In part 3 of our continuing series on the dominionist "parallel economy" (in which we've covered business directories and dominionist corporate sponsors so far), I featured dominionist healthcare systems set up as "parallel economy" alternatives to legitimate medical groups.
There is also a dominionist parallel economy alternative to the mental health industries--namely, the plethora of "theophostic counselors", other mental health counselors in a legal limbo outside psychiatry or psychology, NARTH-affiliated "reparative therapists", dominionist "Bible boot camps" and "behaviour modification facilities", and a veritable zoo of alternatives.
Some of the practices are truly horrifying--faith-based coercion promoted as addiction rehab, kids being involuntarily committed to be "degayed", "mental health specialists" specialising in performing televangelist-style exorcisms on patients...the rabbit hole is after the cut: you get to see how far it goes...
Part 1: Dominionists in the therapists' office
I have touched on the general subject of dominionism and its increasing emphasis on "parallel economy" alternatives to conventional psychiatric and psychological therapy. Possibly the most extreme variant of this is the "theophostic counseling" promoted in "Joel's Army" dominionist communities and its remarkable similarities in tactics to Scientology.
What I have not touched on quite so much is one reason dominionist "therapists" are being increasingly promoted as a specific "parallel economy" alternative to actual psychiatry.
The reasons are in fact threefold:
a) An increasing awareness that practices in many dominionist churches may constitute what is known as "spiritual abuse" or "religious abuse" and an increased awareness of psychiatric and psychological consequences of spiritual abuse (specifically, complex PTSD and anxiety disorders, and disorders of socialisation in the case of multi-generational walkaways; these may be co-morbid with other forms of abuse, as noted below).
b) An increasing awareness of religiously motivated child abuse, including not only "chastening" related abuse but what is increasingly referred to as "ritual child abuse" related to "exorcism" practices in "deliverance ministry" groups.
c) An increasing awareness--on an official level--of the high level of abusiveness of so-called "reparative" or "de-gaying" therapy in the mainstream psychiatric and psychological communities.
In fact, reproductive rights and LGBT issues may be two of the bigger issues in pushing for dominionist medical associations in general. Increasingly, dominionists are avoiding psychiatric groups altogether that are not dominionist-run, in part because of the mainstream community giving a wholescale rejection of "de-gaying".
After more than fifty years where de-gaying was tried and failed miserably in the mainstream psychiatric community, most psychiatric and psychological associations (and even a few social work groups along with the National Education Association) went away from degaying; most consider it an ethics violation at minimum, and in fact it is possible to be de-certified and censured for promoting "reparative therapy" in many of these associations (with attendant risks for one's medical licensure). Even the American Medical Association agrees that "reparative therapy" is completely bogus.
In fact, about the only well-known group that's even promoting "de-gaying" in the US today that makes the remotest pretense of being any kind of psychological group is NARTH.
NARTH is a well-known--some would say, "infamous"--dominionist group which promotes the concepts that gay people essentially choose to be gay (ok, LGBT readers, you can hold the snark :D) and that one can be "de-gayed". (Alan Turing would probably have disagreed with this statement, among others--he was one of the more infamous victims of a failed "de-gaying" and ended up with man-breasts thanks to hormone treatment forced on him in an attempt to "cure" him.)
Much like other dominionist "parallel economy" alternatives to legitimate medical associations, NARTH has tried to get itself recognised as an alternative accreditation group for psychologists; however (much like many other dominionist medical associations) they effectively act as an accreditation mill, only requiring a payment and signing a statement of ethics to join.
(Of note in regards to accreditation, NARTH allows non-medical-professionals and even people with no formal psychological or social-work training to join, including pastors; as a lot of dominionist neopentecostal church denominations act de facto as ordination mills (one can become a Vineyard pastor by paying a fee to the head body of the church and signing a statement of faith; in the Assemblies, one can become a pastor with no formal training by serving as a deacon for two years (thus satisfying a "ministerial experience" requirement), having an Assemblies pastor vouch for you, and taking a multiple-choice "Bible quiz"), people with no training whatsoever in social work can join NARTH as certified "de-gayers". As an increasing number of pastors and deacons of neopente dominionist churches rent out their services as "Christian counselors" and as a specific dominionist "parallel economy" alternative to secular psychiatrists and social workers, this actually amounts to a non-negligible part of NARTH's membership.)
