Good is Jehovah to the one hoping in him, to the soul that keeps
seeking for him.
Good it is that one should wait, even silently, for the salvation of
"My dear child, don't shrug off God's discipline,
but don't be crushed by it either.
It's the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that's why you must never drop out. He's treating
you as dear children. This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's
training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents
leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible
God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why
not embrace God's training so we can truly live? While we were children,
our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best
for us, training us to live God's holy best. At the time, discipline
isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain.
Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who
find themselves mature in their relationship with God." —Hebrews
Jehovah's Witnesses are well known for their practice
of disfellowshipping unrepentant wrongdoers. But it is not just sinners
who lack any remorse that are disfellowshipped or cast out of the
organization. Also expelled are persons who may have addiction problems or
any who manifest the works of the flesh, such as the apostle Paul listed
Galatians 5:19-21, "immorality, impurity,
indecency, Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill
temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions,
sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and
the like." Since Paul goes on to say that "those who do such things
shall not inherit the kingdom of God," any who are baptized Witnesses and
are guilty of practicing such things are put out of the organization, they
What is involved in being disfellowshipped? Is it for the purpose of
disciplining or punishing the guilty individual? As we shall see there is
a difference. Concerning disfellowshipping, the Watchtower of 1991, April
pages 15-16, under the heading
"Will You Imitate God’s Mercy?" says, What is
involved in disfellowshipping?
We find an object lesson in the way a problem was handled in the first
century. A Christian in Corinth engaged in immorality with his father’s
wife and did not repent, so Paul directed that he be expelled from that
congregation. This had to be done to protect the cleanness of God’s
people, for “a little leaven ferments the whole lump.” Expelling him would
prevent his wickedness from dishonoring both God and His people.The
severe discipline of being disfellowshipped might also shock him to his
senses and instill in him and the congregation due fear of God.—1
Corinthians 5:1-13; compare Deuteronomy 17:2, 12, 13.
Here we have an example of a wicked person being expelled from the
Corinthian congregation. Was it for the purpose of "severe discipline"
that the man was put out and handed "over to Satan" as Paul directed the
congregation to do? (1
What is discipline as used in the scriptures? According to an
article in the Watchtower on this question, under the heading
"Appreciating the Purpose of Discipline,"it said:
WHAT comes to mind when you hear the word
“discipline”? One dictionary defines discipline as “the practice of making
people obey rules or standards of behavior, and punishing them when they
do not.” Although this is by no means the only accepted definition, many
people today ascribe a similarly negative connotation to anything that has
to do with discipline.
The Bible, however, presents discipline in a different light. “The
discipline of Jehovah, O my son, do not reject,” wrote wise King Solomon.
(Proverbs 3:11) These words refer, not to discipline in general, but to
“the discipline of Jehovah,” that is, discipline based on God’s lofty
principles. Only such discipline is spiritually productive and
beneficial—even desirable. In contrast, discipline that is based on
human thinking that is in conflict with Jehovah’s lofty principles is
often abusive and hurtful. That explains why many have a negative attitude
Why are we urged to accept Jehovah’s discipline? In the Scriptures,
divine discipline is described as an expression of God’s love for his
human creatures. Thus, Solomon went on to say: “The one whom Jehovah loves
he reproves, even as a father does a son in whom he finds pleasure.”
10/1 p. 20 Appreciating the Purpose of Discipline)
Yes, "In the Scriptures,
divine discipline is described as an expression of God’s love."That
is why the apostle Paul
"YOU have entirely forgotten the exhortation which addresses YOU as sons:
'My son, do not belittle [the] discipline from Jehovah, neither give out
when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines;
in fact, he scourges every one whom he receives as a son.'" —Hebrews
Paul develops this thought further on how Jehovah's discipline is an
expression of his love for us.
"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what
son is not disciplined by his father?
If you are not
disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate
children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we
respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our
spirits and live!
Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but
God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems
pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a
harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
—Hebrews 12:7-11, New International Version
The scripture says,"whom Jehovah loves he disciplines."
