Sunday, October 28, 2012

Organizations with religious exceptions expose children to horrific abuse in Florida.

Courtesy of Tampa Bay Times:  

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. 

The Tampa Bay Times spent a year investigating more than 30 religious homes that have housed children in recent years across Florida. Some operate with a religious exemption, legally regulated by a private Christian organization instead of the state. Others lost their exemption and operate with no legal accreditation at all. 

Although most drew few complaints, nearly a dozen have been hounded by allegations of abuse. A review of thousands of pages of investigative files and interviews with dozens of former residents found: 

• State authorities have responded to at least 165 allegations of abuse and neglect in the past decade, but homes have remained open even after the state found evidence of sex abuse and physical injury. 

• The religious exemption has for decades allowed homes to avoid state restrictions on corporal punishment. Homes have pinned children to the ground for hours, confined them in seclusion for days, made them stand until they wet themselves and exercised them until they vomited. 

• Children have been bruised, bloodied and choked to unconsciousness in the name of Christian discipline. A few barely escaped with their lives. In addition, in two settled lawsuits, a mother said her son was forced to hike on broken feet; a father said his son was handcuffed, bound at the feet, locked away for three days and struck by other boys at the instruction of the home. 

• Adults have ordered children to participate in the punishment, requiring them to act as jailors, to bully troublemakers or to chase, tackle and sit on their peers. 

• Teens have been denounced as sinners, called "faggots" and "whores," and humiliated in front of their peers for menstrual stains and suspicions of masturbation. 

• Parents share the blame. Some sign away their children for a year or more without first visiting a home or checking credentials. But state officials bear some responsibility because they have not warned the public about programs they believe are abusive. 

• Florida taxpayers have supported some unlicensed homes with hundreds of thousands of dollars in McKay scholarships — a government program to help special needs students pay tuition at private schools. 

In Florida, the vast majority of children's homes are regulated and inspected by the state Department of Children and Families. But under Florida law, a home can shield itself from that oversight by claiming a religious exemption. 

Instead of state-trained child safety workers, these homes are regulated by the Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies, a private, nonprofit group run almost entirely by the same people who run the homes.

One of my major complaints about how Christianity is viewed in this country, and as you know I have several, is that it often provides a certain moral camouflage.  In other words if somebody identifes themselves a "Christian" they get quite a substantial benefit of the doubt. Without knowing anything else about them, they are automatically considered ethical, moral, and trustworthy.

For decades this has allowed flim-flam men to take advantage of the elderly, allowed organizations to brutalize their workers or clients, and allowed politicians to push for truly barbaric policies while hiding behind the Bible.

In reality people are people. The idea that one religious group or another has the market cornered on morality is ridiculous. Just as it is ridiculous to assume that those who don't "fear God" are somehow less trustworthy and more apt to do terrible things.

However having said that there is ALSO a danger when people are informed in how they interact with others using the Bible as their guide. That book is NOT a reasonable textbook for how to raise children, treat your spouse, or deal with conflict.

Any book that contains such a phrase as this: He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. (Often translated as, "Spare the rod, spoil the child,) should NEVER be used as the cornerstone of how to discipline a child. And the superstitious point of view that identifies normal adolescent behaviors as "sinful" provides an impetus to treat the children in their care in the most barbaric fashion imaginable, in the hopes of driving out the "evil."

Of course these places desperately need to have oversight, just like any other business that cares for children. In fact, in my opinion, due to their primitive guidelines they likely need even MORE oversight.

Is anybody of a different opinion?


  1. Anonymous10:45 AM

    Spot on Jesse. Please be aware this type of column is appreciated by those of us who are truly confused by the religious mind. It strikes me as hate filled, fearful and power seeking most of the time. I find it amazing we aren’t hearing from Christians who truly don’t feel this way about their "journey with Christ.” Why don’t they speak up against what I perceive as Taliban Christians? Are they afraid of them too or are they just fearful to break rank? This must be addressed by churches!

    1. Anonymous4:24 PM

      I agree with Jesse, but not with this writer. This is not an issue for the churches. This is an issue for the courts. THese actions are abusive, but those abusing the children need to be charged and tried in a court of law.

  2. I feel the same way you do, Gryphen.

    MORE supervision ~ not LESS!

  3. When someone identifies theirself as a "Christian" I don't give them the benefit of the doubt, I am immediately suspicious. How ignorant are they, and what are they up to?

    1. Years ago, I heard my cousin (univ prof, PhD, author, head of her dept), when referring to Christians, speak the word with a sneer. I was shocked!

      Now, I realize she was, as she's always been, ahead of the curve.

    2. I have no problem with mainstream Christians, it's the unchurched/born-again/evangelical types that scare me.

    3. Anonymous2:17 PM

      I take it you haven't been in contact with the pedophile RCC much? I speak as a recovering Catholic. Dolores Umbridge had little on many of the RCC nuns and priests put in daily contact with kids.

