Previously on Leaving Fundamentalism:
- Pastor Jack Hyles indulges in immoral sexual activity and covers up abuse.
- Preacher Bill Gothard receives 34 allegations of sexual harassment and four of rape.
- There are links between Hyles, Gothard, and Accelerated Christian Education founder Donald Howard.
- All three are represented by the lawyer David Gibbs Jr, who’s made a career cleaning up after preachers.
- It turns out quite a lot of this sort of thing goes on in fundamentalist Baptist churches,
So, this blog being this blog, you probably thought the last post was going to end with me telling you about a sex scandal involving Accelerated Christian Education’s Donald Howard. But you were wrong.
I saved it for this post.
[Be warned, this post will again feature discussion of sexual abuse that you might find upsetting or triggering]
Please be advised that this post contains discussions of sexual abuse.
In 1970, Pastor Jack Hyles, of First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana, called into his office one Jennie Nischik, wife of one of the church deacons. Soon after, Vic and Jennie Nischik began experiencing marital problems. Eventually, Vic confronted Hyles with “evidence of an improper relationship between Hyles and [Vic's] wife”. On hearing this evidence, Hyles, who had been pressuring Vic to leave, instead created an arrangement whereby the Nischiks lived in different rooms of the same house and never had any physical contact. Hyles continued his affair with Jennie for more than a decade. Eventually, Vic complained to Hyles that his room was damp and affecting his health, and said he was going to move back in with Jennie in the master bedroom. Rather than allow this, Hyles paid to have a new room added to the Nischiks’ house.
This is just one of the allegations that have become Hyles’ legacy.
Meanwhile, in 2014 Bill Gothard, founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), was placed on “administrative leave” while they investigated claims of historic sexual abuse dating back to the 1970s. Thirty-four women have made claims of harassment, and one woman says she was sixteen when Gothard molested her.
Welcome to the world of Independent Fundamental Baptists (IFB). IFB types don’t believe in church hierarchy. They’re not usually part of any official denomination. They believe God invested all authority in the Pastor, and so bishops, archbishops and other formal church structures are unbiblical. This means that when scandals like the above break out, all the others can say “Nothing to do with us!” Unlike abuse scandals in the Catholic church, abuse in the IFB is usually portrayed as an isolated occurrence.
Is there in fact a link between all this?
More Accelerated Christian Education schools, more misleading advertising. On the Advertising Standards Agency website today, an ‘informally resolved case’ is listed, related to Dewsbury Gospel Church trading as Branch Christian School. Branch Christian School uses the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) curriculum. Rather than preparing its students for recognised exams like GCSEs and A Levels, it offers its graduates the International Certificate of Christian Education (ICCE).
It will come as a surprise to no one to learn that I was the complainant in this case. It’s a similar story to the last time I pointed out that some ACE schools were misleading parents about the nature of their qualifications, but in this case, it’s more extreme.
When I complained to the ASA about this in July, the Branch Christian School prospectus claimed that the ICCE was recognised by the Government’s National Framework for Qualifications (NFQ).
There is no such thing as the NFQ.
This is a guest post. The author has chosen to remain nameless. The title (mine) does the post no justice; this is one of the most powerful ACE survivor stories we’ve had and I want everyone to read it.
I was a student at Maranatha Christian School in the UK from 2003 – 2005. I worked at an ACE school in Moscow, Russia in 2007 and at Christian Education Europe from 2007-2009. I also attended for many years a church overseen by then-director of Christian Education Europe, Arthur Roderick.
I started ACE “late” at age thirteen after spending the first parts of my schooling as an atheist in mainstream schools. I have little idea what drew my parents to Maranatha, but I suspect the low teacher-pupil ratio was one of the main reasons.
Having always been a “teacher’s pet” Maranatha was a whole new experience for me. Because I was not yet a Christian at that point and had little spiritual knowledge I was branded a “troublemaker.” In my first year at Maranatha I was given detentions and parents’ meetings for blaspheming, dying my hair, refusing to sing hymns during “opening exercise,” my lack of the “submissive nature” we were taught was expected of women, and even once for wearing trousers instead of a skirt to an earned “non-uniform” day.
