Twenty-two years ago, when the Jehovah’s Witnesses no longer considered Steph Le Gardener a sufficiently faithful follower, they kicked her out. In a word, she was “disfellowshipped”; and in that narrow, fearful faith, that means she lost her family and friends, because Jehovah’s Witnesses are required to shun ex-members forever. And so:
The last, very brief, conversation I had with my father (who’s now in his 70’s) went something like this, “Dad, I’m flying back for my class reunion, and I’d really like to stop in for a couple of days and check on you and make sure you’re o.k.”
He replied, “Well, are you coming back to ‘The Truth?’” “No, Dad, you know I’m not,” I sighed. “Well, then we have nothing left to discuss.” Click.
Le Gardener is an admin for an ex-Jehovah’s Witness recovery group on Facebook.
Not a week goes by that I don’t hear stories of families torn apart by these abusive shunning practices. What’s worse is that most of the stories involve children. You cannot imagine the number of grandchildren who have never known their grandparents, parents who never see their children, siblings who never see each other. Promotions, graduations, births, deaths, holidays, and more, all missed because families are torn apart by some mysterious code of religious obligation to shun one another.
The irony of the Jehovah’s brigades is that they don’t shun the people who wish to be shunned. Indeed, there are jurisdictions where homeowners who display a sign telling the inveterate proselytizers to get lost can expect a visit from the constabulary.
In 2006, police officers told a British woman, Jean Grove, to remove a sign that read “Our dogs are fed on Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The cops relayed that there had been a complaint from someone who found the sign “distressing, offensive and inappropriate”.