You will never read, "whom Jehovah loves he punishes." Discipline and punishment
are not the same. Love is the motivation behind discipline. It is
given with the intent to teach, help correct and readjust the action and
thinking of an erring person. On the other hand, punishment is given for
the need to satisfy justice. (Exodus
Psalms 37:28) For example, when Adam and Eve were cast out of the
Garden of Eden it was not for discipline, with the goal of helping them
correct their wrong action, because of God's love for them. Rather they were expelled
as punishment for their rebellious course against his clearly stated law.
For the same reason Cain, after having murdered his brother Able, was
banished as punishment. A wanderer and a fugitive he would be, "banished
from [his] land and from [God's] presence." He complained that his
punishment was too great for him to bear. (Genesis
with the ouster out of heaven of Satan and his angels. Concerning this we
"Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels
fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back,
but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in
heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent,
who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was
thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."
—Revelation 12:7-9, English Standard Version
Why was Satan and his angels cast out of heaven? Because "there was no
longer any place for them in heaven." That is why Adam and Eve were ousted
from the Garden of Eden.
no longer a place for those rebels in it, and there is no longer any place
within God's household for those who, like Satan and his demons, Adam and
Eve, and Cain, are willful unrepentant wrongdoers.They are not cast out because of Jehovah's love for them but
rather it is their punishment, an expression of God's justice upon them.
It is true, those who are expelled, or disfellowshipped today from the
congregation can repent and return, as was the case with the immoral man
in Corinth, but that should not be the intention, the reason behind
expelling anyone. No one should ever be ousted from the Christian
congregation for discipline reason, as if Jehovah disfellowships those
whom he loves. (2
How to Help The Weak Among Us
Many among us have been traveling the narrow and
cramped road leading to life for many years. (Matt.
7:14) And it hasn't been an easy journey for anyone as we all have our
own peculiar burdens to content with. We all have our struggles against
the desires of the flesh to some degree, and we must remember that none of
us are yet perfect. (Psalms
130:3) Along this road many new ones are joining us, and they all come
from different backgrounds and bring with them their own burdensome
Should we not be assisting one another, encouraging and helping each other
to carry each others load, especially when we see some stumble into
wrongdoing, or are distracted into following a different road? That is
what Jehovah expects us to do.
"Brothers and sisters, what if someone is caught in a
sin? Then you who are guided by the Spirit should correct that person. Do
it in a gentle way. But be careful. You could be tempted too. Carry each
other's heavy loads. If you do, you will give the law of Christ its full
meaning." —Galatians 6:1,2; New International Reader's Version
Elders need to follow Christ's example in showing love. Jesus
commanded all of us to love one another and elders should qualify to take
the lead in this. (John
13:34,35) For some who have never been loved, to love does not
come easy and many don't know how. How do we become patient and kind, not
envy others when things go well for them, not boast or look for our own
interests, not become easily angered nor keep records of wrongs? We need
to protect and trust our brothers, not impute wrong motives in them, and
always hope for the best when there is the need to persevere. That is what
love includes, and we can learn to love. (1
Corinthians 13:4-7) We need to do that if we
want to be Jesus' disciples. How can we learn to love? By learning from
our Creator. The Watchtower of July 1,
2003, page 4, "How to Develop Genuine
Love" is helpful in telling us:
HOW does a human learn to love? By studying psychology? By reading
self-help books? By watching romantic movies? Hardly. Humans learn to love
in the first place by the example and training of their parents. Children
will learn the meaning of love if, in an environment of warm affection,
they see their parents feed and protect them, communicate with them, and
take a deep personal interest in them. They also learn to love when their
parents teach them to observe sound principles of right and wrong.
Genuine love is more than
just affection or sentiment. It consistently acts in the very best
interests of others, even if they do not fully appreciate it at the time,
which is often the case with children when loving discipline is involved.
A perfect example of one who shows unselfish love is the Creator himself.
The apostle Paul wrote: “My son, do not belittle the discipline from
Jehovah, neither give out when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah
loves he disciplines.”—Hebrews 12:5, 6.
