I've been doing an ongoing series now on the dominionist "parallel economy" for a few weeks--one of the sections I focused on was dominionist "parallel economy" alternatives to conventional rehab and mental health services.
News events recently have proven to the world just why the dominionist "parallel economy" is harmful to children and other living beings.
Specifically, it appears that a young girl was dragged behind a car in a Texas-based "Christian boot camp" that received Federal funding and is part of a horrible legacy of broken lives in the state--and it is, sadly, far from an isolated case.
The latest incident in a very sad history
MSNBC's news ticker shares a bit more on the incident:
BANQUETE, Texas - Authorities charged the director of a Christian boot camp and an employee with dragging a 15-year-old girl behind a van after she fell behind the group during a morning run.
Charles Eugene Flowers and Stephanie Bassitt of San Antonio-based Love Demonstrated Ministries, a 32-day boot camp for at-risk teens, are accused of tying the girl to the van with a rope June 12 and dragging her, according to an arrest affidavit filed Wednesday.
Flowers, the camp’s director, ordered Bassitt to run alongside the girl after she fell behind, according to the affidavit. When the girl stopped running, Bassitt yelled at her and pinned her to the ground while Flowers tied the rope to her, according to the affidavit.
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The girl was treated for scrapes and bruises on her stomach, legs and arms.
The girl’s mother gave investigators photos of her daughter’s injuries and a sworn statement from a witness who claimed to have seen the girl dragged on her stomach at least three times.
Another news report (originally from the Houston Chronicle) details this isn't the first time this has happened at this particular facility--or to this particular girl:
Authorities said both Flowers and Bassitt restrained the girl June 12, tying her to the back of a van with a piece of rope before dragging her on her stomach at the Love Demonstrated Ministries’ boot camp in Banquete, about 10 miles west of Corpus Christi.
Schertz police assisted Nueces County authorities in the arrests because the camp’s orientation sessions are held in Schertz, and the 15-year-old girl claimed she was assaulted there, too.
Bailey said the second assault claim was turned over to the Comal County district attorney’s office, which hasn’t said if any criminal charges will result.
He said the assault described as having occurred in Schertz isn’t as severe as the dragging claim out of Nueces County.
"Obviously force was used, but the big question is whether or not it exceeded the force permitted by the parents," Bailey said, adding camp officials said they had permission slips from parents that allowed them to discipline their children.
Flowers declined to comment on the allegations Friday, evading reporters outside the offices of the Faith Outreach Center.
And disturbingly, your tax dollars may have paid for this--using a very wide loophole in Texas law that has still not been patched:
Last year, Love Demonstrated Ministries reported private and government contributions totaling $314,673 to operate the boot camp, with nearly 89 percent of the costs, $278,549, going for salaries.
. . .
Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said it "appeared that this operation is probably exempt from our regulation."
He said for a camp to be licensed, it needed to operate longer than 11 weeks.
The camp in Nueces County only lasts 32 days.
A history of the group responsible
The place that runs the "Bible boot camp" in question, Faith Outreach Ministries, throws up a number of red flags. Among other things, it happily promotes that it not only runs the "boot camp" but an actual "Christian Military Academy"--yes, you're reading this right: they promote actual military training for the Joel's Army set (the same folks, as an aside, who are happily infiltrating the military and especially the chaplaincy programs). The site is also chock full of Joel's Army terminology, and all signs point strongly to it being a neopentecostal dominionist group (of the type we've written about here in past).
About that "military academy"--right now the domain seems to be parked by GoDaddy, but the WayBack Archive doesn't fail us as to the content:
To harness the potential and help the families of at risk youth in the 6th through 12th grades to become powerful forces of positive change in today's world.
To create the environment conducive for learning by establishing discipline and requiring innovative instruction. To restructure the emotional and spiritual dynamics of the family unit so that positive change can be sustained.
Apparently the school was shut down as of 2006 (due to, among other things, failure to pay staff) and Faith Outreach Ministries was actively raising money to restart the affair; however, the old "About CMA" page gives us a lot of what we need to know:
instructional techniques designed to challenge every cadet to achieve excellence in life. What makes us unique is that we begin this process at 6 a.m. and it lasts until 10 p.m. Almost every waking hour of the day, 5 days a week, the CMA cadet is learning and growing.
Secondly, CMA targets the whole person. We will produce a student that is not only fine-tuned academically but who is also spiritually, emotionally and physically refined. This generation needs leaders who will embrace and over come the challenges of today and tomorrow. The CMA cadet will be such a person.
Christian Military Academy shall provide an environment which encourages each cadet to discover his/her unique abilities, to develop those graces and demonstrate them in the life of Christ, to achieve educational excellence in all disciplines, and to exercise God-given gifts in the expanding opportunities of his/her Christian development. To glorify God affects how one relates to others in his/her family, church and community. It also affects one’s life-style, behavior and overall attitude toward God’s authority structure in the world.
