Article: It's Time to Outlaw Extreme Shunning in Modern Society

by AndersonsInfo 183 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • AndersonsInfo

    Extreme Shunning The Gilmer Mirror It’s Time to Outlaw Extreme Shunning in Modern Society

    By: Richard E. Kelly

    The January 15th issue of The Watchtower magazine leaves no doubt about how Jehovah’s Witnesses should treat family members who have been “disfellowshipped,” or ex-communicated, from the religion.

    “Really, what your beloved family member needs to see is your resolute stance to put Jehovah above everything else – including the family bond,” warns the magazine on page 16, before asserting, “Do not look for excuses to associate with a disfellowshipped family member, for example, through e-mail.”

    Jehovah’s Witness is not the only religion that calls upon its followers to ostracize anyone who leaves the faith. Described as psychological torture by University of California-Davis Professor Almerindo E. Ojeda, such social rejection is used in the United States by Anabaptists (the Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites), Scientology, and the Baha’i Faith, among others. Some contemporary evangelical Protestant churches have renewed the practice of shunning, as in the case of a 71-year-old former Sunday school teacher who was arrested on trespassing charges after questioning her pastor’s authority.

    The practice can have devastating consequences.

    In 2011, Eric Reeder was disfellowshipped from the Jehovah’s Witnesses after sustaining injuries in a motorcycle accident that led to a blood transfusion – a medical treatment prohibited by the religion. His family subsequently shunned him in accordance with the faith’s rules.

    Eric posted about his predicament in an online forum for ex-Witnesses in August of that year, admitting, “The only thing I am really going to miss is my folks ... my dad is a hardcore elder and has told me he will no longer be able to speak to me 100% of the time.”

    In April 2012 he wrote that he was “still not used to my parents totally shunning me …” before adding, “It’s so hard ... nobody should have to lose their parents twice.”

    By the end of September, Eric was found dead at age 51. He had killed himself.

    Nobody can be certain what dark thoughts were swirling through Eric’s mind when he took his own life, or what finally drove him to such a desperate act. But we do know that in the preceding months, Eric was deeply tormented by the ostracism inflicted on him by members of his family.

    While The Watchtower Society, the name of the legal entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, proudly publishes annual statistics related to its worldwide evangelism work, there are no official figures for those who are shunned, and no way to confirm how many of these former members, like Eric, feel desperate enough to take their own lives. However, one can find a great deal of anecdotal evidence on Internet forums frequented by Ex-Witnesses. One well-known researcher, Terri O’Sullivan, reported that being shunned worsens one’s mood within 60 seconds.

    In the absence of any popular or political impetus to address the issue of religion-incited shunning, I am proud to be part of an organization that dares to face it head on. Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA) has been established to educate the world via its website ( ) about some of Watchtower’s most shocking practices.

    While these are often pardoned in the name of religious freedom, there are instances where governments have successfully sanctioned extreme shunning:

    “The Jewish tradition frequently confronted this issue in the many Eastern European communities where the government outlawed the use of excommunication and shunning. Not surprisingly, when confronted with significant governmentally imposed sanctions against this practice, the Jewish authorities ceased using exclusion as a method of community formation or maintenance,” states an article by Michael J. Broyde, academic director of Emory University’s Law and Religion Program.

    My colleagues and I believe that the shunning of relatives and friends represents mental and emotional abuse. Modern society must no longer allow Watchtower to promote this barbarous practice through printed word or otherwise.

    About Richard E. Kelly: Richard E. Kelly is the Managing Director of AAWA and the author of Growing Up in Mama’s Club: A Childhood Perspective of Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Ghosts from Mama’s Club. The retired former president of a Michigan manufacturing company, Kelly was raised as a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and left the faith at age 20.

    Read more: The Gilmer Mirror - Extreme Shunning

  • William Penwell
    William Penwell

    Under the US constitution it guarentees religious freedoms. I think this is a tough one to try and force any religion to do as they will throw up their constitutional rights. Even if did change their practice of shunning there would be other ways they would do it.