Qualified, loving elders, like parents, should provide "an environment
of warm affection," where they "feed and protect" (tend) the members of
the congregation. (see
John 21:15-17) Where they "communicate with them, and take a deep
personal interest" in each and every person. Qualified elders
"consistently act in the very best interests of others," even "when loving
discipline is involved." In this way everyone in the congregation learns
to love by being loved.Elders must remember that"love never fails." They can never go wrong by dealing in a loving way
with the flock in their care. (1 Cor. 13:8) Elders should be eager to help erring members. If someone is "caught
in a sin," elders "who are guided by the Spirit" and have the scriptural
qualifications to shepherd the flock of God, should "correct (or
discipline) that person
in a gentle way." (1
Peter 5:2,3) They do this in the way caring parents might discipline
their children. (1
Thessalonians 2:7) Parents understand that every child of theirs is
unique in their emotional makeup and have different needs and problems.
The discipline, or correction needed at times may therefore differ from
child to child. The discipline given is for the purpose of readjusting the
action and attitude of an erring child, and it is given because of the
great love the parents have for their sons and daughters. Jehovah has set
the example for parents in disciplining in love, even when the discipline,
or correction, may be severe. But he never expels from his household those
whom he loves. Disfellowshipping is for those who no longer let themselves
be corrected, who have become independent and no longer have a place in
The sheep belong to Jehovah and he expects the shepherds in their
congregations to strengthen the sickened one, heal the ailing one, and to
bandage the broken one. (Eze. 34:4) But we have a peculiar problem in many congregations. Few
elders are scripturally qualified to be such. A brother who is made an
elder because of his many hours in preaching, placing literature and
regular meetings attendance (none of them scriptural qualifications) may
be lacking in the scriptural requirement of showing love. Love, as
required in the scriptures is part of holding "firmly to the faithful word
as respects his art of teaching." (NWT) Or as the New
International Reader's Version says:
"The message as it has been taught can be trusted. He
must hold firmly to it. Then he will be able to use true teaching to
comfort others and build them up. He will be able to prove that people
who oppose it are wrong."
Scripturally qualified elders will discern the difference between
"loving discipline" and "just punishment." Where such capable elders are
lacking we find that many of God's ailing sheep are simply
disfellowshipped rather than helped and assisted, since such assistance
would take time, love, understanding, and an art or ability to hold
"firmly to the faithful word." Congregations who have loving qualified
elders are certainly blessed. But woe to the brothers where such ones are
How Should One Who has Doubts be Treated?
Some people are more inquisitive then others. They need
to know the hows and whys. I know, I was one such a student. I needed
everything proved to me and did not rest until I understood what it was I
was learning, After all, if I was going to teach others, did I not need to
understand it myself first? What if a person has lingering doubts about
certain teachings that cannot be proved by Scripture alone and thus
becomes a matter of faith? Or what if in the course of time we come to
understand that something we thought we understood no longer fits the
facts? Should such a person be condemned as being not worthy of the
benefits of the ransom, for the sake of unity? As discussed above, a
loving, qualified elder would,
an environment of warm affection,
do as Jude writes:
"Also, continue showing mercy to
some that have doubts; save [them] by snatching [them] out of the fire."
He would comfort and build up
the individual, realizing that the doubt the person has is also causing
him immense agony, perhaps sleepless nights. Some elders are known to
have disfellowshipped those who have expressed doubts about certain
teachings of ours. Matter of fact, it has become quite common. Can you
imagine! Are they not afraid of their Master, or do they imagine he
won't be coming for a long time yet? Jesus said in one of his most well
"For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world
that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever
believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come
to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life." —John
3:16 (Amplified Bible)
How does Jehovah view shepherds who disfellowship the sheep whose only
"sin" is to have doubts about certain teachings that cannot be
substantiated by scripture, such as our interpretation of prophecies? Are
they being disfellowshipped for either "loving discipline" or "just
punishment"? Jehovah, in his great love, gave his only-begotten son in
order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but
have everlasting life. (John
3:16) And yet unloving and unqualified elders disfellowship those who
exercise faith but have doubts in some of man's teachings. Such elders
should beware! Jehovah is taking note of their punitive actions in
dealing harshly with his sheep.
"Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of
themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?. . . You have
not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have
ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was
no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the
wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high
hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or
looked for them.
