Previously on this blog, we’ve looked at the history of spanking in Accelerated Christian Education schools and asked whether it still happens today. Sources closer to ACE than me tell me that paddling is a thing of the past in UK schools that teach the ACE curriculum. But they’re still selling spanking manuals.
Christian Education Europe (CEE) has UK contracts to distribute two ranges of products. One is ACE. The other is Growing Families International (GFI), a series of child-rearing manuals by Gary and Marie Ezzo. In preparing this post, I tried to think of a way to convey to you in a single sentence just how problematic the Ezzos’ teachings are. And I have it. But first some background.
Have you heard of James Dobson? Within the Christian Right, Dobson is a voice to rival Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell; he was particularly influential on the Reagan administration. Dobson’s books on discipline, The Strong-Willed Child and Dare to Discipline, are pretty big on spanking and other ‘creative’ punishments themselves, and you should ask some of the kids who were raised with Dobson’s methods if they think they were abusive.
So you’re in the picture. Dobson is a Christian Right advocate of authoritarian, disciplinarian parenting.
And here comes my sentence that says it all about the Ezzos:
The organisation James Dobson founded, Focus on the Family, has publicly denounced the Ezzos’ teachings.
If you’ve been following my series on Christian reform homes, you’ll have noticed the name Lester Roloff popping up. It is, as Abigail McWilliam puts it, the common thread uniting reports of abuse from ‘troubled teen’ homes across America. Everything comes back to Roloff. Almost all of the homes we’ve discussed were founded by him or one of his former employees and associates, and all of them run on the model of Roloff’s original Rebekah Home.
If you haven’t been following, the reform homes have a pattern: They are single-sex boarding schools on compounds surrounded by chain-link fences topped with barbed wire. Punishments are extreme: extended periods of solitary confinement; kneeling on hard surfaces for hours, sometimes with pencils under your knees; and whippings and beatings of the cruelest kind.
And they all use Accelerated Christian Education. In return, ACE produces educational materials specifically praising the convicted felon and his reform homes.
I’ve blogged before (more than once) about how ACE’s policies put children at risk of abuse. By teaching children to obey no matter what, and by not educating children properly about when (or how) to say no, they leave children vulnerable. I’ve discovered evidence that this is a bigger problem than I previously thought. We’ve already heard from Christopher and Anaïs that sexual abuse is a reality for some ACE students. The company should be doing more to equip students against it. Instead, their staff training instructs ACE supervisors to view children as unreliable, and to ask their parents to treat them the same way. Read the rest of this entry
I’ve recently posted a lot about Christian reform schools, but most of the ones we’ve discussed have been closed. Here’s one that’s still operating. Got seven minutes? This video from CNN will bring you up to speed.
Questions abound as more horror stories emerge from New Bethany Home for Girls and Boys in Arcadia and Longstreet
You also need to read Jo Wright’s comments. She is one of Ford’s victims; the first one is here: http://louisianavoice.com/2013/09/18/questions-abound-as-more-horror-stories-emerge-from-new-bethany-home-for-girls-and-boys-in-arcadia-and-longstreet/#comment-17354
Do it in the name of heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
—One Tin Soldier by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter
As more and more revelations come to light about the treatment of residents of the New Bethany Home for Girls and Boys in Arcadia and similar homes run by Rev. Mack Ford and wife Thelma in other localities, many serious questions remain unanswered.
- Why, for example, have the Fords and employees of the home never been charged with felony child abuse?
- How can a man (and dozens more like him scattered across the U.S.) mete out such barbaric treatment of children in the name of a Savior who’s every utterance of love, peace and forgiveness is in direct contradiction to the policies of these institutions?
- How can the doctrine of separation of church and state trump state laws enacted to protect children who are unable to protect…
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Excerpts from a Tampa Bay Times article, by Alexandra Zayas, October 26, 2012. Read it in full, and see the Times’ video.
Trigger warning: Almost everything.
They shaved him bald that first morning in 2008, put him in an orange jumpsuit and made him exercise past dark. • Through the night, as he slept on the floor, they forced him awake for more. • The sun had not yet risen over the Christian military home when Samson Lehman collapsed for the sixth time. Still, he said, they made him run. • The screaming, the endless exercise, it was all in the name of God, a necessary step at the Gateway Christian Military Academy on the path to righteousness. • So when Samson vomited, they threw him a rag. When his urine turned red, they said that was normal. • By Day 3, the 15-year-old was on the verge of death, his dehydrated organs shutting down. • Slumped against a wall, cold and immobile, Lehman recalls men who recited Scripture calling him a wimp. And he thought: Maybe, if I die here, someone will shut this place down. • Not in Florida.
In this state, unlicensed religious homes can abuse children and go on operating for years. Almost 30 years ago, Florida legislators passed a law eliminating state oversight of children’s homes that claim government rules hamper their religious practices.
Today, virtually anyone can claim a list of religious ideals, take in children and subject them to punishment and isolation that verge on torture — so long as they quote chapter and verse to justify it. Read the rest of this entry
Neil Riser campaign worker linked to defunct church girls’ home, accusations of sexual abuse by father-in-law minister
In America, there was a string of “Christian” (I use the term loosely) reform homes, where children were subjected to horrifying abuse. Some of them still exist; most of them use Accelerated Christian Education. This is the tip of the iceberg.
