Monthly Archives: October 2013

Biblical Reform School Discipline: Tough Love or Abuse?

From ABC News April 12, 2011 by Susan Donaldson James. Difficult reading, as all the material on reform homes is, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore this.

Anne’s rebellion against her large Christian family — she was one of 10 children — began after she was gang-raped last year while jogging in her Maryland neighborhood.

“Because of that the trauma, she started spiraling in every way possible,” said her mother, Jeannie Marie, who did not want their last name made public.

Anne, now 18, said she numbed the pain with drinking and rebellion, which terrified her mother.

Desperate, Jeannie Marie turned to her church for help, learning about a Christian reform school that she says promised to “get right” her wayward daughter.

But neither was prepared for the ordeal they say Anne experienced from November to January of this year at New Beginnings Girls Academy, an Independent Fundamental Baptist boarding school in La Russell, Mo.

The school, according to its website, serves troubled teens so “through Jesus Christ, they can overcome their addictions, mend their broken relationships and get their lives on the right path.”

Instead, Anne said she was told the rape was her fault and was subjected to harsh discipline — ridiculed, restrained and deprived of proper nutrition and adequate clothing.

As punishment for misbehaving she says she was forced to wear a red shirt and stand facing a wall, sometimes for 8 to 10 hours a day with only 15-minute breaks for food. “I was so achy it hurt,” said Anne.

She said toilet paper and sanitary pads were rationed, despite Anne’s urinary problems after the rape. She also said no one offered to get her medical care.

“We thought maybe Anne would go there and hide out and pull herself together,” said Jeannie Marie. “We thought it was a safe place to go and we wouldn’t have to worry…We trusted our church.”

Anne left the school in January, but said the punitive approach left her with no self-worth and anxiety attacks so bad she cannot breathe.

Read the rest at

Attacking science, insulting Islam: the reality of PAC charter schools

By now you’ll have seen my Salon article about how charter schools (mostly in Texas) are promoting creationist ideas in a way that seems to violate church-state separation. There are two main curricula discussed: ResponsiveEd and Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum (PAC). Both are offshoots of Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). Of the two, ResponsiveEd seems to be used more widely, but it’s hard to get solid information about it. PAC, on the other hand, has kindly uploaded many curriculum samples to its website. What they’ve uploaded will be of great concern to campaigners for both secularism and science education. PAC lessons mock and insult Islam, promote Christianity, and attack mainstream science.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 11.42.32

‘Life Principle’ from PAC’s high school biology course.

A brief web search finds Paradigm Accelerated Charter Schools in Dublin, Comanche, Wallis, and Early, all in Texas. Although the Dublin school is shown as having closed or relocated (and its website now links to a page in Japanese), it was functioning at least as recently as January 2013, when last updated its page, giving the school 2 out of 10. None of these schools has its own website, so it’s hard to determine their status, but PAC markets itself as a charter school curriculum and claims its curriculum “honors the so-called ‘separation of church and state’ doctrine, thus enabling purchase of Paradigm curriculum with tax funds.” Hmmm.

PAC is run by former ACE Vice President Ronald E. Johnson, who you will remember for writing “Children matriculate into Christian school in dire need of spiritual programing of their minds to accept and desire the things of Christ.” What ‘programing’ is he offering now?

World History

The region where Europe, Asia, and Africa meet is known as the “Fertile Crescent.” Our timeline begins there about 4,000 BC when scientists agree that a cataclysmic event occurred (like a worldwide flood) that forced mankind to “start over.”

Read the rest of this entry

Creationist charter schools: not just for Texas, not up to scratch

On Friday, Salon ran an article I’d written about tax-funded charter schools in Texas which promote creationism. It’s now comfortably the most widely-read thing I’ve ever written, so I’m guessing you’ve seen it. I first heard of these charter schools a month ago when a parent, Joshua Bass, contacted me to say his son appeared to be doing Accelerated Christian Education in a charter school. It turned out this was ResponsiveEd, a curriculum designed by ACE’s founder that puts a vaguely secular gloss on the ACE model and sells it back to the state.

Darwin inspired Hitler: Lies they teach in Texas

A couple of important points got missed from the final Salon piece:

  • ResponsiveEd is not only in Texas. There are also schools in Arkansas (more info here) and Indiana.
  • The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University indicated ResponsiveEd schools are worse than Texas public schools and other charter schools (more below).

