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View Diary: A weekend at Hagee's "Jesus Camp" for grownups (51 comments)

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  •  I remember the case all too well. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GMFORD, Sister Coyote, auroraborealis
    I know, or more properly, knew the kid in passing who did that--one Matthew Murray, who was a regular on Ex-Pentecostals.org (a walkaway forum I'm also on) as well as a survivor forum for Gothard walkways.  Murray is one of those unfortunate individuals who ended up having essentially an explosive mental breakdown.  

    He had been raised by parents into Bill Gothard, who promotes an extremely abusive "Bible-based" neopente cult that I've written about extensively in past; he started having signs of a psychotic mental breakdown (not unknown in these sorts of groups) when he was involved in Youth With A Mission--a very, very abusive Assemblies frontgroup that is almost universally regarded as abusive.  Pretty much he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, and he snapped horribly; during the last month or so before he snapped, multiple people begged him to seek help--but unfortunately his only experience with therapists had been with the "Christian counselor" type, and as a result he had a complete and total distrust of any therapists. :(

    •  yes (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aitchdee, dogemperor, GMFORD

      I know the aunt of one of the people who was killed in the Denver shooting, so we got email about it at the time. Very sad.

      And yes, it's very true that you have a different brain when you're in a group like this. It has literally taken me ten or twelve years to grow out of the person I was when I was in the cult I was in. I'm SO MUCH HAPPIER now...but I still have family who sound like they're from Mars to me now....

    •  I'm glad you're okay. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dogemperor

      I feel so bad for what the children go through in those cults.  Is enough being done to deprogram those who leave?  Also, is there a movement to out and shutdown these horrible places?

      -7.50, -7.74 --I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

      by GMFORD on Sat May 10, 2008 at 08:43:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There's more being done. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GMFORD

        There is stuff being done now to help kids escaping coercive religious groups (which is a complete change from even five years ago, when even exit counselors thought multigen walkaways were so rare that it'd be unlikely studies could be done) and a number of studies are now ongoing as to issues multigenerational walkaways face.

        One group working to help kids in coercive groups is Children's Safe Passage Foundation--of note (as is all too common in these cases), the founder himself is a multigenerational walkaway from a "Bible-based" coercive religious group.  The group also maintains a newsfeed in regards to reports of religiously motivated child abuse.

        Another group focusing on multigenerational walkaways is International Cultic Studies Association; their conferences typically include sections on multigenerational walkaway issues and for three years running have conducted specialised workshops for multigenerational walkaways.

        There is still much, much, much more that can be done, though.  (Keep in mind that the mere existence of multigenerational walkaways--whilst not new--is something newly recognised; until a few years ago, there was a bias against recognition of large, long-established, and/or "Bible-based" groups as potentially abusive, and now that this bias has been largely done away with, it's now being recognised there are a lot more of us out there than previously thought.)  The entire field of specialised exit counseling geared towards multigenerational walkaways is still very, very new--and there's much to be done, including provision of "safe houses" for kids attempting to escape an abusive group or facility.

        As for shutdown of facilities, this varies.  As for "Bible-based boot camps", there is a movement to shut down or increase regulation--International Survivor's Action Committee being a primary group behind this--and HR 5876 has been proposed to specifically regulate the "boot camp" industry on a national basis and close the loopholes used by "faith-based" groups.  

        As far as shutting down other facilities...this is far more difficult in practice, unfortunately.  For one, the Constitutional protections for freedom of religion (ironically, the very amendment the dominionists would like to do away with altogather) are the same protections that allow coercive religious groups to operate--making it very difficult in practice to even so much as set up a potential "abusive group's list" such as is done in France or Germany.  (One way this could be done, interestingly, is strengthening the wall between church and state--for example, the constitutional provisions in France and Mexico prohibiting clergy from being involved in politics or running for office.)  Needless to say, messing with the First Amendment is sufficiently risky that it's not a real good precedent to make IMHO.

        Another problem in regards to regulation of coercive religious groups is the fact they typically register as church groups with the IRS--making any investigation problematic if electioneering violations occur, seeing as church groups can use an exemption in the tax code that allows them to get away with not only not filing any info with the IRS but allows them to keep all financial records private.  (The IRS used to actually check to verify if it was a church, but this was stopped after a lawsuit by the Church of Scientology.)  This is why, for instance, Sen. Grassley has been forced to issue Congressional subpoenas to televangelists in the investigation of embezzlement at ORU--and why it's very rare that the IRS does in fact yank tax exemptions from churches and make them pay back taxes.