  4. O/T but this made my day.

    Lesbian couple kisses in front of a anti-gay protest in France. I'm getting a little dizzy here. Somebody get me my pearls...

    Here's the tweet: (click on 'Display This')

    1. Anita Winecooler8:56 PM

      I love it! When Hate's the question, the answer is "Love" and these ladies have it!!

      This way to the fainting lounge >>>>>>

      The look on the crowd's face is priceless.

      Found this in the "Mitt Meets Meat" link-

      Gwen Stefani and No Doubt sang "looking hot" for the POTUS!

      I'm sure President Obama loved that!

  5. It is beyond sick what some people will do,all in the name of their religion.No thank you. Religious fanatics (whatever "Book" they follow) are the cause of too many problems in our World. I will stick to believing in God/Goddess/Higher Power,which I find to be based on love(from personal experience),but will pass on religion.

    1. WakeUpAmerica11:48 AM

      I totally agree with you. The problem isn't having a private relationship with a supreme being. The problem is when people organize in the name of religion. Corruption inevitably follows.

    2. You are so correct.I walked away from organized religion after my sons were born and my father died.I couldn't reconcile my personal beliefs with what "they" were trying to tell me I had to believe in order to "belong". Especially when they don't practice what they preach.I feel truer to myself and the Higher Power in my every day life,and feel I am a better person since walking away from their hypocrisy.It isn't just corruption that follows,it's the inhumanity so many practice in the name of their religion.Fanatical Christians just make my stomach churn with their zealousness,and their rage bubbling just beneath the surface.And because they believe they'll ascend to Heaven in the afterlife and they're allowed to do whatever,to whomever in the name of Christ.And that's different from Muslim extremists how?

  6. Anonymous11:39 AM

    I am grateful you are shining a light on this. Have noticed that very often stories of horrific child abuse have a short line about 'Christian discipline'. Wish some national entity would track this. Though can you imagine the political storm if Tea Party members thought they were being 'persecuted' for raising 'God fearing' children?

    How did we get here, as a nation? Interesting opinion column and comments at today's NYT, (paywalled site). Many are saying the Red/Blue state divide goes back to the Civil War.

  7. Sally in MI11:40 AM

    I consider myself Christian, but have no spoken out against these monsters other than on blogs. What should we do? As individuals, we are not any more or less powerful than a non-Christian. Of course these people are immoral, power-hungry, and sadists. They are not religious. There is no room in any country for people who abuse their authority. That is not what God wants.
    My church, the Church of the Brethren, does not run schools. We do not run torture camps. Each district (roughly divided by states) may have a 'camp,' but to my knowledge, the people who run those weekly summer camps are carefully screened and monitored. Religion should be about love and respect; as we have seen in the GOP, many times it is coerced and becomes about hate and exclusion. I hope the people in Florida are doing something about this. This is worse than those day-care people who abused their charges: these people have full rein over teens day and night...I doubt one kid comes out of there without becoming a lawbreaker. You don't teach people proper behavior this way. I am ashamed of all of them.

    1. Anonymous1:16 PM

      You have a ready made group that professes to follow the teachings of Christ.You say they would not condone this abuse.Stand up,speak to them at service,tell them about this,you or someone in your church can help organize a letter and email campaign to protest.suggestions for recipients-Florida AG,Fl Congressmen,Fl Senators,Fl Governors,US AG,US Senators,Barack Obama-I'm sure you can think of more.

  8. WakeUpAmerica11:47 AM

    This is beyond tragic. I blame FL as much as I blame the various organizations. It's way past time in America to remove tax-exempt status from churches. Any of 'em, all of 'em.

    FL has never been known as a child friendly state. Bastards.

  9. Anonymous12:12 PM

    I detest these 'so called' christians! It is no wonder that America is becoming less and less a christian nation.

    And, then we have likes of a Mitt Romeny running for POTUS! A Mormon (cult), proven liar and a total wimp! (He has the Bush Administration war mongers advising him!!) Women that vote for this guy are total idiots as are the retired people in Florida.

  10. Does Florida want their population to just die out? Is that what they are trying to do? It seems like it. In addition to these horrific "group homes" (which I'd like to point out are run by CULTISTS who CALL themselves Christian rather than ACTUAL Christians) they have a tremendous problem within their DCFS organization. Children are dying at the hands of abusive "foster parents" who are only in it for the monthly government stipend. Inevitably, it comes out that neighbors, teachers, or outside family members have called DCFS to report the abuse/neglect/lack of food or medical care- and the department cries "well we are understaffed and overworked, it's not OUR fault!"

    And just for the record, Gryphen- the actual translation of the verse which you (and many others) summarize as "spare the rod, spoil the child" is almost universally misquoted.

    The Latin word translated to "rod" is synonymous with "staff". The bible uses the two interchangeably.

    The bible is saying- if you spare the rod/staff as in GUIDANCE, as a shepherd guides his sheep with a rod or staff, the child will be spoiled. The verse is only saying if you don't put effort and guidance into tending your child, he will be spoiled or lost- as a sheep unherded by the shepherd's rod will wander from the family and possibly be lost.

