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Jehovah’s Witnesses Get Win Ruling

December 19, 2000

KARLSRUHE, Germany (AP) _ The Jehovah’s Witnesses have won a second chance from Germany’s highest court to prove they should be recognized in the country as a religion.

The high court on Tuesday lifted a 1997 lower court verdict that denied special tax status to the group because it urges followers not to vote in elections. The court said fresh proceedings must establish whether to recognize the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a religion.

Tax status for religious groups is particularly important in Germany because authorities collect and distribute taxes to recognized groups.

Founded in the United States in the 19th century, the Jehovah’s Witnesses now have about 4.4 million members worldwide. There are about 160,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany.

The group cheered the decision, and spokesman Werner Rudtke said: ``With this decision, the (court) has spoken out for religious freedom and equal treatment of religious communities.″

In the new trial, the Jehovah’s Witnesses must prove that their recommended practices for raising children are legal and also that those who want to leave the group aren’t stopped from doing so.

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