NARTH is known to have relied heavily on the debunked "research" of disbarred anti-gay promoter Paul Cameron; despite wishing to be seen as an alternate accreditation board, NARTH still likes to try to bully legitimate accreditation boards like the American Psychological Association.
The APA is engaging in a formal conference in regards to issuing an official peer review on "reparative therapy" (the result is likely to show that "reparative therapy" is in fact harmful and it is expected that APA may formally make promotion of "reparative therapy" a decertifiable ethics violation). NARTH attempted to get two promoters of "degaying" on the board and were rebuffed; as a result, NARTH is now squealing like a pig and claiming in general they are being oppressed.
The two persons rejected are, of note, not APA members. One is Dr. Warren Throckmorton, who is a member of a dominionist "parallel economy" alternative to the APA known as the American Mental Health Counselors Association (of note, they are not allowed to legally call themselves psychiatrists or psychologists)--Ex-Gay Watch and People for the American Way have reported on him, and apparently Throckmorton has been fired from a medical firm due to ethics violations directly related to his promotion of "degaying" (thus making him a bit of a martyr in dominionists' eyes).
The other person formally rejected is Joseph Nicolosi, who is the founder of NARTH; he is most notoriously known for his promotion of father-son mutual showering. He is one of a number of dominionist "de-gayers" whose bogus research has been soundly condemned by the APA, in part because he has relied heavily on the work of the discredited Paul Cameron. NARTH and Nicolosi have promoted the claim that LGBT people are criminally disposed, sociopathic, and paedophilic; of note, both Nicolosi and Paul Cameron have used a non-peer-reviewed publication to publish their bogus "research" (the journal Psychological Reports is essentially a "pay to publish" journal (which is not the practice of legit journals) and has a very low status in the legit psychological community).
Unfortunately, the push to use NARTH-vetted "therapists" and "mental health counselors" and "Christian counseling services"--along with dominionist therapists being members of NARTH and lesser-known mental health and social work associations--has, again, "real life" consequences. All too often, if a kid has misfortune to be gay in a dominionist household (or even seen as particularly "rebellious", despite his sexual orientation), the kid will increasingly be sent to abusive "Bible boot camps" and "degaying centers" marketed as "behaviour modification facilities"--many of which are outside of the US.
Part 2: Dominionism's answer to mental hospitals
One of the dirtier secrets in dominionism is the existence of not only parallel mental health counseling, but "parallel economy" mental hospitals--facilities that leave a continuing trail of broken lives and, often, broken bodies in their wake.
Tranquility Bay, a facility in Jamaica operated by the group WWASPS (a chain of "behaviour modification" facilities that promotes degaying, among other things), is possibly one of the most infamous of these facilities; other WWASPS facilities in Mexico and Costa Rica have been shut down in raids by the governments of those nations. WWASPS itself is now the subject of a class action lawsuit from survivors in much the same fashion as Straight, Inc.
Straight, Inc.--now largely operating under the name "Second Chance"--deserves a special mention. Straight, Inc. was quite possibly the most abusive "behaviour modification" program ever marketed as a therapeutic program; many of its former leaders now have connections to other programs (including, of note, Love In Action/Refuge--a group that promotes "degaying" and has had several children (including "Zach", a sixteen-year-old whose only "crime" was being gay in a dominionist family) involuntarily committed by their parents). Probably thousands of Straight, Inc. survivors exist; in the 80's, it was popular to send kids to these facilities.
