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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 ABCnews.com

Questions abound as more horror stories emerge from New Bethany Home for Girls and Boys in Arcadia and Longstreet

Louisiana Voice

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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Horror stories from tough-love teen homes

If you only read one story on “troubled teen” Christian reform homes, Kathryn Joyce’s piece for Mother Jones is probably the most comprehensive choice. Joyce is a tireless campaigner for survivors of religious abuse, having also released books on the “Quiverfull” Christian patriarchy movement, and the evangelical adoption industry.

Once you’ve looked at this, along with the previous things I’ve posted, you’ll get the picture on fundamentalist reform homes.

chain link fences and barbed wire surrounding New Bethany Home for Girls

The compound at New Bethany. No one got in or out without Mack Ford’s permission

Check it out in full here, or see a few choice quotations from me below. As usual, trigger warnings all round.

Read the rest of this entry

Religious exemption at some Florida children’s homes shields prying eyes

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

Rape victim, confess your sin

Trigger warning in this post for rape and victim blaming.

In 1997, a Baptist church deacon, Ernie Willis (38), raped Tina Anderson, then 15. As a result, Anderson became pregnant. The church pastor, Chuck Phelps, covered up this rape, and had Anderson relocated to another state (with a plane ticket paid for by her rapist). She was home schooled, and not allowed contact with her peers until after she had given the baby up for adoption.  Willis had even confessed his guilt to the pastor, conceding that he was the “aggressor”. Anderson’s relocation effectively shut down the police investigation into the matter. There is some disagreement as to whether the authorities were informed at the time; roughly, Phelps says they were, and everyone else says they weren’t.  Read the rest of this entry