As part of American Experience, ‘The Amish: Shunned’ premieres on PBS on Tuesday, February 4, 2014
9:00-11:00 p.m. ET.

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The Amish: Shunned Synopsis

Shunned follows seven people who have chosen to leave their closed and tightly knit communities for the outside world, knowing that they can never return. Each has paid deeply for their decision. Estranged from loved ones, these former Amish find themselves struggling to make their way in modern America. Interwoven with their stories are the voices of staunchly loyal Amish men and women who explain the importance of obedience, the strong ties and traditions that bind them together, and the heartbreak they feel when a loved one falls away. Through its sympathetic portrayal of both sides, the film explores what is gained and what is lost when community and tradition are exchanged for individuality and freedom. Produced, directed and written by Callie T. Wiser.

What is Amish Shunning?

“This is one of the faith’s defining practices in which members of the community cut ties with those who choose to leave,” says Wiser. “We touched on it in the first film, but I was interested in delving further into the practice, and finding individuals whose stories would portray the breadth and variety of shunning.”

Revealing the pain of those who leave and the suffering of those left behind, the film is the story of people confronted with difficult choices. To the Amish, shunning is an essential tenet of their faith and a way to maintain the strength and viability of a tight-knit community. While the practice has helped protect them from the onslaught of modern culture, it is an agonizing decision for parents, relatives and friends to sever ties with loved ones whom they believe to be eternally condemned for their decision to leave.

The shunned, who leave the Amish way of life, are often asking themselves that if they leave the Amish lifestyle, will they still go to heaven. It makes the decision of their lifestyle even more difficult than usual. These same shunned people enter the world with no birth certificate, social security number, help, or friends in the modern world. It’s a difficult choice to make.

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