The school views itself as an extension of the Christian home reinforcing the ideals, social norms and beliefs of the Christian family. It is, therefore, important that parents enrolling their children understand the nature and philosophy of Christian Military Academy. Our ultimate purpose of existing can only be fulfilled when parents and school follow a common direction. The source of every direction sought will be through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Keep in mind this also comes complete with drill instruction, reveille, doing pushups and KP duty, etc.
Aforementioned Joel's Army madrassa (in the purest sense of the term) is for now being run out of another local neopente congregation, per the old website, and the infamous "bible boot-camp" now the focus of an assault investigation was in fact meant as a prelude to the military school:
In the summer of 1995, he and his wife Janice began Christian Boot Camp (CBC) for boys. Initially,CBC was intended for boys only. However, in the summer of 1996, while Commandant Flowers was rejoicing over the success that CBC was having with the young men, the Lord spoke to his heart about young ladies. He was convinced that they needed to begin to train young ladies also. In the summer of 1997 they had both male and female flights. CBC has continued with great success for ten years impacting the lives of thousands of young men and women.
Christian Military Academy
An educational facility that would allow them to train young people in all aspects of life (spiritually, academically and emotionally) was a part of the vision from the beginning. The goal to establish such a facility is September, 2005 with 210 students from grades 6-12. The vision of Pastor Charles Flowers, his wife Janice and others is to make quality Christian education available to all youth and families throughout the San Antonio community. Christian Military Academy is governed by an educational advisory board. We are expecting great and mighty things from God as we move in faith and obedience to his word. We believe that God will bless Christian Military Academy and we expect immediate growth.
Pastor David Walker, his wife Shirley, and the leadership team of Alamo City Christian Fellowship opened their doors to the school and are allowing us to use their facilities to house the school. Without such a gracious act on their part it would have been extremely difficult if not impossible to begin the operation of the school this year. They have even allowed us room for growth!
(Yes, the church literally refers to its pastor as "Commandant Flowers". This is not terribly uncommon in the really hardcore "Joel's Army" circles; they also refer to the Prince of Peace as "General Jesus".)
The boot camp is honestly not much better:
Christian Boot Camp is a 32-day in-residence, military style boot camp for young men and women between the ages of 13-19.
CBC is designed to instill discipline, respect for authority, integrity, unity and morality back into the lives of young men and young women. The course consist of a five day orientation period followed by a four-day intense survival camping trip within the first nine days. Afterwards they participate in a ROPES Course designed to help develop teamwork. The trainees, as they are referred to, spend the the majority of the remaining days of the course in spiritual and physical development as well as conducting community service projects and participating in some specialized training. They are fed three meals a day and they live on campus for the duration of the course. At the end of the 32-day course, the trainees who endured are spotlighted at our elegant graduation banquet ceremony, which promotes self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. The graduates are dressed in tuxedos/ gowns with family and friends in attendance.
The young men and women of the generation need the "kick-start" that CBC provides, but the fruit of CBC would be all but lost without the continual dynamic of our Mentorship Program. Midway through the in-residence courses of CBC, the trainee will be paired with a mentor. After graduation, the mentor will help to keep the trainee on the right track until their 20th birthday.
The child is not the only one that needs to change; the home environment also needs to make some adjustments. CBC Family Conferences are designed to equip the parents with skills, knowledge and techniques to bring out the very best in their child. The parent must agree to attend a total of three-three day CBC Family Conferences before we will agree to enroll your child into Christian Boot Camp.
Yes, there are danger signs all over the place:
a) In general, legitimate therapy groups are going away from "Outward Bound" type affairs due to the widespread misuse of survival programs by abusive facilities. Most of these programs are inherently risky, and do not have the proper amount of supervision required.
The "ROPES Training" is not necessarily conventional rope training exercises (such as what would be used in Eagle Scouting et al), but is specifically an "Outward Bound"-type program often targeted towards business groups.
b) The group rather explicitly promotes "discipling and shepherding" (labeled as "mentoring") as part of its program; I went into detail yesterday on how these programs are often incredibly abusive and destructive in practice.
c) As noted, the facility is not licensed. (It uses a loophole in Texas law that permits facilities only operating programs for under 11 weeks to remain unlicensed; dominionist "parallel economy" groups are typically now going to six-week courses as a specific method of avoiding licensure.)
d) Parents are not allowed to enroll their kids unless they enroll in programs run by the church as well. In fact, they are required to attend "family conferences":
The child is not the only one that needs change: the home environment also needs to make some adjustments. CBC Family Conferences are designed to equip the parents with skills, knowledge and techniques to bring out the very best in their child; and to further continue the principles used by CBC. The parent must agree to attend a total of three, 3 - day CBC Family Conferences in a nine-month period before we will agree to enroll their child into Christian Boot Camp. Each conference is held for three consecutive days in the evenings. It is an energetic and interactive time!