In general, dominionist-run facilities take advantage of legal loopholes that allow church-run and "faith-based" groups to operate without any sort of licensing or oversight. One of the first, and more infamous, dominionist alternatives to mental hospitals and detox centers was Bob Larson's "Back In Control Training School"; it openly advertised itself in PMRC literature in the 80's as a way to "de-metal" and "de-rap" kids, and it was not uncommon for kids to be sent to such centers in the midst of the "Satanic Panic" in the 80's (largely fomented by Bob Larson and other "deliverance ministry" promoters).
It doesn't help, either, when there are people connected to the dominionist "mental hospital" industry running the show in some states. Florida has a particularly infamous history here; the state actually has certified an alternate accreditation board for "faith-based" groups, and its head of Department of Children and Families and Department of Human Services heads are both former Straight, Inc. leaders.
It furthermore doesn't help when one of the main people partnering with the President on "faith-based issues" is the former head of Straight, Inc. himself. (Of note, Sembler and Bush set up an agency similar to Florida's FACCCA as an alternative licensing board for faith-based "behaviour mod" facilities; after five years of multiple incidents of abuse at these facilities exempted from licensing (including a facility where two attempted escapees were forced into a pit in a manner more resembling something out of Gitmo than a rehab facility) Texas finally discontinued the program--but not before people were forced into "faith-based coercion". George W. Bush has since attempted to use the failed Texas model as a nationwide model for "faith-based services".
Often, the only legal recourse for kids to escape being sent to a dominionist doc or "Bible boot camp" or "degaying center" is to legally file for emancipation--a daunting process that often is not even open for people under 16 and which many kids may not be aware of. (It is, fortunately, one with some amount of legal precedent; Lyn Duff and at least two underage involuntary-commitments to Love in Action's facilities in Memphis were able to gain emancipation. In one particular case--the case of DJ Butler--the kid had to escape the facility twice because his father took him back in handcuffs before he could complete his legal emancipation proceeding.)
And sadly--even running away is increasingly not becoming an option.
Bill Gothard--a "deliverance ministry" preacher who is now pushing "Character Education" schemes in public schools and who has a very nasty history of religious abuse--including the kooky claim that Cabbage Patch Kids are full of the devil and who has (more concerningly) been a major promoter of "Joel's Army" theology--ran a reform school (Indianapolis Training Center) for some years. It was eventually closed when evidence of religiously motivated abuse came out--things like kids being locked in "prayer closets", beatings of kids, etc.
The disturbing thing is that--being a reform school--kids were sentenced there by the courts--and Indiana taxpayers' money paid--for the operation of what amounted to a "Joel's Army" gulag.
The issue of "faith based coercion"--where people are forced by court order to do business with the dominionist "parallel economy"--is an increasing problem. Often, in prisons and in the justice system no secular alternatives to dominionist-run detox and addiction recovery programs exist; in the state of Iowa, this eventually came to a head when the US District Court for eastern Iowa ruled that Chuck Colson's "Prison Fellowship Ministries" could no longer be used as the sole drug rehab program.
Part 3: Exorcists in the--?
It's worth taking a look at exactly why the Prison Fellowship Ministries program got shut down to show the risk in regards to dominionist mental health programs.
Among other things:
a) Inmate's kids were targeted for "bait and switch" evangelism.
b) The only way to get decent housing was to join the dominionist program.
c) The only way to be eligible for parole was to join up; if one left or was kicked out, one essentially lost one's eligibility for parole.
d) PFI/InnerChange promoted "theophostic counseling":
The IFI model seeks to "cure" prisoners by identifying sin as the root of their problems. Inmates learn how God can heal them permanently, if they turn from their sinful past, are willing to see the world through God's eyes, and surrender themselves to God's will. IFI relies and directs members to God as the source of love and inner healing. Members then build on this new relationship to recast human relationships based on Biblical insights.
A minor diversion here. I've written a bit on "theophostic counseling" before--in essence, it is a dominionist "parallel economy" alternative to legitimate psychiatry that uses practices similar to Scientology. Among other things, exorcisms are seen as completely acceptable in theophostic counseling (and not the Catholic sort--we're talking the neopentecostal "harangue and harass them till they puke or have a nervous breakdown", "spiritual warfare" Joel's Army kinds of exorcism); addiction issues and even severe mental illness like schizophrenia are seen as the result of demonic "oppression" or possession; and the movement has very close connections in general to the "Satanic Panic" of the 80's (in particular, dominionist therapists who promoted "recovered memory therapy").