" 'Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD : As surely as I
live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and
so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and
because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves
rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the
LORD : This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds
and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from
tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I
will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for
them." —Ezekiel 34:2-10; NIV.
An elder ought to shepherd God's sheep with love, in imitation of Jesus.
He needs to strengthen the weak, heal the sick and bind up the injured. He
should bring back the strays and search for the lost. Even if some among
the brothers have developed a rebellious attitude the elders ought to
imitate Jehovah's example in dealing with them. This is what Examining the Scriptures Daily 2005, Thursday, October 27, says in connection with this, quoting Micah 6:3:
Remember that in Micah's time the Israelites are
rebellious. Even so, Jehovah compassionately addresses them with the
words, "O my people." He pleads: "O my people, remember, please." (Mic.
6:5) Rather than harshly accuse them, he tries to reach their heart by
asking, "What have I done to you?" He even encourages them to "testify
against" him. What an example God sets for all of us! He
compassionately called even the rebellious people of Israel and Judah of
Micah's day "my people" and addressed them with the term "please."
Certainly, then, we should display compassion and kindness in our dealings
with those who are a part of the congregation.Granted, some may not
be easy to get along with, or they may be spiritually weak. If they love
Jehovah, however, we want to help them and show them compassion.
Elders must remember that the sheep belong to Jehovah, and that Jesus gave
his life for them. If they deal with the sheep in a harsh way, as if God's
people were somehow accountable to them, as elders, Jehovah will most
certainly hold them responsible for any harm that comes to them. (Ezekiel
34:4, 10; James 3:1) Has he not set the example for them?
Woe to the elders who oppress, or "beat" their fellow slaves. As Jesus
clearly warned, those in responsible positions, who had
been assigned the responsibility to feed his household, but ended up
beating them instead, will be removed from their positions and lose out on
their heavenly reward entirely, being "cut in two" (διχοτομήσει αυτόν;
Luke 12:46, Kingdom Interlinear) as it says in the Greek. Those serving under them and who understood the
will of the Lord, having been made aware of it, as in the quote above, but failed to carry it out due to misdirected loyalty,
will suffer God's punishment by being beaten with many strokes; while others, elders who had no clue
what they were doing, not having any scriptural qualifications to begin
with, and thus also failed to obey, will also be beaten, but with fewer strokes.
12:45-48) "This takes into account that it is
righteous on God's part to repay tribulation to those who make tribulation
for you." —2 Thessalonians 1:6.
Disfellowshippings That Have God's Approval
As already noted, Jehovah does not disfellowship anyone
because he loves them. That rules out any disfellowshippings that are done
for reasons of discipline. Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of
Eden because they no longer belonged in it. And Satan and his angels are
cast out of heaven because they no longer belong there.
It is not for reasons
of love, with a view to readjusting such ones, but rather because of God’s
justice that he takes such drastic action. Any who are expelled from the
Christian congregation should be expelled because they no longer belong
there, being unwilling to comply with God's righteous laws. Concerning
such ones Paul's words to the congregation in Corinth applies,
"Remove the wicked [man] from among yourselves."
—1 Corinthians 5:13.
What are scriptural reasons for expelling someone from the congregation?
How should someone, who has been removed from among us, be viewed? Does
God's Word have appropriate counsel? The 1988 Watchtower dealt with this
When a man in Corinth was
unrepentantly immoral, Paul told the congregation: “Quit mixing in company
with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an
idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating
with such a man.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) The same was to occur with apostates, such as Hymenaeus: “As fora man that promotes a sect, reject
him after a first and a second admonition; knowing that such a man has
been turned out of the way and is sinning.” (Titus 3:10, 11; 1 Timothy
1:19, 20) Such shunning would be appropriate, too, for anyone who rejects
the congregation: “They went out from us, but they were not of our sort;
for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But
they went out that it might be shown up that not all are of our sort.”—1
John 2:18,19. (Italics mine)
I do not believe that Jehovah would approve with the expelling of
someone due to the person no longer wishing to be a member of the
congregation. A person cannot be disfellowshipped for what he does not do,
such as no longer attend meetings or share in the preaching work. When the
apostle John wrote that some "went out from us" because "they were not of
our sort" he simply noted that not all continue running the race with
endurance, perhaps due to a lack of faith.