    The Aramaic and Latin texts translate directly to- "sparing the shadow of staff and rod will loose such a child". Meaning- stand next to your child and guide him or you might lose him.

    I find it remarkably sad that such a loving concept was turned into such a misshapen, incorrect assessment of what was actually meant/said.

    1. Anonymous2:25 PM

      Thank you for enlightening me about this. I always thought it sounded a bit odd and mean spirited — certainly not a way to lovingly guide one’s own beloved children! “shepherding’ is so much more meaningful and a great description.

    2. Cracklin Charlie5:54 PM

      I think the Christian organizations that run these type of places want to get money from the US government to "help" people. But they want the money much more than they want to help. And then there is the fact that their methods of helping are ineffective, if not downright dangerous to the persons they are trying to "help". It's just an awful situation.

      Thank you very much for including the proper translation. That actually makes the phrase make much more sense.

  11. Anonymous12:30 PM

    Hey Gryphen, since we have talked about Bristol being such a fan of that downfall of humanity "honey boo boo child", you should post the parody written and acted entirely by Muslim comedians! I don't have the link on me but just google "honey cous cous child" on you tube. It is hilarious.


      "Is he dead?"

      "Can we cook him, Mama?"

      Just like the damn Palins. lol

  12. Anonymous12:35 PM

    They, religions are the cause of a lot of wars all during history. This why such the trying lessen rape charges and make a difference in rape. Doing away with public education where there are no one to tell these terrible things.

  13. Anonymous12:50 PM

    I am tired of people telling me they are christians.The next one will get this as a reply. Don't tell me you are a christian, SHOW ME!!.
    Any one who is a true christian should never need to tell, it should show!!!

  14. Remarkably sad, yes. But not remarkable. This is just one instance of the multitude of instances where benign words from this ancient collection of fairytales and parables has been pretzelized into just another way to control and instill fear in gullible sheeple.

    Oh, and most important of all, getting their money.

  15. How the fuck is this even legal?????

    1. Anonymous2:27 PM


      I always crack up when I read your comments! And then I wonder “how does one actually get to become an Australian citizen?”

      I envy you and your pool by mid February every winter.

    2. Anonymous6:33 PM

      FYI - It isn't legal. There is a good reason why our founding fathers ( and mothers) wanted the separation of church and state. They knew first hand that religion was not based on Reason and/or equality/fairness.

      For the religious, this crap is the work of the devil.

      For the rest of us, this behavior is totally unacceptable and against the law.

      As for this crap, until such time as someone takes the issue to court and that court actually applies the law according to the legal system rather then someone perverted religious dogma this abuse will continue to create a nation of abusive pshycopaths.

  16. Anonymous1:26 PM

    It is stories like these that make me wish there really was a hell.

  17. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Hold it on blaming the parents there, Gryphen. In my wonderful red state of Indiana soem parents are forced to "abandon" their kids to get any help at all from the state. Presumably this has been somewhat rectified, but only three months after a local paper did this expose:

  18. Cracklin Charlie5:44 PM

    I have been having some rather deep thoughts about this subject lately, I guess mostly because of living in a state where the Republican candidate for the United States Senate is one William(?) Todd Akin.

    I find myself starting to believe that Akin, and those like him think that they can behave however they want, and if they can convince people that they are a conservative Christian, they get to blame God for all their transgressions.

    Man rapes woman, and woman becomes pregnant? God's Will (fault?). Woman must carry child to term, so that man is not blamed.

    Children abused in Florida half way house? God told us to help those kids. It's his fault. Kids must suffer though Christian "help", so that Christians are not blamed for child abuse.

    Todd Akin, and his ilk, are behaving horribly, and blaming it on God. Men did these things, not God!!! They make me sick!

  19. Anonymous1:01 AM

    There it goes with religion once again. Thats all I have to say about that. Situations speak for themselves when it comes down to religion. Sad think is that it creates death and hate.
    Apparently 16% of Americans are Atheists, a huge minority group, larger than any other minority group in the U.S. Yet Atheists will not stand up..go figure. Makes me wonder why that is and the only solution I can come up with is that we were all taught and brainwashed in one way or another that there is this super being, because our parents and their parents taught us all this shit and even tho you don't believe in this horse shit, you best shut your mouth.

  20. Not What You Want to Hear4:52 AM

    If an organization is tasked with caring for children, they should be subject to rigorous and regular oversight, period.

    This is a very relevant post for me, because my adult Sunday School is currently deeply involved in a course on discipline...ADULT discipline, as in the importance of self-control and how it leads us to be more like Jesus. This study has actually made me a more patient parent and less apt to raise my voice, get overly upset, etc.

    Reading what these people are doing to the children under the care...the abuse they are subjecting them is very clear to me they are the ones who lack discipline and self-control, to the extreme extent they now lack basic decency.


Don't feed the trolls!
It just goes directly to their thighs.