The family conferences very explicitly promote dominionist theology in regards to family relationships and even at parts are essentially adverts for their own planned "Joel's Army" madrassa:
Net #1 – The Individual
Each of us is a network of spirit, soul, and body. 1 Thess. 5:23
The spirit contacts the spirit world.
The soul contacts other people and animals.
The body contacts the physical world.
We must harmonize the individual net
Net #2 – The Family Net
Don’t abandon your family
Don’t be present but absent
Love your wives as Christ loved the Church
Keep romance alive in your marriage
Provoke not you children to wrath
Date your daughters
Spend time with and compliment your sons
Submit to your husbands
Respect your husbands
Be his biggest cheerleader
Keep romance alive in your marriage
Have girl talks with your daughters about intimate things
Teach your sons the mysteries of womanhood
Honor your father and your mother.
Give allegiance to your family first.
Choose your peers wisely.
Keep open communication with your parents.
Take advantage of the wisdom of your parents.
Be appreciative for all things.
Net #3 – The Church
The Church is a collection of families. Eph. 3:15
God sets the solitary in families. Ps. 68:5,6
In the church you find people of like precious faith. 2 Peter 1:1
In the church your needs are provided for by someone and you supply the needs of others. Eph. 4:16
In the church you’re trained how you should operate as a family. 1 Tim. 3:15
Going to church doesn’t replace having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Going to church doesn’t guarantee you a place in heaven.
God doesn’t play favorites toward a certain religious system.
Net #4 – The School
The majority of the daytime hours of the life of your children are spent at school.
The school should provide a high quality education and training environment.
The school should reinforce the values which you have established in your home.
The school should have positive activities in which your child could participate.
The school be a disciplined environment.
The faculty of the school should provide good role models for your child.
The school should work closely with the parents with regard to their children.
Christian Military Academy is a great choice for your child.
Contact CMA on the web at www.christianmilitaryacademysa.org
Net #5 – Community-Based Organizations
Martial Arts Studios. Be careful of Eastern mysticism.
Boys and Girls Clubs
Community Sports Program
Spurs Midnight Basketball
Note how all of these are designed explicitly to isolate kids from non-dominionist influence. Among other things, women are told to submit to their husbands; kids are encouraged to be schooled in either the dominionist madrassa or in a similar school; several of the sports alternatives are explicitly religious (Upwards Basketball is in fact an SBC-run "parallel economy" alternative to Boy's and Girl's Clubs and parents are warned to stay away from martial-arts studios which promote the full context of martial arts--essentially only self-defense classes and non-Asian martial arts are acceptable); kids are pretty much told to not associate with non-dominionist peers; and the incredibly creepy concept of "purity balls" (wherein dads not only date their daughters but even symbolically get "married" to them until they give them away to a husband) is promoted.
Another signifigant danger sign is that the mentors or "shepherds" are all graduates of the facility--as we'll see, in therapy this is considered a major no-no. They are also not allowed to see or speak to their families save for Sunday furloughs.
International Survivor's Action Coalition, a watchdog group that warns about abusive "behaviour modification" facilities, lists multiple warning signs of a coercive facility. Here is a list of the abusive tactics used in the "boot camp" program:
- The facility is not licensed.
- The facility requires that the parents and/or child sign a form releasing the program of liability in the event of injury to the child.
- The program requires that children live in foster or "host" homes instead of allowing them to reside with their parents.
- The child is denied access to a telephone.
- The program uses confrontational therapy.
- Parents must fulfill requirements of the facility before being permitted to visit their own children.
- The staff includes former students/clients of the facility.
- Parents are not allowed to remain with their child during the entire intake/entry process.
- The program inflicts physical punishments on children such as exercising for extended periods of time, bizarre cleaning rituals (ie scrubbing floors with a toothbrush) or food restrictions.
- The facility does not have a clearly visible sign outside the building or descriptions of their location are vague.
- The facility claims to modify behavior, yet has no licensed therapists on staff.
- A licensed doctor or registered nurse is not present at any time during normal operating hours.
- Current clients/students participate in the intake/entry process.
- Staff members offer to help parents obtain a court order forcing the child into, or keeping the child in, the facility.
- The facility claims to treat drug abuse, but does not conduct a drug screen prior to entry.
- The facility does not allow children to follow their religion of choice.
- Staff members must "approve" family members, siblings, friends, or employment.
- Children escort/supervise other children.