Two men with ties to a defunct church-operated home for girls and boys in Bienville Parish—and to the Baptist minister and accused sexual predator who ran the facility—currently are actively involved in the congressional campaign of State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia), LouisianaVoice has learned.
Timothy Johnson of Choudrant in Lincoln Parish, who was fired earlier this year as a vice president at Louisiana College after leading an unsuccessful coup against President Joe Aguillard, is married to the daughter of Rev. Mack Ford who ran New Bethany Home for Girls and Boys south of Arcadia in Bienville Parish for several decades.
Timothy Johnson performs work on behalf of the Riser campaign, Riser’s campaign headquarters confirmed on Monday. His son, Jonathan Johnson, Ford’s grandson, worked for about a decade as State Director for retiring 5th District Congressman Rodney Alexander at $75,000 per year and is currently a paid employee…
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There’s a trend I’ve long noticed on this blog: Articles which involve creationism and/or fundamentalists being hiliarious get a lot of hits. Posts about child abuse get nothing by comparison. This blog is about to take a turn that may lose me some readers. I can understand this. Some of you read this blog for entertainment; these posts will not be entertaining. They will, however, be extremely important. There is now strong evidence that children have been abused in “Christian” reform homes for decades. Despite this, the victims’ voices have barely been heard. The perpetrators have rarely seen any kind of justice, and the public is largely oblivious. I have a platform on this blog, and I am determined to help give these victims a voice.
It will take a lot of posts to alert you to the scale of the problem. To begin with, these will mostly be reposts and links to existing material online. You may not have time to read them all, or you may find them too distressing; virtually all of it needs to come with a trigger warning. I don’t expect you to read every word (even I haven’t managed that); I just want you to see enough to recognise the patterns and themes in victims’ testimonies, the way multiple independent witnesses corroborate each other.
Most of the material has been written from the standpoint of deep sympathy for the victims. As a result, sometimes the evidence provided is not as rigorous as it might need to be to stand up in court, or even to go on Wikipedia without a  tag. This is a problem, and when I have time I hope to provide more concrete evidence. I understand the victims are in possession of this type of evidence, in the form of court documents and school records. Some are in the process of giving witness statements to local sheriff’s departments. They deserve justice, and I want to help them get it. In the meantime, you will see that the sheer quantity of evidence means that, although we can’t always be sure of the details of what happened, it is beyond reasonable doubt that these homes are abusive. This abuse is not peripheral, or just by a few bad apples. It is endemic.
I became aware of these schools because so many of them use Accelerated Christian Education. ACE’s relationship to these schools is interesting and complex, but, as we’ll see later, ACE specifically praises them in at least one of its own PACEs.
Please stay with me on this. I might post more typical, fun creationist stuff in between to keep you all on side.
You may remember Cat Givens’ story about her time in one of these schools. This is an indicator of what’s to come:
Off to a girls’ home in Louisiana for me! New Bethany Home for Wayward Girls. I was to be there for a year.
Surely, this would save my soul and make me a compliant teenager. At this girls’ home, the same type of hellfire and brimstone attitude prevailed. I was not allowed to wear pants, as that was a sin. I could not listen to any music besides gospel, as that was a sin. I could not talk about my past, as I had no past. I had to be called by my first and middle name because I was to become a new person.
There was an evangelical preacher who ran the place, Rev. Mac Ford. He and his wife, Thelma founded the home, and they took in rebellious teens from all over the country and also took in the unwanted girls who would just be abandoned there. We were all to comply with every rule or get whipped with a belt. That was the easy punishment. If a girl acted out, often she would be forced, after lights out, to stand in the hallway on her tip toes with eggs or tomatoes under her heels. If she slipped and squished one, she’d get a whipping or get hit with the switch. Runaways from the home were usually caught and then, after a sound whipping with the belt from Bro. Mac, she’d be handcuffed to her bed and a ‘trusted girl” would have the key. All meals were served her at her bed, and only was she uncuffed for bathroom and shower breaks. Once Bro Mac determined she had repented, she was off the cuffs.
If you’ve read Cat Givens’ harrowing guest post for this blog, The Dogma That Followed Me Home, then you know about Christian reform schools. A while back I posted here on the Leaving Fundamentalism Facebook page a sequence of harrowing CNN exposés on these reform schools in the USA. They’re brutal and I should be doing more to highlight the injustices occurring there.
So I’m excited about a new indie flick, Kidnapped for Christ, which is being crowdfunded on Indiegogo.
Here’s the trailer:
I know I’ve been posting a lot of things which ask for your money lately, but this one seems particularly worthy of your consideration.
Last week, I finally got my hands on something I’ve been trying to get for more than ten years. This.
Yes, that’s a picture of a kid being bent over a chair so he can be beaten. This picture is from page 118 of the School of Tomorrow Procedures Manual (part 1, 1998 revision). That’s the guide that all Accelerated Christian Education schools are required to follow in running their schools. I was 13 the first time I saw this picture, and I found it shocking even though, as a good Bible-believing Christian, I knew it was God’s will for children to be spanked.
Critics of my blog often tell me that I am wrong to highlight instances of child abuse in ACE schools. “Child abuse happens in all kinds of schools”, they tell me. “You’re just trying to smear ACE”.
To those critics I say: Look at this picture, and then tell me that. Yes, child abuse happens in all kinds of places. But most of those places don’t consider it to be one of their main selling points.