More evidence that Prison Fellowship Ministries promotes "theophostic" stuff:
InnerChange posits that an inmate's anti-social attitude and self-destructive behavior can only be overcome through an intensive religion-based program that is able to "rewire" that inmate's most basic emotional and mental structures. In the InnerChange model, an authentic religious experience is the means by which society's civic, or secular, goal--a rehabilitated, pro-social, and productive exinmate-- is met. A suitable analogy is that InnerChange's intensive religious indoctrination of inmates is like an emotional or volitional chemical therapy treatment. The InnerChange experience roots out the cancerous, harmful attitudes and disorders that keep an inmate from knowing and experiencing his authentic self. All analogies fall short, of course. InnerChange does not consider its treatment only a means--like chemical treatments--that fade away leaving the healthy organism, but also an end in itself. At the conclusion of the Field Guide's orientation materials, InnerChange includes a blessing: "May God bless you for the time you have spent with us reading this material. . . . Remember God loves you wherever you are. We pray that you will be aware of God's presence and power at all times." Pls.' Ex. 73 at 10. This blessing is consistent with the hope contained just a few lines before: "Above else, we pray that you will discover the transforming love of Jesus Christ." Id.
(Quotes are from the court decision ruling)
e) The court documents show that during the period in which InnerChange was being sold to the Iowa prison system, talks were being held at (among other things) an Assemblies of God church in Newton where area clergy were invited to talks geared towards ministers to further sell the program--an event where prison officials were also invited explicitly to attend. The court ruling also states that an explicitly neopentecostal faith system was promoted.
f) People joining up were forced to sign a statement of faith explicitly promoting a "Joel's Army" perspective:
The Orientation includes, among other things, evening Bible study classes led by InnerChange peer facilitators. Upon completion of the Orientation, and in order to proceed into the InnerChange main program, all InnerChange inmates are required to sign a document entitled "Accountability Covenant." Pls.' Ex. 85. The signatory of the Accountability Covenant agrees to, among other things:
[U]nderstand that the principles in Matthew 18:12-35 will be applied in my life within the IFI community. Those principles are
1. Error leads us to danger (vs. 12)
2. The heart of correction is to restore (vs. 13, 14)
3. It is the responsibility for those involved to reconcile on an interpersonal level (vs. 15)
4. Peer mediation is to be utilized if necessary (vs. 16)
5. Removal from the community is a last resort (vs. 17)
6. Conflict resolution builds a stronger community (vs. 18-20)
7. Interpersonal forgiveness of others is a condition of personal forgiveness from God. (vs. 21-35) Id.
This document is also an example of the all-pervasive use of the biblical text, primarily that portion of the text that Christians refer to as the New Testament, when InnerChange leaders wish to underscore or explain almost any facet of the InnerChange program's policies, principles, or instructions.
(Almost all of these verses have been extensively abused by "Joel's Army" groups; in particular, v.15-17 have been used to stifle dissent in churches, and v.18-20 have been abused to promote "name it and claim it" and dominion theology in general. More discussion here.)
g) Non-dominionist inmates were not only essentially precluded from the program but were actually accused of "opening doorways for Satan" by engaging in traditional religious practice; these included a Moslem, a member of the Chabad Lubavitcher community of Haredi Jews, and a Native American who was kicked out after participating in a traditional sweat-lodge ceremony.
h) "Joel's Army" concepts regarding demonisation, exorcism, "opening doorways for Satan", "name it and claim it", and others were explicitly promoted:
For example, in the InnerChange class entitled Spiritual Freedom, InnerChange inmates read Bondage Breaker, a text authored by Neil T. Anderson. The author states that "[t]he first step toward experiencing your freedom in Christ is to renounce (verbally reject) all past or present involvement with occult practices, cult teachings, and rituals, as well as non-Christian religions." Bondage Breaker at 201. In the book, InnerChange inmates are invited to renounce, among other things, "Superstitions," "Mormonism," "Jehovah's Witness," "New Age," "Christian Science," "Church of Scientology," "Unitarianism/Universalism," "Hare Krishna," "Native American spirit worship," "Islam," "Hinduism," "Buddhism (including Zen)," "Black Muslim," "and any other non-Christian religions or cults." Id. at 202-03.