- The facility will not disclose the names of any doctors or therapists on staff prior to the child's admittance into the program.
(Mind, this is just the stuff that is provable via either the website or media reports about the facility. It could actually be worse than I've documented.)
Interestingly, one of the major sources of funding other than the government happens to be a particularly common scam--the "charity affinity program scam" promoted by dominionist groups.
In this particular type of scam, a dominionist group will set up a front organisation whose entire purpose is to sign up with various "charity donation programs" (where charities are donated a set amount for each purchase) and then set up portals for members to buy products through major retailers--and thus provide substantial funding to the church.
On occasion, these actually become de facto money laundering fronts; a particularly infamous scam of this type involved KingdomBuy, a now-defunct Assemblies of God frontgroup which had registered as a religious nonprofit (to take advantage of charity affinity programs) and was using the money it received in turn to fund some despicable causes--like the American Family Association, or Abiding Truth Ministries (publishers of the infamous bit of anti-LGBT Holocaust revisionism known as "The Pink Swastika").
And as it turns out, Faith Outreach Ministries runs exactly this sort of scam--a KingdomBuy-esque dominionist purchasing portal called "MissionMall". (More on these in a future segment on the dominionist "parallel economy".)
And no, I'm not mistaken about #26 or the stuff on government funding--the bit about court orders. Disturbingly, there is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that not only have kids been forced into the program by the courts, but that the "Bible boot camp" has and still does receive federal and state funding.
Bible-based kid torture--your tax dollars at work
Firstly, there is a section (the one dead link, interestingly) to a section on youth offenders. Again, WayBack Archive saves the day and gives us a glimpse as to the offender-diversion program they ran:
This program is designed to take 17-29 males and females and to provide an opportunity for probationers to redirect their lives and become law-abiding, productive citizens.
LDMI-CBC began working with the Bexar County Adult Probationers Department , San Antonio Fight Back, Bexar County Opportunities and Industrialization Center, and the Elite Counseling Center in October of 1999. Together these organizations form the components of the Young Offenders Program (YOP).
YOP conducts three to four camps a year. Each camp is six weeks long. Our follow-up program requires they report to YOP once a week for three months after they graduate from the in-residence program. The completion of YOP is added to a probationer's conditions of probation. Therefore, if a probationer quits or is eliminated, he/she has violated their conditions of probation and are subject to judicial correction. This provides incentive for the probationers to complete the program. According to the APD, the success rate of the program stands at an amazing 85%. Discipline and love are the key ingredients that help these young offenders succeed. Principle based instruction from the Word of God form the foundation of the over 390 hours of instruction that they receive. The probationers are changing their lives because the Word of God is changing the way they think and therefore the way they behave. (Romans 12:1-2)
In other words, the very same "Bible boot camp" now the subject of two leaders being arrested for assault was also used very explicitly as a "faith based coercion" program where people would have to attend the group on penalty of going to prison for violation of their probation agreement.
Even more disgustingly, your tax dollars went to support this--even if you didn't live in Texas. The US Department of Justice officially funded it under its "Weed and Seed" program--the same US Department of Justice who was revealed just today to have outsourced its web obscenity investigations to a dominionist "pro-censorship" group that thinks Glamour Magazine is pornographic:
Like so many other young adults, 20-year-old Roy Elizardo of San Antonio,
Texas, wanted to better himself, but he didn't have the job skills or education to make it happen. Determined to break bad habits and make better choices, he started to focus on serving the community and participating in physical and spiritual training provided to him by the Christian Boot Camp (CBC).
"Now that I have the opportunity to make better decisions, I put all my effort into it so that I can prove to people that I can change and that I am willing to change," Elizardo said.
CBC is a faith-based, 32-day training, rehabilitation, and restorative justice program for young offenders that is a component of San Antonio Fighting Back (SAFB) of United Way's Value Based Violence Prevention Initiative (VBI), which began in 1999.
Funded primarily through EOWS and administered by the National Congress for Community Economic Development (NCCED), VBI is designed to help young probationers ages 18 to 29 stay out of jail and on the right track. San Antonio Weed and Seed also uses a portion of its dollars to fund the voluntary program, which can accommodate up to 50 probationers at a time.
. . .
VBI comprises Love Demonstrated Ministries, Inc. (a faith-based
organization), Bexar County Opportunities Industrialization Center, Inc. (BCOIC, a citywide job-training program), Elite Counseling Services and Alamo Recovery Center (substance abuse and family counseling services), and Bexar County Adult Probation (probation counselors). Private funds were used to help fund the boot camp component of the program. BCOIC was funded through SAFB's mini-grant program. The counseling programs and treatment services were funded by Bexar County's Treatment Alternatives to Incarceration program.
. . .