        One area where you can actually help here--Americans United has been the primary group filing reports with the IRS regarding electioneering violations (and the IRS is, fortunately, starting to look at these violations more sternly and starting to move to revoke 501(c)3 status from some groups).  The more reports given to them and the IRS, the more likely it is that the IRS will do something.  (Of note, it's been reported that the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptists are the two worst denominations overall re reports of electioneering violations, with reports also being very common re "Assemblies daughter" megachurches like Hagee's church.)

        Unfortunately, again, pretty much we have to take an approach not unlike what was done with busting Al Capone--he got busted not for being a gangland leader in Chicago, but because he didn't pay taxes on the income he earned as a crime lord.  So it is with coercive groups--pretty much the only way to bust the group totally is via tax code violations.  These have in practice been rather hard to prove, but there is increasing success with this.

        One potential method of shutdown of the more extreme groups that, to my knowledge, has not yet been attempted but could be viable (and has been used in some other countries)--RICO complaints could potentially be lodged against groups that have expressed support for domestic terrorists, and (if LGBT people are successfully added to federal hate crimes laws--another reason to "vote blue") eventually RICO could be used against groups promoting the especially virulent anti-LGBT stuff (like promoting "The Pink Swastika" and whatnot).

        As for the matter of religiously motivated child abuse, there's multiple impediments to shutdown: the existence of a massive "parallel economy" that covers practically all mandatory reporters a kid is likely to ever see (including pastors, doctors, schools (and increasingly there's a trend towards "home education" via correspondence schools that knocks this out entirely (and pretty much any contacts kids may have at all) who are extremely unlikely to report religiously motivated child abuse; the fact that pastors of these churches are frequently the primary promoters; the fact that the "parallel economy" itself is promoted as a way to hide signs of abuse; specific lobbying by political dominionist groups to neuter what laws there are in place; a general unawareness of religiously motivated child abuse by CPS agencies (unlike the case in the UK, where there is an educational campaign for mandatory reporters on "deliverance ministry" related child abuse and Scotland Yard has a specific division investigating religiously motivated child abuse); and finally frank tolerance of religiously motivated child abuse by CPS agencies in some areas of the country.  (More here.)

        Unfortunately, so far, often the only recourse has been as an adult and in the courts--and coercive groups as a whole have had a practice of not only filing SLAPPs against critics but countersuits against persons suing and winning for damages, assuming people can get favourable judgements against "Bible-based" groups at all.  (Laura Schubert, one of the few people who has successfully sued and won against an Assemblies church in the US for false imprisonment related to a "deliverance ministry" service where she was targeted for an involuntary exorcism, won her case in 1996 but is still waiting for her money--the Assemblies has tied the case up in the courts for the past 12 years, has whittled the original award from $300,000 to $100,000, and is trying to have the entire settlement dismissed.  More typical in the courts in the US, sadly, is this case of an adult woman subjected to an involuntary "exorcism" who had her police report eventually thrown out by dominionist-sympathetic judges.  In some areas of the country, lawsuits against "Bible-based" coercive religious groups have little chance of success--in part because these very groups have a strategy of packing the judicial bench with "friendlies".)  Lawsuits in Australia have been more favourable to escapees, but dominionism in general is not as solidified as it is in the States and there is far greater awareness of coercive tendencies of neopentecostal dominionist groups.

        And that brings me to the final point.  One of the biggies--THE biggie here, IMHO--is education, education, education.  The situation is, and will be for some time, a case of "caveat emptor" when it comes to religious groups in general; the best cure in this case may well be sunlight.  (I myself try to shine a little light on this stuff.)  Educate yourself, then your friends, then have them educate their friends and so on, about how coercive groups work; the groups most associated with coercive activity; the warning signs of potentially abusive groups; and work to provide resources to people escaping these groups.

      •  And more groups helping child walkaways (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GMFORD

        Another newer group dedicated to providing legal assistance (among other things) to minor walkaways is RISE International; among other things, they work on not only educating re specific issues of multigenerational walkaways but provide assistance with emancipation proceedings.

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