The promotion of this work in particular is extremely disturbing to me. "Bondage Breaker" is in fact a guide on the dominionist concept of "deliverance ministry" and in particular the idea that Christians can be oppressed or even "possessed" by demons and that all ill that befalls the "saved" is due to actions "opening doorways for Satan" (even things as innocuous as wearing peace symbols). In addition, a great deal of "spiritual warfare" theology in the neopente dominionist community is based on stuff like this, and its abuses are legion--in some ways, indistinguishable from similar abuses in Scientology both in practice and in casualties; involuntary exorcisms are a regular occurence in these groups and people pour fully half their pre-tax incomes into "seed faith offerings" at "deliverance services" in the dominionist community. More darkly, they have also claimed entire political parties or persons who support things like the right of LGBT persons to legally marry or supporting reproductive rights as being "indwelt by Satan".
In particular note, the author of the book "Bondage Breaker" is a major promoter of "deliverance ministry" and in particular "theophostic counseling" and "spiritual warfare" movements connected with some of the most extreme instances of abuse (including religiously motivated child abuse) within the dominionist movement.
Sadly, the sort of stuff promoted by InnerChange is in fact typical of dominionist mental healthcare--a Catholic gentleman was also a victim of a court-mandated "faith-based" program which turned out to be a neopentecostal "parallel economy" addiction-recovery program (and which told him he was a devil worshipper).
One of the bigger players is a group called Rapha; its endorsement list is a veritable laundry-list of dominionist denominations, a few steeplejacked congregations, and the dominionist Liberty University and Concerned Women for America. (As it is, CWFA is one of the bigger promoters of "theophostic" stuff in the dominionist community along with Traditional Values Coalition.) Rapha is one of the groups that operates facilities to which adults as well as kids can be committed involuntarily--and subjected to this kind of religious coercion; this is a dangerous combination, especially as they do quite explicitly promote "degaying" therapy as well as other facilities to which one can be involuntarily committed.
Another notable dominionist mental hospital that allows involuntary commitment of adults--and kids, often by court order--is Pine Rest Christian Mental Health. Pine Rest is a fairly explicitly dominionist facility that is largely funded by the DeVos Foundation--yes, the same dominionist mega-funder that is itself funded by the dominionist business and recruitment front AmWay; it is linked in particular with a teenager who was involuntarily committed there and who later snapped and killed his family.
Pine Rest is apparently the "new hotness" for parents wishing to "de-metal" or "de-rap" their kids (with the closure of Bob Larson's "Back In Control Training Facility"); the American Family Association brags on how Pine Rest has banned metal and rap. The group also promotes "de-gaying", even relying on some of the bogus "research" of Paul Cameron and others to claim that aggressively promoting male stereotypes for boys will prevent them from becoming gay or transgendered (legitimate research indicates this is hardwired into the brain in the womb, if not in the genes). There is evidence that Pine Rest may have promoted "recovered memory therapy"; there are multiple members of "false memory syndrome" survivor communities who recall promotion of RMT at Pine Rest.
Rapha and Pine Rest aren't alone--there are probably tens to hundreds of these facilities worldwide.
Part 6: Caveat emptor
Medical professionals have also raised specific concern about dominionist mental health facilities--what happens when the dominionist "parallel economy" becomes the only option left?
It's a worthy question--because dominionist groups are now considering mainstream psychiatry in general "The Enemy" in the same category that they consider LGBT people and reproductive rights.
In our next post, we go deep into the world of dominionist parallel media--a world where Fox News' typical fare is actually downright left-wing in comparison.