All of the ex-offenders in the program have either a drug or alcohol problem or an offense related to substance abuse; this is a requirement to participate in the program. Treatment is provided by Bexar County's Treatment Alternatives to Incarceration program.
"The local probation officers and judges love the program," Watts Davis said. "They have agreed to serve as mentors and are planning a 3-day retreat with the individuals who did not go through the residential boot camp."
. . .
Using his military skills and convictions of faith, Flowers fashioned the program to challenge individuals in new ways. A typical day for a CBC participant begins at 8 a.m. with an open-rank uniform and shoe inspection. The schedule proceeds with a workout followed by a 2-mile run. Campers then participate in community service projects that may include cleaning up vacant lots or repainting a senior citizen's home. Participants return to camp late in the day for what Flowers considers the most important part of the training: the nondenominational church service that emphasizes God's love for them. The day ends at 8 p.m. and participants return home.
. . .
After joining the VBI collaborative, Flowers agreed to conduct boot camps for young-adult probationers between the ages of 17 and 29 who have felony convictions or have been charged with misdemeanor crimes. Flowers now runs two types of camps: a summer residential program and a nonresidential program that preserves the key components of the residential program. The summer program is for youth ages 13 to 19 and is still funded only by donations. During the rest of the year, Flowers conducts camps only for VBI participants as part of the collaborative.
. . .
"Typically, what happens is a young offender on probation violates probation. If he or she fits the criteria, he or she is offered participation in the program as an alternative to going to jail."
--Beverly Watts Davis, Executive Director of SAFB
Texas' history of poor regulatory control of "Bible boot camps"
For quite some time, Texas has been known as a particularly easy state to set up such a facility with almost no regulation required. From the early 90's until 2003, George W. Bush set up an two-pronged approach that had the effect of giving a carte blanche to these sorts of facilities; firstly, an alternative "accreditation group" (which acted as essentially an accreditation mill) was accepted in Texas as an alternative to formal licensing of childcare facilities by "faith-based" groups, and secondly, heavy favoritism was given to "faith-based" initiatives.
This led directly to Texas being the home of a number of dominionist "parallel economy" alternatives to legitimate mental health facilities. In fact, the very "Bible boot camp" in question was touted as one of the great success stories of Bush's "faith-based initiative" in Texas:
Charles Flowers started the Christian Boot Camp four years ago to show at-risk teen-age boys that "God has led them to be mighty people on Earth." Flowers left the United States Air Force after 12 years to start the program at Faith Outreach Center, a nondenominational church where he is an associate pastor.
The camp, which Flowers believes is the only one of its kind in the country, grew from 26 boys the first summer to 120 this year. The girls' camp, which ended July 4, is in its second year. The boys' camp, now held at a local Bible college, will wrap up Aug. 7.
A couple days before the girls went home, Flowers, called "Commandant" by campers, spoke of his dream to reach teen-agers who need direction.
"There's a crisis in America, and you don't have to look far to see that people have written off kids," he said softly, sitting in his fatigues in a log cabin cafeteria. "Corporations in America are overlooking them, recruiting in other countries. And, everywhere, every time people are broken down and written off, God has championed them."
The danger signs were apparent even in this article:
On this morning, their T-shirts soaked in sweat, they gathered up what strength remained to do the hardest exercise -- liners. Running from one end of the gym to the other at full speed, the girls stopped and turned around at several lines along the way.
While Michele's group ran, Flowers noticed a trainee lagging behind. "You want to earn your group another one for sloughing off?" Flowers shouted. "Everybody back on the line. She just earned you another one."
Michele and the others dutifully returned to the line. They sped up.
"Good effort, ladies!" Flowers shouted. "That's what we're looking for. We're not looking for Olympic champions. We're looking for someone who's got heart!"
After some stretching and gulps of water, the girls jogged outside, ready to begin their 2-mile run in a neighborhood not yet awake.
The girls took off at the command of Flowers, who runs with them every day. On this still, breezeless morning, the course was taxing.
Those who finished quickly cheered on the ones bringing up the rear: "C'mon, trainee Martinez!" "You can do it, trainee Sanchez!"
Some asked permission to accompany the last runners through the final 200 yards. Grabbing the panting runners by the hands, they pulled them to the finish.
. . .
"Dear Father, Lord, we come to you tonight to lift up Trainee Carrillo, Lord, and pray that you would please take care of her. ... We ask, Lord, that you send angels to surround her..."
Voices drifted off in the thick, muggy air of a San Antonio summer evening as more than 20 girls placed their hands on 17-year-old Karina Carrillo -- lifting up in prayer her sister, Blanca.
Blanca, 18, who had been fighting off a cold, was taken to the hospital from that evening's karate class. One of the toughest, most disciplined and God-fearing girls at the camp, Blanca refused to shirk her tasks.
