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Move to reinstate national service for Jehovah’s Witnesses

Defence Committee chair Jussi Niinistö says the preferential treatment granted to Jehovah’s Witnesses is difficult to rationalise to other conscientious objectors.

Jehovan todistajien valtakunnansali
A Kingdom Hall is a place of worship used by Jehovah's Witnesses. Image: Yle

Jussi Niinistö, who chairs Parliament’s Defence Committee, is demanding that the military service exemption granted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses be abolished. Members of the Christian denomination were exempted from the compulsory national service in 1987.

“A special exemption from military service granted to one religious group is unfair towards others,” Niinistö stated in a formal query submitted to the cabinet on Monday.

Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse military service as a matter of religious conviction, but Niinistö points out that a number of countries do not allow Jehovah's Witnesses to skip military duty for this reason.

Last year, former Defence Minister Stefan Wallin called for Jehovah's Witnesses to take part in non-military national service.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and residents of the autonomous Åland Islands are the only groups exempted from carrying out military service.

Some 20,000 people are members of Jehovah’s Witness congregations in Finland.

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