Shunning is a Crime

The Last Days for Cults and Shunning?


From Netflix to Hollywood celebrities, the world is buzzing with stories of survival from high-control groups and cults. While the groups ignore or head to court to stop disclosures, victims and survivors tell their stories of abuse, loss of family relationships and abandonment by friends.

Stop Mandated Shunning is a new movement gaining traction. It was started by a group of people who have experienced the best and worst of high control. They have created a website to gather stories from across the globe from individuals whom various groups have shunned.

We are not talking about organisations that throw people out or shun them for breaking the rules laid down from on high. The shunning that is being highlighted on this website is mandated shunning. There is a difference.

Mandated shunning occurs when an organisation forces its members to ignore and isolate another member due to ideological or theological differences. Mandated shunning even prohibits simple social gestures, such as saying, “hi” or sharing a meal. High-control groups and cults commonly use this practice to deter members from leaving the group or challenging its practices.

Some religious groups who practice mandated shunning are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hassidic Jews, Exclusive Brethren, Amish, Bahá’í Faith, and Scientologists. Membership in just these six organisations numbers in the tens of millions worldwide.

Richard E. Kelly who has been shunned by all his family members since 1981, said, “Losing your family and friends devastates many who walk away from high control. The impact of mandated shunning is particularly severe on people’s mental health and can lead to self-harm and suicide. It is especially harmful to minors, who may not know life outside the group. In addition to the horrible human suffering, mandated shunning financially burdens society. When just one person suffers long-term damage, the health care and loss of revenue can reach millions of dollars during that person’s lifetime, and tens of thousands are suffering.”

Recently, the ability of organisations to mandate their members to shun has been tested in courts to see how far these organisations are willing to go to create discord while undermining normal healthy relationships. For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses have recently lost government funding as a charity in Norway because of their stance on mandated shunning. Similarly, in Belgium, a case is on appeal and heading towards the European Courts to test how far organisations can interfere with the unalienable human rights of individuals.

Jan Frode Nilsen, who brought the successful action in Norway, said after the case: “The UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 12 states: ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.’ Organisations have created a system, a cobweb, in which family is used as a weapon, and it (mandated shunning) is a clear violation of human rights.”

Five basic human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to work and education. There are many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights without discrimination.

Unfortunately, as the survivor stories illustrate, high-control organisations often ignore these rights in an attempt to hold on to their members.

Stop Mandated Shunning is gathering stories from all high control groups and encourages everyone with a shunning story to document their experiences. The new website ( launching on 1 September 2023, has space for these stories. Some stories that are apparent breaches of International Law will be sent to lawyers to support legal cases. Data is also being gathered via a survey on the site to quantify the extent of mandated shunning abuses.

  • Tell your story here
  • Take the survey here

None of this work can occur without donations, so has provided an easy way to support the legal challenges through a one-off donation or a regular contribution.

All the people involved (and you can see a gallery of faces and read their stories on the site) are volunteers. Many have lost parents, children, and friends to high-control belief systems. They have come together to stop further abuse and challenge organisations that ignore human rights.