  • JeffT

    Nice thoughts but it isn't going to happen. The courts are going to take a first amendment view that if people don't want to shun people and their church requires it; the solution to the problem is to go to a different church.

  • Truth seeker 674
    Truth seeker 674

    I am not big on banning behavior Anderson. Just go after the finances. Concentrate on thier religous charity status.

  • breakfast of champions
    breakfast of champions

    Thanks for posting this.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment of the article, but yeah, ain't never gonna happen. . . at least not in the US.

    I could see this happening in those "backwards" Scandinavian countries, but not here.

  • Oubliette

    Excellent article. Well written and poignant.

    One suggeston though, instead of the expression "extreme shunning," he should use institutional shunning and/or coerced shunning.

    You will never be able to prevent individuals from shunning others, but that's not really the problem here. It is the fact that this religion, and other high-control groups, determines when a person is to be universally shunned by all other members of the group. When an individual is disfellowshipped, shunning is NOT optional on the part of obedient JWs. To disobey is grounds itself for sanctions, including their own "cutting off" and shunning.

    The idea that anyone thinks they can tell another adult who they can and cannot talk to is completely ludicrous. The only thing more ridiculous is that anyone would go along with it. But they do, thus demonstrating the power of mind-control and manipulation through fear and guilt.

    It really should be criminal.

  • adamah

    Freedom of religious worship is far too valued by Americans to start meddling with it, and the JWs right to shun has been verified as constitutional, based on principles of 'freedom of association'. You'd have to trample all over the U.S. Constitution with combat boots to try and ban the practice of shunning, and that should have people more scared than even JW mind control, since it would mean the GOVERNMENT is allowed to control religious practice.

    Besides the unconstitutionality issue, the JWs and their Christian persecution complex blossoms when they perceive that apostates are calling for their banishment by secular authorities, so whether intended or not, that article only plays right into the JW narrative and VALIDATES their claims, and reinforces the paranoia.

    It's clear though that it's time to consider a different approach (more on that later).


  • Watchtower-Free

    Elders and the Watchtower need to be held liable for the real damage they do .

    More JWs need to get their PTSD diagnosed and sue these bastards that caused it .

    Shunning causes PTSD and Complex PTSD and is a legal reason for sueing .

  • ABibleStudent

    Thanks for Sharing Barbara and please keep on promoting ideas to protect children and free people to critically think for themselves

    Unlike other posters to this thread, I do believe that the U.S. government should change tax exemption laws for non-profit organizations in a constitutionally acceptable manner to include prohibitions and revokation of tax exempt status for organizations promoting shunning, for organizations interferring with reporting violent crimes like child abuse/molestation and rape to local law enforcement, and for organizations that do not have/follow minimal child protection policies (i.e., background checks for and having two or more non-related, opposite sex adult supervision of organizaiton sponsored activities).

    First amendment rights are not a shield for religious organizations to support terrorism, to shelter donations so that the leadership can enjoy a lavious life-style, nor to discriminate based on specific criteria such as race. Read enough US tax codes and Supreme Court decisions and may be nay-sayers to this thread will understand that there are ways to make laws that modify US tax codes that are constitutional by focusing on issues instead of whether an organization is a religion or not.

    Peace be with you and everyone, who you love,


  • MeanMrMustard

    "You'd have to trample all over the U.S. Constitution with combat boots to try and ban the practice of shunning, and that should have people more scared than even JW mind control, since it would mean the GOVERNMENT is allowed to control religious practice."

    I think it goes even further. I can think of several different scenerios in which someone might decide, personally, not to associate with another person (even family), quite independent of any religion. It would have implications on the non-religious personal choices. There's way too many unintended consequences.

    As much as I hate parents shunning their children over religion, the answer is not law - it's education.

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