The Jehovah’s Witnesses have come under heavy criticism in recent years for their shunning policy. For those unfamiliar, the religion dictates that all baptised members who either resign from the religion, or who are thrown out for some perceived violation of its rules, must be complexly shunned by all Witness family and friends.
This edict extends to family members as well; sons are expected to shun fathers, mothers expected to shun daughters, and so forth. Refusal can, in the worst instances, cause the offender to also be shunned. Because Witnesses are very insular, discouraged from forming close friendships with those outside the faith, it often means that a shunned one literally loses everyone they have ever known and loved.
For more details see this recent BBC expose on the matter, which features former Jehovah’s Witnesses discussing the pain and suffering this policy has caused them.
The policy is taken so seriously, and is so strictly enforced, that the Watchtower Organisation (the group which controls the worldwide religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses), make the policy a keynote teaching point at its 2016 worldwide conventions. During this event, which all Witnesses were required to attend, an extended video series was shown instructing Witnesses on how to shun family members. Even picking up the phone when a shunned member called was declared to be a grave error. We covered this controversial event in a previous article.
Now, a heartbreaking video has emerged online showing how far reaching and deeply ingrained this shunning policy is; a video showing Jehovah’s Witnesses clapping in applause as a little girl announces she is shunning her own sister.
Little Melody, and the sister she doesn’t have.
The incident appears to take place at one of this years Watchtower conventions. The video was posted on youtube by the girls parents, apprently eager to share with the world how they had trained one of their children to pretend her sister didn’t exist purely on the basis of religious dogma.
The video was comment-protected once viewers began expressing concern and displeasure at what they saw, but at the time of writing the video itself is still live and can be viewed below on the family’s youtube page. (EDIT 11/09/2017 – The video has been removed, but we have linked to an alternate site which has a copy)
It shows a little girl called Melody. She is ten years old, and was apparently baptised when she was 9. This means that Melody is now committed to the religion for life, and will be shunned if she ever leaves, or “unrepentantly” breaks any of its vast array of detailed rules.
During the interview, Melody explains that she has a sister who was “disfellowshipped,” which is the Witness term for one who is excommunicated; someone who was thrown out of the faith rather than leaving of their own accord. We are not told the reason for the disfellowshipping, but one can be subjected to it for a wide range of reasons such as pre-marital sex, celebrating Christmas or birthdays, voting, taking a blood transfusion, joining the military, or simply questioning any of the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Melody states that her sister was trying to contact her, and asking her to stay in contact despite Watchtower decreeing that she be shunned. Remember, Melody’s sister has probably lost all her family and friends at this point; everyone she ever knew and loved.
Melody admits that she misses and loves her sister, but states that she was afraid that if she didn’t cut her sister off completely, she might be tempted to keep some form of relationship going. Thus, she has decided to shun her completely, as Watchtower demands. She claims that this was to protect her relationship with Jehovah.
The audience of Jehovah’s Witnesses watching this announcement applaud.
Child Indoctrination: A very real tragedy.
To those who are not familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses, or other high control religious or political groups, it may seem incomprehensible that a little girl could behave this way about her own sister, or that those in the room would react with applause and not horrified astonishment.
But the sad fact is that such indoctrination is all too common, and all too easy to achieve, especially in the kind of high control environment that Watchtower constructs around its followers; controlling the information they are allowed to read, the people they are allowed to speak with, and sadly, which family members they are allowed to see.
Watchtower, which astonishingly is a registered charity in many countries despite enforcing such draconian and inhumane laws upon its followers, often attempts to mislead the general public about shunning. Sometimes they pretend that the policy is not strictly enforced, or give the impression that it does not exist at all.
Sadly, this video provides yet more proof that the shunning policy is real, and that families and friends are being broken up as a result. I hope that little Melody is able to break free of her chains one day, and be re-united with the sister who loves her.