2 Thes. 1:4,5;
12:1;) No one can be expelled for lack
of faith, or for giving up in "the race that is set before us," can they? That is not what John was telling
In Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, did the father expel or
disfellowship his son for leaving his household? From the illustration, it
would seem that the son who remained and worked for his father
wished that he had. How unlike his attitude was in comparison to his
compassionate father. Are our elders today imitating the example of the
loving father or the self-righteous son? (Luke
15:11-32) No longer wanting to be recognized as one of Jehovah's Witnesses is
not a disfellowshipping offense scripturally. Of course, if the person
returns to sinning without any remorse, then he should be dealt with at
such time. And if the elders are unable to locate the person who was
bathed but "goes back to wallowing in the mud,"
then they need not concern themselves with him any longer as he has
already removed himself from the congregation and they can leave his
judgment in Jehovah's hands. (2 Peter 2:21,22)
The article goes on to say:
Hopefully, such a one will repent so that he can be accepted back. (Acts
3:19) But meanwhile, may Christians have limited fellowship with him, or
is strict avoidance necessary? If so, why?
Christians do not hold themselves aloof from people. We have normal
contacts with neighbors, workmates, schoolmates, and others, and witness
to them even if some are ‘fornicators, greedy persons, extortioners, or
idolaters.’ Paul wrote that we cannot avoid them completely, ‘otherwise we
would have to get out of the world.’ He directed that it was to be
different, though, with “a brother” who lived like that: “Quit
mixingincompanywithanyonecalledabrotherthat [hasreturnedtosuchways], noteveneatingwithsuchaman.”—1 Corinthians 5:9-11; Mark 2:13-17.
the apostle John’s writings, we find similar counsel that emphasizes how
thoroughly Christians are to avoid such ones: “Everyone that pushes ahead
and does not remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God . . .
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, never
sayagreetingtohim. For he that says a
greeting [Greek, khai´ro] to him is a sharer in his wicked
works.”—2 John 9-11.
is such a firm stand appropriate even today? Well, reflect on the severe
cutting off mandated in God’s Law to Israel. In various serious matters,
willful violators were executed. (Leviticus 20:10; Numbers 15:30, 31) When
that happened, others, even relatives, could no longer speak with the dead
lawbreaker. (Leviticus 19:1-4; Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 17:1-7) Though loyal
Israelites back then were normal humans with emotions like ours, they knew
that God is just and loving and that his Law protected their moral and
spiritual cleanness. So they could accept that his arrangement to cut off
wrongdoers was fundamentally a good and right thing.—Job 34:10-12.
can be just as sure that God’s arrangement that Christians refuse to
fellowship with someone who has been expelled for unrepentant sin is a
wise protection for us. “Clear away the old leaven, that you may be a new
lump, according as you are free from ferment.” (1 Corinthians 5:7)
4/15 pp. 26-28, Discipline
That Can Yield Peaceable Fruit. (They unfortunately refer
to disfellowshipping as "discipline")
The article mentions apostates,
"everyone that pushes ahead and
does not remain in the teaching of the Christ,"
among those who are to be disfellowshipped and avoided. We should ask
here: Who are the apostates? Are
apostates not those who go beyond the things written, and make God's word
invalid by their own teachings and traditions? From
Jehovah's standpoint, was it not the religious leaders in Jesus' day who
were the apostates, although they accused the Christ of being such for
exposing them? (Matthew
15:5-9, 12,13) Who today are the apostates?
The ones who have pushed ahead and departed from Christ's teachings or
those who question unscriptural traditions? When our
pharisaical leaders teach that we gain salvation by means of our
dedication, are they
remaining in the teaching of the Christ? (John 3:16) When they push ahead
and explain Bible prophecies that are "made secret and sealed up" until
the time of their fulfillment and try to interpret "the times or seasons
which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction," something Jesus said
"does not belong to [us]," who are the apostates, the ones doing the
teaching or the ones questioning them? (Daniel
When the time arrives for God to judge his household he will expose the
real apostates. He will hold those accountable who dealt treacherously
with his sheep, for they had expelled those who questioned, not God's
Word, but their authority to push ahead and teach their own apostate views
and interpretations. Jehovah will expel, disfellowship such ones from his
household for there will no longer be any place for them in it. (Matthew
Disfellowshipping is an arrangement put in place by Jehovah, and he has
set us the example by expelling Adam and Eve, their son Cain, Satan and his angels, and
also removing wicked persons from among his people in the time of the
Israelites. Expelling an unrepentant individual from our midst removes the
person from God's household, and as Cain complained, from God's presence.
