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Jehovah's Witnesses could face civil service duty

Jehovah's Witnesses' current exemption from military service could extend to other groups with strong convictions, if one proposal in a new report on the matter is accepted. Alternatively, they could be required to perform civil, rather than military, service.

Jehovan todistajien valtakunnansali
Jehovah's witnesses have not been called up to serve in the Finnish defence forces since 1985. Image: Yle

Defence Minister Carl Haglund ordered the report last September. Judicial history professor Jukka Kekkonen has now presented three options on how to change an exemption to military service granted to men from the Jehovah's Witnesses denomination in 1985.

Kekkonen suggested that the current general duty for men to perform military service could change to a national service commitment, or the exemption could extend to other groups.

Kekkonen’s third option is simply striking down the 1985 law exempting Jehovah's Witnesses. The professor sees that as extremely problematic, as it would be likely to dramatically increase the number of conscientious objectors in Finnish jails.

"Jehovah's Witnesses have nothing against carrying out some kind of service for the state," said the Jehovah's Witnesses’ Finnish press officer Veikko Leinonen. "I have the impression that this is such a big change, and large question, that implementing it is quite unlikely."

 

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