The cruel practice of shunning – ignoring a family member or friend on the orders of a group – is a surefire marker of an abusive group or situation. And yet, the Jehovah’s Witness organization persists in using this harmful method of undue influence to emotionally blackmail their adherents to stay in the bubble-world of their organization.

In this insightful article from the BBC, survivors discuss how they have been alienated from their families – one young woman brutally thrown out of her home by her own father – for being “wicked” in the eyes of the organization. According to a representative of the Watchtower quoted in the article, a member of their group is to be shunned if he or she: “makes a practice of breaking the Bible’s moral code, and does not given evidence of stopping the practice.”

But according to their policies, these criteria apply to a woman not willing to continue living with an abusive husband; many former Jehovah’s Witness women tell of how they have been shunned by their families, simply for divorcing an abusive spouse. In this group, where “male headship” is one of their policies, a woman cannot divorce her husband unless either of them has engaged in adultery and is not sufficiently “repentant.” And, although, according to the same Watchtower representative: “violence … is strongly condemned in the Bible and has no place in a Christian family”, survivor groups are full of women who, when they were beaten by their husbands, report being  counseled by elders merely to be “better, more obedient wives,” with absolutely no action taken by those elders against the abusive spouse.

Shunning is also the inevitable fate for those who are homosexual, those who accept certain kinds of blood transfusions in order to save their lives, and anyone who thinks to question the policies of the Watchtower, or, indeed, dares to question whether or not the Governing Body who dictates these rules is, as they claim, the sole voice of God on Earth.

When an organization can hold the power of life and death over its members and even tear apart their families for the “crime” of disbelief, then, no matter what its purported views, it is a destructive, abusive group.

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree?  Do you have a story about shunning that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!