Mother of two Gry Helen Mollan Nygård has been a part of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ski throughout her adult life. After she told the elders in her congregation that she had been sexually abused, the congregation distanced itself from her. So has her immediate family.
Originally Published by Østlandets Blad on May 25, 2012
It was in 2018 that the life of Gry Helen Mollan Nygård completely changed. From being a single mother with two grown children, living in a house in Ski, she suddenly received the heavy message that she was expelled from Jehovah’s Witnesses in Ski. Then it suddenly blew up.
The reason is, is that told the most trusted members of the congregation, the elders, that she had been raped in a hotel room in Oslo.
The response from the congregation is crystal clear. They thought she had committed adultery. Sex outside of marriage, which is strictly forbidden according to their interpretation of the Bible.
Also did not listen to the congregation meetings on the phone
After a conversation, some time passed before both parties met at a Conciliation Board meetng. There Nygård won on all counts and the congregation was sentenced to pay the woman 100,000 kroner in restitution. Jehovah’s Witnesses did not accept this and took Nygård to court. Follo District Court, for its part, acquitted the congregation. TThis judgment was appealed and will be heard in the Court of Appeal from 2 to 4 June.
In the period from 2018, the 49-year-old has had minimal contact with her children who are both in their 20s. Although expelled from the congregation, no one prevented her from attending meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but no one could speak to her, she could only be present. She treatment put her off on some occasions in the time after she was thrown out.
But in the end she could not take it anymore. Then she switched to listening to the meetings via telephone transmission. But at one point, completely without warning and justification, she also lost that access to the congregation in Ski, according to Nygård.
Has not spoken to her children for more than a year
“I saw my youngest son at one of these meetings, but he was standing at the other end of the room. We did not talk. That’s the last thing I saw of him. As for my oldest son, he and my mother came to my house on one occasion, after I had been in the hospital. That was in April last year,” the mother tells Østlandets Blad.
She is sure that both the mother and the children have wanted to have more contact, but that it is a difficult position considering the situation Nygård is in.
ØB meets the woman and her lawyer, Håkon Mathias Sterling Danielsen at his office in Oslo. They are in full swing preparing for the hearings in the Court of Appeal.
“What is it like not to have contact with your children?”
“It’s raw. It is almost impossible to describe it in words. I think about it as little as possible, simply to get through everyday life. I pretend they are on a desert island without cell phone coverage. I think they will soon return from a holiday,” says Nygård.
“Is it the case that members do not have the opportunity to contact you who are now expelled?”
“Members have a great deal of respect for the framework that is set in the congregation. Not having contact with the expelled is enshrined in the Bible as we interpret it. But what is law and what is not law can be a bit unique, but people are probably generally very afraid of stepping over those boundaries.”
The reason why the children do not have contact with their mother is for obedience reasons, we must believe Nygård. Via messages, she has a clear perception of those who love her.
Chose to become part of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Nygård has been on disability benefits for almost 16 years and now lives in a rented apartment in Ski. Without the children and the close and good friends in the congregation, she has no life.
“I’m in a bubble, a kind of state of limbo. I feel a bit like a zombie. I’m not alive. I exist in anticipation of getting my life back. I do not have any close friends or networks and can not bear to get such either.”
Nygård’s way into the congregation she has done by herself. Her mother was already a member, but not her father. From a very young age, she dealt with all kinds of denominations. This is to find out where she herself belonged. At age 16, she made the choice to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Since then, it has been her life, but not after 2018. She still has the faith, and lives as a Jehovah’s Witness, but is not allowed to practice it from the outside in the same way as those inside.
Still a big wound
“What do you miss most about being thrown out by Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
“It’s probably my kids. It’s still a big wound. But also close family and established friends, friends that you can lean on when you need them. This is a friendship you spend a long time establishing that I am now not allowed to have contact with.”
In the process with the Conciliation Board and the trial in Follo District Court, it is not being believed that hurts the most. The conversation she had with the elders in the congregation was to get help with the problem she had come up with. The answer from the congregation was that they did not believe in her version and chose to expel her.
Hurts not to be believed
“It hurts so much not to be believed, but rather pushed out into the cold. I know I have not done anything wrong. It was a rape. I asked for help to get out of a situation I have no idea how to get out of. I wanted to learn to understand what I had experienced.”
Should she regain membership, the lack of trust in other people will make her think twice before choosing who to talk to if the need arises.
On Wednesday 2 June, Nygård will meet again in court. This time in the Court of Appeal in Oslo. Her lawyer believes in a different outcome this time.
Fears Nygård’s Legal Rights
“In the district court, the conclusion was so vague that it is difficult to draw a conclusion about what they fell for. I hope the Court of Appeal is clearer on what is fact in the case and that they emphasize what has actually happened. We also expect the court to say something in principle about where the boundary between the exercise of faith and law lies. Norwegian courts have never tried such a question as purely as in this case. If Gry is heard in the Court of Appeal, but at the same time decides that they can not interfere in the congregation’s decision, she is without justice,” Sterling Danielsen concludes.
This is the response from the Jehovah’s Witnesses
Østlandets Blad has asked a number of questions to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Here are the questions they asked:
- What do you think about the fact that no one in the congregation dares to have contact with her after the eviction?
- Is it true that she is no longer allowed to attend congregation meetings by telephone?
- If so, why not?
- Do you have any belief that she can return as a full member of the Church in Ski?
- If you do not win in the Court of Appeal, will you then appeal to the Supreme Court?
The answer to their questions was as follows, received in an e-mail from Dag-Erik Kristofersen, at the Public Information Desk at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Scandinavia:
“Those who are expelled are welcome to attend our meetings. During the pandemic, our meetings are held as a video conference, and everyone – including expelled people – is welcome to join the meetings with the local congregation. When someone is expelled, each individual in the congregation will use their conscience, which is shaped by the Bible, when deciding how to follow the Bible’s admonition to limit or avoid contact with the expelled,” he writes in an e-mail to ØB.
“Expelled persons who show a sincere desire to live by Bible standards are always welcome to become Jehovah’s Witnesses again. We are sure that you understand that we do not want to comment on the ongoing trial,” he writes.