The other point I was not able to make in that article was just how similar ResponsiveEd is to Accelerated Christian Education. Read the rest of this entry

Darwin made Hitler do it: The secular version of ACE

I made the front page of! I think this is a big deal. front page

I found out that Donald Howard, ACE’s founder, started a secularised version of the system. It’s being used in publicly-funded Texas charter schools, and I thought people should know.

Please check it out!

When fundamentalists attack 2

So there’s a bit of a fuss going on because one fundamentalist has told a bunch of other fundamentalists that they’re going to hell.

There’s a blog post over at Slacktivist on this subject, and it’s essential reading. I’ve wasted half an hour trying to add something, and deleted everything I started because I’m not going to say anything that Fred Clark hasn’t already said better. Go and read it.

Related: When fundamentalists attack!


Demon doorways: Did you leave yours open?

Hot on the heels of Friday’s excursion into demon possession, this appears in my Facebook feed (courtesy of Jerrica Aldridge, apparently):

Doorways to demon possessionTurns out my list of 22 awesome things I used to believe were sins was just horribly incomplete.

EDIT: Turns out this is a jokeWell done Paul Braterman for keeping his skeptical eye going. But, as I said in reply to Paul, I have known Christians who believe every one of these things is genuinely demonic, so it’s a true example of a poe – a satire that is (almost) indistinguishable from the real thing. Thanks to Troy Davis for letting us know.

Dealing with sexual harrassment, fundy style… and DEMONS!

Quotation from 101 Questions and Answers on Demon Powers by Lester SumrallI bet they fucking won’t.

Read the rest of this entry

An invitation for abuse

I had a great time at Leicester Skeptics last night, and someone asked a particularly good question.

They said they’d been involved for a number of years in a job that involved the safeguarding of children. In their line of business, ACE’s emphasis on submission to authority would be an immediate red flag for abuse. Any system which teaches unquestioning obedience is ripe for exploitation. Was I aware of any instances of abuse, and did I have any comment on this?

Well, yes, I am aware of at least one instance of sexual abuse in an English ACE school.

But the second part of the question reminded me that it is official ACE policy to ask parents to side with the school against their children. Here’s the text from ACE’s Administration Manual:

Read the rest of this entry

I Didn’t Want to Be Broken, I Wanted to Be Whole: By Neriah

A lot of people I know who left religious backgrounds have suffered terrible mental health problems, including me. It’s fine when you believe you’re in the centre of God’s will and everything’s going according to plan. While that’s happening, religion seems to offer a mountaintop experience of knowing the mind of God. But when things go wrong, everything is your fault. Or, if you blame God, that makes you a sinner and a blasphemer. Which is your fault.

Homeschoolers Anonymous

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 4.18.02 PM

I Didn’t Want to Be Broken, I Wanted to Be Whole: By Neriah

HA notes: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Neriah” is a pseudonym.

It’s with excitement that I’ve read all the articles posted on Homeschoolers Anonymous — yet I could never figure out which experience of my own to write about.

Until the mental health week.

I was anorexic from about age twelve to thirteen — honestly, the months are blurry and I can’t handle going back and reading my journals from that time to get a more precise number.

But, safe to say, for about a year I starved myself.

I dropped from around one hundred pounds down to seventy-nine; my body began to shut down. My hair and nails suffered, and my period stopped.  When I look at pictures from that time, I’m shocked — my body is gaunt, my bones protrude out…

View original post 908 more words

Telling Lies for God

Notice: I am giving my talk, “Inside Britain’s Creationist Schools”, in Leicester tomorrow. Details here.


There are a lot of people who dislike creationism. Richard Dawkins, famously, is not that keen.

James F. McGrath, author of such treatises as “Do young earth creationists worship the devil?” and “Antievolutionism is a tool of Satan“, also appears to hold a less than favourable view.

Eugenie Scott has dedicated her life to fighting it, and Paul Braterman, sometime guest poster for this very blog, called it a cancer.

But all of these people’s antipathy to creationism pales into nothingness when faced with the raging, explosive hatred of Ian Plimer. Plimer feels about creationism roughly as normal people feel about child slavery. On the first page of his book, he calls creationism a “cult” and accuses creation scientists of committing “blatant scientific fraud”, and the salvo barely lets up from there. Telling Lies for God: Reason vs Creationism is not a nuanced or subtle tome. And, as much as I wanted to like it, I’m not convinced it’s very good.

Read the rest of this entry