A young woman decided to break the silence, after the congregation publicly said that leaving was a “voluntary” action that carried no consequences.
“I am going to talk seriously about what happens within the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Sorayis Narez, a young Spanish woman who belonged to the church until she was 25 years old, began to say in her confession, the age at which she decided to leave to “get her life back”, but not without a harsh consequence.
When she heard the words that announced that “Soraya isno longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses”, she never imagined what would come next. And it is that the strict rules of this religious organization classify whoever leaves as “expelled”, and they are convinced that the word of God says that no one can associate with her again.
“True Christians recognize that they cannot give more importance to family than to God ,” reads the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where they also ask their community to “show Christian loyalty when a relative is expelled.”
It explicitly reads that the word of God “commands Christians not to associate with someone who has been expelled from the congregation.” And so it happened to Sorayis, whose family and friends erased her from their lives for deciding to step aside from it.
“It is very hard to remember the day (…) and know that no one around you will be able to talk to you and know that you are going to lose your relationship with your family,” the young woman confessed through tears.
And it is because she decided to break the silence, after denouncing the claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Spain where they assured the public that leaving the congregation was “voluntary”, something very far from the truth of what this Spanish woman affirmed had happened to her.
She also took the opportunity to send a message to those who, like her, want to try living another lifestyle, but who are afraid of being shunned by their friends and family: “Tell them that the world is not as bad as they are being led to believe. There are very good people and others who are willing to help them”.
But her call was not to stigmatize the members of the religion, for example, those who are on the street preaching their religion, since she assures that “they are good people who believe they are doing the right thing” and that “they do not realize that the organization is using them.
Es totalmente falso! Mientes!yo fui educada en la religión de los testigos de Jehova , con 15 años decidí no bautizarme y dejar la congregación , predicaba e iba a las reuniones y todo y nadie me dijo nada, mis padres que son testigos de Jehová todavía me hablaron!— inessssperada (@Caselitasmcmc) March 17, 2023
In the tweet where she uploaded the videos of her story, many people supported her and even others recounted similar experiences they have had, with relatives or friends after they decided to leave Jehovah’s Witnesses.
One of them even said that his ex-wife did not allow him to see his grandchildren, whom he could never meet, just for voluntarily leaving the congregation.
However, a Twitter user was emphatic in trying to deny what the young Spanish woman confessed: “It is totally false! You lie! I was educated in the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the age of 15 I decided not to get baptized and I left the congregation. I was preaching and going to meetings and everything, and nobody said anything to me. My parents who are Jehovah’s Witnesses still talk to me.
“It would be against what the Bible preaches to do such a thing. Even though I am no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, I will always remember the good values they taught me. They are good people, honest, not like you”, wrote the user @caselitasmcmc.
However, many people quickly found the difference between the case of this woman and that of Sorayis Naez, and that is that the tweeter said that she was never baptized, so she was not “expelled” from the organization. And according to its strict rules, this would be the reason her family and friends of hers didn’t have to cut ties with her.
My definition of shunning is ostracism; social abandonment, isolation and rejection of an unrepentant baptized Jehovah’s Witness. It is a harmful religious practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses meant to ‘discipline‘ an unrepentant baptized member who has committed a religious offense. Jehovah’s Witnesses use the Bible passage at 1 Corinthians 5:11, 13 and 2 John 9-11 to legally establish this practice under the guarantee of freedom of religion and belief and the United States 1st Amendment.
Shunning occurs after a Jehovah’s Witness is either expelled for a religious offense (disfellowship) or leaves voluntarily (disassociate) by submitting a resignation letter (also known as a letter of disassociation) and ends after they return to their religion (known as reinstatement).
Shunning is openly promoted by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses in many of their religious material including annual convention videos, issues of The Watchtower magazines and other publications used to recruit new persons in their religion, to name a few. Apologists and advocates for absolute, unregulated freedom of religion, such as Massimo Introvigne, openly defend the legal right of Jehovah’s Witnesses to practice shunning.
Jehovah’s Witnesses who disassociate and who are disfellowshipped are both subject to shunning by other Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Shunning is known to cause depression and in some cases resulted in suicide, similar to the lock-downs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shunning is also known have cause the disintegration of the family unit and the dissolution of marriages, relationships and friendships.
Shunning can have such destructive and detrimental effects as Jehovah’s Witnesses are strongly discouraged from having a social support network with non-believers, who are portrayed as “bad associations”. New and potential members are encouraged formally and informally to form strong friendships only with other Jehovah’s Witnesses who are described as “good wholesome association” – association that includes child molesters and rapists, wife beaters, drunkards, gamblers etc.
In January 2022 and December 2022, the State Administrator of Oslo, in denying Jehovah’s Witnesses of Norway any further access to state grants, ruled that shunning prevents individual Jehovah’s Witnesses from voluntarily leaving their religion; and this is an infringement on their freedom of religion (which includes the freedom both to join and change a religion) under Article 9 of The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
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