New legal precedents need to be established to make mandated shunning a human rights violation
The current legal precedent
The current precedent varies from country to country, and legal system to legal system. However, at the heart of every democratic legal system, mandated shunning violates many of the principles found in the Declaration of Human Rights and it is an inciting-to-hate and a hate crime because:
- it falls within the scope of and is a form of "bullying" - organizational bullying - which is a recognised hate crime
- ostracism/shunning is accepted and recognised as one of the worst kinds of bullying. (Kipling Williams, a world-renowned expert on ostracism at Purdue University, reports about shunning and bullying: "Both are used for the same purpose - To hurt another person.")
The current legal shortfall
The problem with the current legal precedent (and the reason we are trying to get shunning recognised as a specific hate crime) is that bullying falls under multiple separate laws, specific to each country or even region. For example:
- In the UK, bullying does not have a dedicated status as a crime. Still, bullying in business or by individuals is a legal issue. Legal instruments can be brought into play when there is a failure to prevent harm. For example, The Education Act 2002 Section 175 covers safeguarding in schools, while the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 cover cyberbullying and harassment, respectively.
- In the United States, bullying is handled by state legislation and not federal, meaning prosecution varies from state to state.
- In Australia, there is Brodie's Law which came into effect in 2011 following a tragic childhood suicide, which makes bullying an explicit crime.
These frameworks have supported successful criminal prosecutions for bullying, but success varies on a case-by-case basis. There is yet to be an accepted legal precedent. Most countries have not had a criminal case brought forward specifically for ostracism/mandated shunning. That said, it is possible to prosecute bullying in the courts as it abuses human rights.
Our ultimate goal is to see legal precedent established that ensures mandated shunning is treated as a hate crime, by funding international legal cases that highlight the issue and get it enshrined and enforced in law. We already have a major case in the Belgium Supreme Court. If successful, this will set the necessary precedent for prosecutions of high-control groups for mandated shunning.
In Norway, one high-control group was accused and found guilty of human rights violations related to mandated shunning. Because of it, the group had its registration revoked as a religious community and will no longer receive an annual allotment of 1.5 million dollars from the government, which went into effect on January 1, 2021. The group - Jehovah's Witnesses - appealed the verdict and lost in a June 30, 2023 ruling. They are still in violation of Section 6 of the Religious Communities Act, which states, “If a faith or belief community, or individuals acting on behalf of the community, use violence or coercion, make threats, violate children's rights, violate statutory prohibitions on discrimination or in other ways seriously violate the rights and freedoms of others, the community may be denied a grant or the grant may be curtailed."
In Switzerland the practice of shunning (ostracism) exists and is at least to some extent has been found to be a violation of human rights. Shunning can be understood as prescribed bullying and violates the integrity and implicit freedom of belief and conscience of the persons concerned. Children and young people too are affected by shunning. Children experience severe fear due to this religious practice.
For more details about the legal situation and successful cases in Switzerland check JZHelp.
In Germany the courts found that the consistent abstention from participation in political public life is to be considered an aggressive alienation from society. So are the recommendations to refrain from contact with former members, the refusal of blood transfusions and various festivities. The court went further and acknowledged that Jehovah’s Witnesses are to be considered overall as a movement that disregards fundamental human rights. People who do not belong to their belief system are classified as fundamentally “evil” and are looked down upon. For more details about the legal situation and successful cases in Germany check JZHelp.