A woman in Michigan killed her husband and her two grown children before turning the gun on herself, and now at least one person close to her is blaming the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their harmful practice of shunning or “disfellowshipping” former members.
A family friend of the victims, Joyce Taylor, actually said the church was “100%” to blame for the tragedy involving 45-year-old Lauren Stuart (above) and her family. Taylor had an “outburst” at a Kingdom Hall service on Sunday in which she pointed to the religion’s controversial practices, according to local news reports.
FOX 2: “Would you blame religion?”
“Yes absolutely, 100 percent,” Taylor said.
Police aren’t releasing a motive, but Joyce says it has everything to do with the family being shunned by the Jehovah’s Witness Church that they belonged to for decades.
“They suffered the harsh consequences that every Jehovah’s Witness faces when they choose to leave the religion,” she said.
Taylor knows what she’s talking about. She left the Witnesses 30 years ago and faced a similar shunning.
She says that includes no communication with any family of friends still members of the church.
She says that’s exactly what happened with the Stuarts.
“I can guarantee you straight on, if they were to have called their family, especially Danny, and if they recognized the phone number, they would not answer it,” Joan said.
Joyce says Lauren Stuart confided in her often and most of those conversations had to do with the pain caused by the separation with the church.
Taylor went on to describe the church’s behavior toward the Stuarts as “brutal,” and says the Jehovah’s Witnesses falsely accused the family of breaking into the Kingdom Hall as a way to smear their name.
Lauren Stuart was by all accounts a decent, loving person who cared about her family above all else. When she and her husband left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, that family no longer wanted anything to do with her. It doesn’t mean Stuart was justified in her actions, but if the practice of disfellowshipping is what caused her to snap, all current Witnesses should be asking themselves if it’s truly worth it. (Unfortunately, I fear the answer will be “yes” no matter what happens.)
Stuart left the Witnesses in part because she wanted to send her kids to college, something the religion forbids because it could lead to “spiritual disaster.” She also attempted to find her own identity after her community abandoned her.
According to interviews with friends, neighbors and employers, Lauren Stuart, after leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses, appeared to be set on making a new life for herself. She contacted modeling agencies and photographers to see whether there was a market for older models like herself. She also worked as a part-time personal trainer at the YMCA in Farmington Hills a few years ago and cleaned houses.
It’s unclear if modeling agencies booked her for any gigs, though she did have a profile on a popular modeling website.
Still, the question of what drove her over the edge remains unanswered. The shunning may have played a role, but we don’t know how large it was. The Watchtower Society as well as the local Union Lake Kingdom Hall didn’t respond to reporters about the possibility that their practices led to the murders/suicide.