The Shunned Speak Out
Location: San Francisco, CA
Years Out: 9
In Chayla Gibson’s childhood as a Jehovah’s Witness, she had no doubts about the religion. She had loving parents and enjoyed participating in the religious activities. But when she was around 30 years old, she noticed red flags she couldn’t ignore.
"I just couldn’t understand why we weren’t allowed to research things. If it was "the truth" then why couldn’t I read things and come to that conclusion on my own?" she said.
After much thought, she decided to break away. When she told her two sons, who were eight and 10 ten years old, about the new direction their life would take, the boys cried. "I had indoctrinated them so much that they thought that we were going to die and be destroyed," she said. Eventually, even though they were still very close to their grandparents who were Jehovah’s Witness, they came to appreciate their mother’s choice. Her older son started to play basketball on the school team-- something the organization discourages-- and Chayla made holidays, like Christmas and Easter, extra special.
Chayla maintained contact with her parents even after she stopped attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall. They spoke to her and her sons everyday for years after she completely stopped stopped participating in Witness activity. After her parents heard a talk at the 2016 Jehovah’s Witness convention at Cow Palace in San Francisco, they visited Chayla and told her that they could no longer speak to her.
The talk urged families to shun members who have faded as if they were disfellowshipped, so her parents decided they needed to cut contact. They also lost contact with their grandchildren.
Chayla says that her parents shun her because they feel obligated to.
Chayla was baptized when she was 11 years old, not because she necessarily wanted to, but because she felt pressured, she said.
"For them to badger you into making a lifelong decision at that young age and then punish you later in life, I think that's criminal." - Chayla Gibson
Chayla’s best friend was disfellowshipped when she was a teenager. Chayla shunned her as a matter of duty. It was "just what you did," Chayla recalled.
Chayla Gibson is a proud basketball mom whose son will graduated high school last year.