Mandated Shunning

Beyond Bullying: Mandated Shunning in High-Control Religions


By Robert U. Rational

In today’s interconnected world, bullying has become a widely recognized social issue, with considerable attention directed towards its prevention and mitigation.

However, there exists a form of social coercion that often flies under the radar, which is mandated shunning from faith-based communities like Exclusive Brethren, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, Haredi Jews, Amish/Mennonites, and the Bahá’í Faith.

While bullying and cyberbullying are rightfully condemned and legislated against in many jurisdictions, mandated shunning remains largely unaddressed by the law, despite its devastating effects on individuals and communities. In this blog post, we’ll explore the parallels between bullying/cyberbullying and mandated shunning, and argue for the criminalization of the latter.

Understanding the Dynamics

Bullying and Cyberbullying

Bullying is a persistent problem in schools, workplaces, and communities worldwide. It involves repeated aggressive behaviour intended to harm, intimidate, or exert control over another person perceived as vulnerable. This behaviour can take various forms, including physical, verbal, social, and psychological.

Cyberbullying, a modern manifestation of bullying, occurs through electronic means such as social media, text messages, or online forums. It amplifies the reach and impact of traditional bullying, often leading to heightened feelings of isolation and helplessness in victims.

Mandated Shunning in High-Control Religions

In contrast, mandated shunning is a practice enforced by certain high-control religious groups against individuals deemed to have transgressed the group’s rules or teachings. This can include dissenting beliefs, leaving the religion, or sex before marriage.

Mandated shunning involves cutting off all social, emotional, and sometimes financial ties with the individual labelled as an “apostate” or “disfellowshipped.” Members are instructed to avoid any contact or communication with the shunned individual, even if they are family members or close friends.

Parallels and Impacts

Psychological Harm

Both bullying/cyberbullying and mandated shunning inflict severe psychological harm on their targets. Victims experience feelings of rejection, isolation, and worthlessness, leading to depression, anxiety, and in extreme cases, suicidal ideation.

In the context of mandated shunning, individuals subjected to this practice often lose entire social support networks, including family and friends. This forced isolation can have devastating consequences on mental health and emotional well-being, leaving individuals vulnerable to manipulation and further exploitation by the controlling group.

Control and Coercion

Both bullying and mandated shunning serve as tools of control and coercion. In bullying scenarios, perpetrators seek to assert dominance and power over their victims through intimidation and harassment.

Similarly, high-control religious groups employ mandated shunning to maintain conformity and obedience among their members, instilling fear of social exile for non-compliance with group norms.

The Case for Criminalization

While laws exist to address bullying and cyberbullying, mandated shunning remains largely unchecked by legal frameworks. This discrepancy raises important questions about the protection of individuals’ rights and freedoms, particularly in cases where religious practices infringe upon basic human dignity and autonomy.

Mandated shunning meets the criteria for criminalization due to its demonstrable harm to individuals and society. By severing vital social bonds and perpetuating cycles of emotional abuse, this practice undermines fundamental principles of human rights and undermines efforts towards social cohesion and inclusivity.


Mandated shunning in high-control religious groups represents a form of social coercion and psychological manipulation akin to bullying and cyberbullying. Despite its harmful effects on individuals and communities, mandated shunning remains largely unaddressed by the law.

It is imperative that we recognize the parallels between these practices and advocate for their criminalization to protect the rights and well-being of all individuals, regardless of their religious affiliation. Only by confronting such coercive behaviours can we strive towards a more just and compassionate society for all.

To learn more about what you can do to bring an end to the malicious practice of mandated shunning please visit