I was harassed by teachers and students daily – eventually attempting suicide shortly before my fourteenth birthday. This further branded me as an ungodly troublemaker, particularly as I was referred to a child psychologist. Although the head teacher was not pleased and offered both prayer and a referral to a “Christian psychologist” as alternatives, my mother thankfully refused. I was, however, forbidden from returning to the (or any) doctor after his practical suggestions included removing me from Maranatha completely.
So here’s the most horrible thing I’ve found in a while: White Pride Homeschooling. I don’t even want to give their page the extra traffic, so I’m linking to an archived version of their website (from August 2014).
From their website (Warning: you are about to read racist propaganda):
The biggest increase in intermarriage has occurred in recent years, due to the social interaction of children of different races in the school room and subsequently the board room and then bedroom. In the year 2000 – 9 percent of married men and women below age 30 were intermarried, compared with 7 percent of those ages 30 to 44, 5 percent for those ages 45 to 59, and about 3 percent among those age 60 and older. Obviously school busing, the promotion of interracial marriages by “Christian” preachers, visible images in all types of media, and 12 (plus) years of social conditioning in the schools for each and every child has had a devastating effect on the racial integrity of white America.
Gotta love the use of square quotes around “Christian” in the above paragraph, because obviously true Christians are racist Christians.
Yup, this is a Christian organisation. No doubt you are wondering which curriculums they suggest parents can use without polluting the minds of their pure Aryan offspring.
In no particular order:
Alpha Omega (pretty much a clone of ACE, but reputedly more academically challenging)
CLASS (the Christian Liberty Academy School System, which produces a custom curriculum based on a mixture of texts from publishers including A Beka and Bob Jones)
And, of course, Lighthouse Christian Academy, which is the homeschool wing of Accelerated Christian Education.
This is a guest post by Kevin Long.
I am officially heartbroken. I was walking around the neighborhood with my special needs kid. Trying to come up with a way to spend more quality time together, I said, “Let’s do a song on Garage Band or something.” The kid went tense.
Me: “What’s wrong?”
Kid: [Sullen] “I don’t know.”
Me: “Rephrasing: you went tense when I said ‘lets do a song.’ What made you tense about that?”
Kid: “I’m afraid to be creative, ok?”
Me: “Why? You’re so smart and inventive and fascile.”
Kid: [Tense and sullen] “I don’t know.”
Me: “We’ll try it again: At what point did you STOP liking being creative?”
Kid: “It was ACE.”
I don’t normally plug my talks with separate posts (you can see the ‘speaking dates’ page for the latest), but the next seven days have some good ones lined up:
Tomorrow, Wednesday 20th August 2014, I’m appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival performing, for the first time ever, my autobiographical one-man show, My Escape from Fundamentalism.
On Thursday I’m at Merseyside Skeptics.
And then next Tuesday I’ll be speaking in Dover about Dover School for All Nations, which you should know about by now. Much has happened since I last wrote about it. Pieter Van Rooyen has died, which is very sad for his family and friends, but the school he founded continues under new leadership, which is very sad for everyone else.
Here’s the press release ahead of my talk, which will be the first ever Skeptics in the Pub to take place in Dover. I’ve also invited the leadership of Dover School for All Nations to come to the talk and have right of reply. I very much hope they will accept.
PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SOUTH EAST SKEPTICS
Date: 12 August 2014
Faith school whistleblower to speak ahead of Dover ‘ACE’ school expansion
A former pupil of the controversial ‘Accelerated Christian Education’ (ACE) curriculum will be giving a public lecture on August 26th, ahead of September’s expansion of the Dover School for All Nations (DSFAN) ACE faith school.
This is a guest post by Talen Lee, a former ACE student from Australia. This is his survivor story. Be warned, it contains unpleasant descriptions of corporal punishment.