During lunch, Blanca approached Flowers to ask about that afternoon's duty. After a second's glance, Flowers asked what was wrong. When she said she felt weak and dizzy, Flowers and other leaders laid hands on Blanca in prayer.
"He always knows when something is wrong," Blanca later said of Flowers, as she ate chicken fried steak, green beans and corn. "Every time one of us feels bad, he prays for us. I know the Lord will heal me."
The next day, still suffering a bad sore throat, Blanca wasn't about to let the girls deliver fans to senior citizens without her. Community service was what she enjoyed most. But the other girls begged her to return to camp.
(Yes, you're reading this right. A kid who was suffering what was likely influenza (or at least a very severe cold) was not only subjected to faith-healing rather than sent to the on-site doctor like every other legitimate therapeutic program would do, but went on to a senior citizen's center where she likely infected a non-negligible number of elderly people (who can go into pneumonia and die from the flu) to God-only-knows what.)
The party started to end for dominionist "faith-based" alternatives in Texas in the early 2000's, though. The real breaker was Texas Freedom Network's incredibly damning expose of abuse in "faith based" initiatives in the state, in particular reports of extreme abuse in "Bible boot camps" and dominionist "behaviour modification facilities". Especially notorious were the reports of abuse in the Roloff homes:
A former supervisor at a "faith-- based" facility for troubled young people in Texas has been found guilty of two counts of unlawful restraint, stemming from an incident in which he tied two residents together at the wrist and forced them into a 15-foot-deep pit.
Allen Lee Smith was found guilty of a misdemeanor, not a felony as the state had requested. After the verdict was announced, Smith claimed vindication, saying it "tells me the jury didn't think the hole posed a danger."
But prosecutor Michael McCaig disagreed. "I think it does send a message," McCaig said. "Whether it will be heard or not I don't know."
Two residents at the facility, officially called the Lighthouse but also known as the Roloff Homes, claimed that staff used extreme discipline, including beatings and forced exercise. Staffers at the facility, which is run by People's Baptist Church, denied the charge.
The two young men who brought the case, Aaron Cavallin and Justin Simons, claimed that they were tied together, made to run through brush and forced into the pit after they were caught trying to flee the facility. Testifying in court, Smith said the two expressed regret after they were caught and that he wanted to test their sincerity by putting them into the pit.
A structural engineer who testified during the trial said the pit, which had been dug the day before as a drainage ditch, was not safe and could have collapsed.
This scandal, and TFN's report, led directly to requiring all groups housing minors for over 11 weeks to be formally licensed with the Texas government (doing away with the "accreditation mill" scheme)...but there is still the "11 Week Loophole" which is large enough to drive a small space station through.
And it's not surprising Bush is fond of the dominionist "parallel economy mental health" industry. Persistent rumours suggest he discovered dominionism via a "faith-based" facility he ended up in for cocaine abuse; more provable is Bush's disturbing links to the dominionist "Bible boot-camp" industry:
Over the last 10 years, more than two dozen teenagers have died in so-called "tough love" rehabilitation facilities that use violent confrontation and exposure to primitive living conditions as a means to a cure. At least three girls in different facilities died from dehydration or hyperthermia following forced exercise; a 16-year-old California boy died of an infection after staff laughed at him and forced him to carry a basket filled with his vomit- and excrement-covered clothes; a 12-year-old Florida boy died in 2000 when a 320-pound counselor physically restrained him (the counselor said he thought the boy's complaints that he was unable to breathe were "fake"). Not all victims of such "treatment" die, of course: Many just end up with posttraumatic stress disorder or in a coma, or are discovered tied up in closets. Some of the programs where these incidents occurred were explicitly faith-based; some were not. None, however, were properly regulated.
Yet despite these cautionary examples--and despite the testimony of numerous experts who say that what is needed to prevent them from recurring is more federal oversight, not less--Bush's enthusiasm for these programs has not waned. In 1997, after Texas regulators had tried to shut down a Christian rehabilitation program called Teen Challenge because its staff failed to meet educational requirements, then-Governor Bush responded by scuttling all the state's training and safety regulations for such facilities. And in a speech two years later, Bush praised the fact that at Teen Challenge, "if you don't work, you don't eat." Now that he's ensconced in the White House, Bush intends to deregulate Teen Challenge-type programs nationwide.
Our new president's enthusiasm for deregulation of faith-based services is not hard to figure. As a onetime heavy drinker who says Jesus saved him as well as a Republican with classic antipathy toward government, Bush sees in faith-based services the opportunity both to trumpet his faith and to shrink the size of government. (Why have taxpayers funded government programs when religious groups will do the job cheaper?) But is there even more to his support of faith-based programs than meets the eye?
