft, why would it be? Possibly because the young men at Bethel might be taken away from them, and there goes their free labor?

  • truth_b_known

    I want to say it was 1993 when the WBTS reversed its stand on alternative compelled service. Many given this alternative to military service went to prison as they refused to do both.

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