If you’re a familiar reader of Jonny Scaramanga’s blog, you probably already know that the ACE system promotes false information as fact. These are glaring factual errors that honestly shouldn’t even be up for debate. When you’re talking about errors that run throughout the entire ACE system to this degree, you have to come down very hard on one side or another. Either you think it’s not acceptable to teach blatant falsehoods in an education system as facts, or you think that it is, and if you’re in the latter camp, I am comfortable dismissing everything you have to say about education at all. Bickering about specifics like flipping mountains or universal floods or six day creationism is just trying to blow out matches while the house is on fire. I have no patience to deal with this penny-ante apologism, this horsecrap refining, where people want to argue how the precise details about some fossils may indicate a sort-of-weakness in evolutionary theory when we’re discussing a book that tries to tell me that the Loch Ness Monster is real.
There’s also a long discussion you can make about how its system is pedagogically useless. Repetition of simple exercises without complexity serves no purpose but to teach how to overcome those exercises, in the same way that memorising dates doesn’t actually make you a historian.
You could discuss the ACE system’s political indoctrination. I know that as an Australian consumer I wasn’t particularly keen on reading books that told me about how America was, in fact, the greatest nation in the world, and the only place where people were free. After all people weren’t free in America – if you wanted to buy one, you had to pay for it.
Rather than talk about the flaws in the ACE curriculum and the things it does badly, I want to talk to you about a thing the ACE system does really well. Read the rest of this entry
Turns out you’re a miserable lot, readers of Leaving Fundamentalism. Monday’s blog post was the biggest piece of good news I’ve ever posted, and it was the least popular blog of the year. So alright, fine. Have some bad news. And some good news: you can help.
14-year-old Skyler is being held at Marvelous Grace Girls’ Academy in Pace, Florida (MGGA). Her parents are divorced, and her father has put Skyler in the home against her mother’s wishes. Her mother, Silke Matero, has a custody/visitation order to see her daughter. MGGA, however, refuses to let Silke see Skyler. It’s a residential reform home for ‘rebellious’ girls, and during their year-long stay, girls have no contact with outsiders except through letters and phone calls which are monitored by staff.
EDIT: Silke informs me that girls can receive visits from family after four months, if they have received no demerits. My own experience in an ACE school suggests that going four months without demerits is no mean feat, however.
MGGA is one of the ‘troubled teen’ reform homes I’ve blogged so much about. The existence of these homes is a stain on the free world. In fact, if people who are supportive of normal ACE schools would speak out against them, it would do their cause a great deal of good. Right now, their silence (and ACE’s supplying of curriculum to places like Marvelous Grace and Hephzibah House) looks a lot like complicity.
The home is on the grounds of the former New Beginnings Girls Academy, a place with survivor stories that will make your blood alternately boil and run cold. This is from the first entry on the “Stop NBGA” survivor stories page. It doesn’t get better from here:
There was a little girl with serious mental health problems. She was about 12 when she came in and was on a bunch of medication for her problems that she truly needed. They took her off all meds and said they could help her better than the medicine. She always looked like she didn’t know what was going on and she didn’t understand why they were treating her the way they did. I remember one time where myself and other girls and staff members were made to stay up with her until about 4 in the morning and force her to stand in a circle of masking tape on the floor. If she got out of the circle or didn’t comply then we had to push her back in.
If she kept misbehaving then we had to put her into an ice cold shower with all her clothes on while she screamed. She was always in trouble and yelled at for no reason at all. You could tell that there was something wrong with her and that was not the place she needed to be. She couldn’t even talk that well and we could barely ever understand what she was saying sometimes. They pretty much just treated her like crap and blamed her for it because she wasn’t “right with God” according to them. It was awful and I felt very bad for her.
The headline of Friday’s Daily Telegraph screamed “Toddlers at risk from extremists“. The British Education Secretary has announced plans to ban teaching creationism is publicly-funded nurseries.
What it didn’t say is that, although the British Humanist Association (BHA) was the most prominent campaigner against creationism in nurseries, this was originally the subject of a letter-writing campaign by the readers of Leaving Fundamentalism. But I know you wrote the letters, so thank you.
Here’s a brief history of what has happened, and what it means. More importantly, an article in the TES last week may explain why ACE schools have been able to get away with so much.