Mel Sembler, who made his fortune as a shopping mall magnate, is a longtime Bush-family supporter and friend. He was also the Republican Party's campaign finance from 1997 to 2001. Sembler's the man who devised the term "Republican Regents" for contributors of more than $250,000 to the GOP during W.'s 2000 campaign.
He is also the founder of Straight, Inc. Started in 1976, Straight, Inc., was based on the "therapeutic community" approach pioneered several years earlier, which involved addicts forcing harsh discipline and a surrender to God on one another. (The first "therapeutic community" program, called Synanon, went on to become a violent cult, some of whose members placed snakes in their detractors' mailboxes.)
(Of particular note, Teen Challenge is an Assemblies of God frontgroup which promotes itself as an anti-drug group in countries worldwide. Its extensive links to the Assemblies are not immediately apparent unless one goes digging in the Assemblies of God's website; however, their internal missions department promotion shows rather clearly that Teen Challenge is one of many "missionary frontgroups" the Assemblies directly maintains. Especially as the Assemblies is now known as the primary conduit for the spread of abusive "discipling and shepherding" groups (among other abusive tactics) and the fact that it is the second largest dominionist denomination in the US (and the largest in most other countries), this is especially concerning.)
Oh, yes, about "Straight, Inc.". ISAC has described the Straight program as "the most abusive program in U.S. history"--seeing as ISAC also has documentation on some other horrifically abusive "behaviour mod" facilities like the infamous WWASPS "Tranquility Bay" facility in Jamaica, this is saying something. The article in question on Bush's connections to Mel Sembler goes into some of the highlights of the Straight program:
Accounts by former patients depict a grim routine at Straight. "Newcomers" were required to be trailed at all times by a series of "oldcomers," who literally were to keep a finger through the newcomer's belt loop at all times--even when the newcomer went to the bathroom. "Therapy" consisted of mainly sitting straight for 10 hours a day, confessing sins. A teen who wasn't sufficiently enthusiastic in his or her confession would be thrown to the floor and immobilized, often for hours.
Immobilization was also the punishment for other infractions--such as eye contact between a boy and a girl, or slouching. Television, music, and reading were frequently forbidden. So was unsupervised contact with parents or other outsiders. The program had a, shall we say, fundamentalist view of sexuality. Girls were made to confess sexual transgressions in detail, while boys yelled "Slut!" and "Whore!" at them. Boys were sometimes forced to dress in drag as punishment for transgressions.
Another watchdog site formed by a Straight, Inc. survivor has noted that a previous program run by Sembler ("The Seed") used tactics literally comparable to gulags:
Following a stint in the Army and after getting into shopping center development, Mel Sembler and his wife Betty arrived in Florida in 1968. Within the next several years, they placed one of their sons in a controversial "drug treatment program" called The Seed. Using isolation, food deprivation, extreme confrontation with screaming and cursing, it's no wonder that in 1975 the United States Senate compared the program's methods to the North Korean brainwashing of American POW's.
"In some instances they were locked in rooms by themselves and denied food for days. They also reported that they were made to sit in chairs without speaking while listening to others berate them for hours...I recently interviewed a child that would be diagnosed as an emotionally unstable personality with paranoid overtones. The use of the above noted practices with his kind of child could easily result in a precipitation of major mental disturbance. Fortunately this child was able to run from the Seed before very much damage had been done to her psychologically. She did manifest some confusion and paranoid ideation which she felt was a result of the manner in which she was treated by the Seed personnel. I have also interviewed children who made suicide attempts following their running from the Seed. Overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and despair were in evidence."
[Jeffrey J. Elenewski, Ph.D., clinical psychologist - This letter was included in the 1974 Senate report on the Seed.]
Not without precedent
I wish I could say that the incidents involving this particular "Bible-based boot camp" were isolated. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests the exact opposite.
As I've noted before in my series on the dominionist "parallel economy", there has been a sizable growth in the numbers and promotion of these facilities that matches almost exactly the growth of the neopente dominionist movement in the US; a particularly infamous incident in the Midwest US is almost an exact parallel of the "Christian Boot Camp" case.
Bill Gothard (whom we've gone over before as a major promoter of "deliverance ministry", including the concept that Cabbage Patch Kids are apparently possessed by El Diablo) formerly ran a "Bible-based boot camp" himself--again, much like the case in the San Antonio facility, troubled kids in Indianapolis were committed both by parents and by the courts for some "Tough Love".
