Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Teen Challenge: Coercive Cult Guised As Rehab

I've written quite a lot on the subject of coercive "behaviour modification" facilities in past--including legislative efforts to stop the industry in its tracks as well as exposes of their heavy usage as a dominionist "parallel economy" alternative to legit mental health andinfo on gross abuses in these facilities.
Over the next few days, we are going to focus on a specific chain of these facilities (which have been compared to Abu Ghraib)--Teen Challenge, a chain of Assemblies-run "faith based rehabs" that was the target of a "get out of jail free" deregulation of the "kiddie gulag" industry in Texas by none other than George W. Bush.
In a continuation of the series we began yesterday, we focus on an aspect Teen Challenge shares with its parent denomination--a history of rampant coercive tactics and spiritual abuse.

As if the beatings weren't bad enough...
There are a number of disturbing signs that, much like the Assemblies (of which Teen Challenge is one of six "US missions"), Teen Challenge is prone to use of spiritual abuse and coercive tactics--and there are multiple reports to back this up, sadly.
In yesterday's post, it was noted that a requirement of Teen Challenge was that parents agree to (among other things) this note:
Parents must agree "that God desires that they resolve their dispute with one another within the church and that they be reconciled in their relationships in accordance with the principles stated in I Corinthians 6:1-8, Matthew 5:23-24, and Matthew 18:15-20."
Of note, there is some interesting scripture-twisting Teen Challenge uses to shut down debate that matches similar scripture-twisting in its Assemblies parent. 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 describes a process of refusing to take church matters before "ungodly" authorities but to have them handled internally by the church--used frequently in the Assemblies to shut down debate, especially since in the Assemblies there effectively is no way to disagree with persons in a position of authority above you.  (In context, it's actually part of a longer narrative in 1 Corinthians 6 decrying general immorality in the church.)  Matthew 5:23-24 is an interesting bit of scripture-twisting of the chapter that includes the Beatitudes--stating that disputes between persons should be resolved before worship, and in context meant as a message by Jesus essentially promoting total pacifism including avoiding speaking unkind words to others.  Matthew 18:15-18 describes a process of in-church correction to be followed by public accusation in church and finally formal shunning; this has also been used in Assemblies churches (especially those using a "cell church" model) to almost completely shut down dissent even among pastors.
In fact, Teen Challenge is considered potentially coercive by exit counselors (being a member of what amounts to an entire family of "Bible-based coercive groups" that turn out to be Assemblies churches or frontgroups--other members of the "Assemblies complex" independently regarded as coercive include Youth With A Mission; most "Messianic Jew" groups operated by the Assemblies; the Hillsong Assemblies of God complex in Sydney, Australia; the "Pensacola Revival" at Brownsville Assembly of God and the "Third Wave" Joel's Army/Joshua Generation movement; and Paul Yonggi Cho's Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea--a pattern of abuses so consistent, especially when reports of abuse at other Assemblies churches and fronts are added in, that an increasing number of exit counselors consider the Assemblies of God in toto a coercive religious group).  
Notably, a report to the Arizona Department of Corrections by exit counselor Rick Ross(who is one of the notable experts on religious abuse within "Bible-based" groups and within neopentecostal dominionist orgs in particular) notes that the primary goal of Teen Challenge's program was religious recruitment and that it had characteristics in common with many coercive groups (including Assemblies-linked "conjoined twin" Campus Crusade as well as Scientology and the Moonies); we'll focus more on that report in an upcoming article on practices within the group.  
Reports from survivors also confirm probable coercion--not just reports to exit counselors, but reports in media.  Here are examples from reports sent to Ross by survivors of Teen Challenge:
"I was at Teen Challenge in Pensacola, Florida for two months, and it was very much like a cult. A lot of brainwashing there. It made my problems worse, rather than better. I don't recommend Teen Challenge for anyone. One leader threw bibles at the residents and carried around a baseball bat to scare us. Not good. And a lot of other bad things too."
"I am a mother of a 24-year-old son that I had to rescue out of the Teen Challenge...We were misled, told it was a drug rehab. I had to hire an attorney, as once Teen Challenge found out that my son was requesting a program change (as he could not sign onto their hyper-religiosity) they began mentally abusing him more and even told him he was 'spitting in the face of Jesus' and said 'pack your bags. I'm sending you to prison.' So much mental abuse. I have heard from others that Teen Challenge has no qualms about submitting a 'bad report' to probation to have you thrown into prison/ jail for 'non-compliance' if they even suspect that you are not 'part of God's army.' They ostracized my son for not 'speaking-in-tongues.' When I informed his 'counselor' that my son was struggling with being ostracized for not 'speaking-in-tongues,' the counselor personally told me that 'speaking-in-tongues is a gift from God! Anyone can have it, if they want it. Your son just doesn't want it because he is rebellious against the holy spirit.' I feel that anyone who is court ordered to Teen Challenge becomes a target for being 'broken for Christ.' I am completely flabbergasted by the whole nightmarish experience, the lies I personally was told, the attempts to sabotage my son's program switch request, the mental abuse, to name a few. Teen Challenge has more info from a man who went through the same program my son was is in. I snatched my son out of there and put him in a secular program. My heart swells for those left behind. I want organizations like this exposed, as I feel that the majority of the public does not know the real story. Had I known, we could have avoided it."
