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The Amish: Shunned: A Painful and Poignant American Experience on PBS

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Of the many cruel punishments that people, families and communities can inflict, being cast out and cut off from all that one knows, loves and holds dear is arguably the most painful, most inhumane and most severe penalty of all. That at least is the premise of The Amish: Shunned, the latest offering in PBS’ American Experience series. How seven victims of this extreme form of excommunication struggle to cope with the heartbreaking sentence imposed upon them is examined by the filmmakers, who conclude that what these seven and their families have undergone is something that no American – or anyone else – should have to experience.

The Amish: Shunned is part of the American Experience series and will premiere on most PBS stations at 9 pm Eastern Time on Tuesday, February 4.

None of the seven people profiled in Callie T. Wiser’s film are criminals; they are guilty, however, of choosing to live lives different from what the Amish elders will allow. That choice can be as simple as that of Levi Shetler who left home in search of opportunity or that of Naomi Kramer, who followed her dream to become a nurse. Others of the seven subjects left the faith or simply wanted to live in the modern world. The price they are made to pay for that decision is to be excommunicated in the severest and most literal sense of the word – condemned to eternal separation from their family, friends and former neighbors not only in the next world but also in this one. The sundering of all ties is not a choice any of these seven wanted, but is instead a draconian disciplinary action imposed and enforced upon them and their loved ones by the Amish hierarchy.

The Amish: Shunned explores not only the pain this has brought to those who literally can not go home again, but also the sorrow of those who are required to treat their children as if they were dead – or were never born.

The Amish: Shunned is part of the American Experience series and will premiere on Connecticut’s CPTV and most other PBS stations at 9 pm Eastern Time on Tuesday, February 4.

Mark G. McLaughlin is a Connecticut-based free lance journalist and game designer with over 30 years of experience as a ghost-writer, columnist, historian and game designer. An author whose first published book was Battles of the American Civil War, and whose games include the Mr. Lincoln’s War set, Mark continues to be enthralled by stories from the age of Lincoln. To view Mark's 16th published design, the American Civil War Naval strategy game Rebel Raiders on the High Seas, visit his publisher at
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