Much like our friends at Faith Outreach Ministries, Gothard has been heavy into the whole Joel's Army thing, up to and including paramilitary training camps for the "Jesus Camp" graduate set:
Gothard operates what appears to be a paramilitary-like training school for teenagers on a 2,200-acre former college campus in Big Sandy, Texas, as part of his ALERT program (Air Land Emergency Resource Team) -- purportedly for domestic missions work via the providing of disaster relief and humanitarian aid (see second paragraph of Endnote #9). Gothard states that "ALERT is an intensive program in which young men [male graduates of ATI] ages sixteen and older are trained in Biblical principles, Godly character, and practical skills. ALERT utilizes military disciplines to train young men to restore life, rather than take it, and to bring peace and encouragement to those in distress. The present program involves the following phases: (1) Discipline: in physical strength, endurance, and self-control; (2) Skills: in a wide range of vocational specialties; and (3) Emergency Services: in response to calls from cities, states, and nations." (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.) As of July, 2000, the program had 181 enrolled and 600 graduates.
Since the hyper-spiritual warfare motifs of the Latter Rain movement are beginning to take a sinister shift towards actual military, Gothard's involvement in paramilitary-like things causes us to wonder if there is a connection. Don't forget that Joel's Army has a "chosen seed" (the coming generation) to carry out its purpose on earth, which is dominion (both physical and spiritual). In this context, Christians should have some grave concerns about Gothard's activities.
The same article also goes into Gothard's history with Indianapolis area "Bible boot camps":
n 1992, the mayor of Indianapolis invited ATI young people to come to the city and to work in a low-income, high-crime area. There was a news article in The Indianapolis News (8/20/92) about the city of Indianapolis considering a link with Gothard: "Lambart (representing Gothard) said the group does not promote religion or church, but simply deals with 'non-optional, universal principles of life. [This sounds suspiciously like paganism's "universal life principles."] ... The concern within the social services community is that we help a person ... without any sectarian overtones.'" Why was Gothard trying to convince the city that he helps the community "without any sectarian overtones," while with Christians he claims to be totally Bible-based? Is this consistent with God's Word? (Reported in the 10/92, The Biblical Examiner.)
In February of 1993, Gothard set up a permanent facility in Indianapolis (Indianapolis Training Institute), claiming that "the results are achieved through standards of excellence and practical life application of what is learned. Only then will young people learn to be problem solvers and become effective in helping others." (Emphasis added.) The county's juvenile court began sending young offenders to a Gothard rehabilitation facility, the Indianapolis Training Institute, which serves as a school for more than 100 children. Some families have complained to the state when it was discovered that the "intensive family counseling" provided consisted of "viewing 15 IBLP religious tapes" (The Indianapolis Star).
The Indianapolis experiment has now been developed into a character training program in other parts of the U.S. Gothard stated, "Twenty American cities and states and other nations have officially invited the Institute and those who have applied the principles of this Seminar to help them build stronger families!" As of mid-2000, there were 17 training centers worldwide.
And in Indianapolis, the house of cards began to tumble down when evidence of horrific religiously-motivated child abuse started coming out in relation to Indianapolis Training Center:
Tracking new Florida child welfare chief Jerry Regier's past has led to some pretty disturbing things: radical Christian groups, papers on parental discipline that condone bruises and welts, and a drive to give tax dollars to churches.Now, welcome to the prayer closet.
Inside a converted 300-room hotel, the prayer closet is a little room where kids are taken when they disobey staff at the Indianapolis Training Center (ITC). Once locked inside, the misbehaving youths are forced to sit and pray to Jesus, sometimes for days at a time. Some juvenile ITC residents have said the evangelical Christian teens and young adults who staffed the center sometimes forbade them from going to the bathroom, forcing them to sit in their own urine for hours. Some have complained of beatings with paddles by untrained staff that left bruises and welts. When not in isolation, the kids are forced to march and chant and pray, with gospel music playing almost constantly.
The juvenile court system in Indianapolis has been sending kids convicted of minor crimes to the ITC for the past decade, but the extremist Christian creep show inside the center was exposed only earlier this year in reports by two Indy TV news stations.Those exposes, one of them titled "Dark Secrets," prompted a state investigation.
(As an aside, look for the next big scandals in relation to this sort of stuff to come out of Florida. Jeb Bush had in place an "alternative certification scheme" almost identical to Texas' scheme in the 1990s, and both Jeb Bush and the head of the Department for Children and Families noted above are Gothard supporters.)
WISH-TV's investigative report series truly blew the lid off of what amounted to a literal "Joel's Army" gulag in the home of the Indy 500. Whilst no longer available on WISH-TV's website, Rick Ross Institute has archived the entire series. In part because of WISH-TV's investigation, Indianapolis judges stopped using ITC as a sentencing option for a time.
Again, just as in the case of the San Antonio facility, there were taxpayer funds used to support religiously motivated child abuse and promotion of what amounts to a "Bible-based cult"--not just in Indy, but in public schools all across the US.