4:14, NLT) There is no longer a place for such a
person within that household and it protects the faithful members of the congregation. The result
of such ousting may well be like that described in the book of
Revelation when Satan and his angels are cast out of heaven.
"The accuser of our brothers has been hurled down,
who accuses them day and night before our God! On this account be glad,
you heavens and you who reside in them." —Revelation 12:10, 12
Jehovah's Witnesses are not the only ones who expel, or banish and shun
rebellious individuals in their midst. Other people have seen the wisdom and need of
doing so, such as some native American Indian tribes. Please consider the
news release of January 2, 2004 in the box below and see what results they
Friday, January 2, 2004 Posted: 2:10 PM EST (1910 GMT)
Indian tribes bring back an old punishment: banishment
Minnesota (AP) --
Banishment, long regarded as the ultimate punishment among
American Indians, is making a comeback among tribes trying to find
more effective ways to deal with gangs and drugs.
Generations ago, banishment meant casting offenders out and making
them fend for themselves in the forest or on the plains.
modern version means ordering troublemakers off the reservation,
but can also include stripping them of their tribal membership --
a painful penalty in tribes that share casino profits with
Minnesota's Grand Portage Band of Ojibwe is one of the latest to
revive the practice. The band approved a banishment law this fall
and used it against three young people convicted in a series of
assaults. Indian leaders feared that the violence could lead to
the formation of gangs.
people cross that line and the community says we've had enough,
it's a process we can use to deal with it," said Norman Deschampe,
the band chairman.
National Tribal Justice Resource
Center has no count of how many tribes have recently adopted or
revived banishment laws. But the number appears to be on the rise.
least seven of Minnesota's 11 Indian bands -- all are either
Ojibwe or Dakota -- have either passed or used banishment-type
laws within the past decade. The Lummi Nation, in Washington
state, announced over the summer that it would use banishment more
often to deal with rampant drug use.
reason tribes are turning to banishment is that federal law does
not allow tribal courts to impose sentences of more than a year in
jail and a $5,000 fine.
Banishment is typically imposed by the tribal courts, where people
can defend themselves and petition for reinstatement.
the laws exist, they are used sparingly. Most tribal leaders call
banishment a last resort. But when it is used, it can hurt.
Commodore, a Lummi Indian, was stripped of her tribal membership
and banished from the reservation after she was convicted of drug
trafficking in 1992. Commodore, 67, served three years in prison,
and said banishment is worse. She is allowed on the reservation
only to visit a plot of land she holds; she is forbidden to visit
"They're taking away a piece of who I am," Commodore said. "I can
go out to my land, but I can't stop and see anybody -- that's the
thing that hurts me."
nation's largest tribe, the Navajo Nation, has had a
banishment-type law on its books since 1940. But Donovan Brown,
assistant attorney general, can recall it being used only once _
about five years ago, for a person involved in gang activity.
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe recently used banishment for the first
time in around 75 years, casting out two young members for
starting fights and causing other trouble on the Minnesota
Indian leaders argue that banishment simply pushes a tribe's
problems elsewhere. Others worry that the punishment could be
misused to silence political opponents; that was one reason Minnesota's
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe decided not to revive the punishment in
the late 1990s.
tribes are also banishing non-Indians, saying it is their only
weapon against outsiders who make trouble on the reservation.
Federal and state authorities oversee the prosecution of
non-Indians who commit crimes in Indian country, but Indian
leaders say some crimes -- like drug possession or domestic
violence -- may not be considered a priority.
fall, the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota
banished a non-Indian accused of bringing drugs onto the
reservation. A tribal prosecutor said it was only the second time
in his 13 years that the band had banished someone.