"Teen Challenge (in MANY people's opinion) is a cult! Beware! The residents are only hyped up on hyper-religiosity to replace drug addiction. Teen Challenge does NOT believe in ANY other rehabs.(i.e. 12-step programs) They make up rules as they go along. And punish you at their whim for 'breaking' them. They put residents on 'Behavior Modification' which adds more time you must do to complete the program. The longer you are there, the more money they make off of you.(as you work long hours at various jobs) When they "overheard" my desperate son (24 years old) pleading with me to request a program change with his probation officer, they attacked him the next day, told him 'there were no bars on the windows', told him to pack up his stuff and then they DROVE him to a bus station and abandoned him there. With no money. It would have only been 24 hours that a warrant would have been issued for my son 'failing' the program. Then the counselor LIED to me, saying 'your son ran away to score drugs. He told me so'. I had to hire an attorney. Those that are court-ordered to be there are abused and the staff is empowered by the fact that they can ultimately put that person in prison!!!! My son's roommate was bi-polar, and they took away his meds because they said 'Jesus heals'."
(The last two reports were from a mother of a survivor of a Teen Challenge facility in California--the same facility that the author of the watchdog site "Teen Challenge Exposed" is also an escapee from.)
The same commenter has also noted explicit promotion of extremely concerning and abusive tactics which are a part of core Assemblies theology--notably, the promotion of not only Scientology-esque "deliverance ministry" (up to and including abusive involuntary "exorcisms") but also explicit promotion of Joel's Army/Joshua Generation "God Warrior" theology of the same sort as promoted not only by Assemblies of God leadershipbut also the   neopente dominionist anti-LGBT hate group "Watchmen On The Walls"(which also has known Assemblies support):
Yes Rebeca you are right about the speaking in tongues. My son did not "receive the gift of speaking in tongues". His counselor told him AND ME that "anyone can have the gift, but your son is REBELLIOUS and refuses the gift!"... They would circle around him at their private church meetings (not the "water-downed" ones on Sunday for public to attend) and he said they would rub oil on his head and scream and call out demons to try to get him to speak in tongues.(like the Jesus Camp you referred to.) They began to ostracize him when he did not speak, and even put him in in "behavior modification" where he was not allowed to speak to others. Also, the time (weeks) he was in behavior mod was added to the time he had to serve to "complete the program". You are also right about the recruitment pressure. They told him that they were building the "true army of god" and god would show them which ones to weed out.And they tell everyone that god called them to do another 1 year training called TCMI for Teen Challenge after they do their 1 year 4 months (more time usually due to behavior modification time-outs). AND they don't believe in other secular rehabs, so if you indicate that you would like to be referred to another program, they believe that it's better to be in prison (to be broken for "Jesus") than lovingly work with referring you to another program. All they have to do is LIE to probation and say you were "non-compliant" and fail you. It IS SCARY how they mis-use their power.
As noted, Teen Challenge does not advertise openly that it is an Assemblies of God ministry--however, multiple analyses have shown its primary purpose is recruitment, and in fact recruitment into Assemblies ministries in particular.  (In fact, there is a very good argument to be made that Teen Challenge may in part act as a "missionary mill" for the Assemblies--more on this in a future segment.)  This is in general regarded as a danger sign by both exit counselors and watchdog groups monitoring abusive "behaviour modification" facilities, and in particularhits almost all of the warning signs of an abusive facility by International Survivor's Action Committee.
Some examples of the sorts of pressure people are put under with the Teen Challenge program are detailed by a survivor and critic and reported by other walkaways and survivors:
"Teen Challenge is just like a "cult" operation, training its participants to perform tasks mindlessly without question for the staff authority. I had a bunk mate next to me that was pscytsophrenic and was constantly under pressure to be "prayed over" to be healed so he would not have to take his medication that helped to stop the voices."
. . .
"My 24 year old son was just granted a program change from Teen Challenge. I had to hire an attorney, as they do NOT believe in any other rehabs. (NOR do they believe in 12 step programs) Once they got wind that he had requested me to ask probation for a change, they told him "Pack your bags, I'm sending you to prison". How Christian of them, huh?
They primarily teach healing by Jesus Christ, pressure you to speak in tongues, pressure to recruit you to be "trained" by THEIR religious program (TCMI) to be a staff member. It is NOT a drug/alcohol rehab, as all they offer is hyper-religiosity to replace drug addiction. The residents and interns work and make them money. My observation from my son's ordeal is that if you don't succumb to the brain-washing, you will be ostracized and mentally tormented. Those that have a prison/jail sentence looming, (if you "fail" your program) empowers them. It is IMMORAL how they give probation "bad reports" for those that don't sign up for the "speaking in tongues", and these poor souls who suffer from addiction end up in prison. Residents are told that they need to be "broken" some more in jail, and that they will return."
As noted above, the pressure to enter the TCMI program--essentially to be trained as an Assemblies youth pastor--included literally asking people to sign over their paychecks if they didn't join TCMI:
On graduation day in November 2006, the speaker told the graduates who didn't sign up for TCMI that to show their appreciation for what Teen Challenge "had done for them," they were to sign over their very first paychecks to Teen Challenge. Students were told that once they enter Teen Challenge, they should not even consider leaving, because seven times the demons of addiction would come back and get them, and, after they do their prison time - if they live - God will call them back to Teen Challenge. They were left with the caveat that one "can never run from Teen Challenge." There is a simple solution: Don't ever go there in the first place.
It is not just with recruitment that Teen Challenge tends to be deceptive.  Teen Challenge has apparently attempted to use exemptions meant for "halfway houses" for people with mental disabilities to set up "kiddie gulags" (though, notably, not without communities fighting it in some cases).
There is evidence besides exit counselor testimony to the Arizona DOC that Teen Challenge primarily exists as an Assemblies recruitment front.  One particularly telling bit of info is the fact that the director outright bragged to Congress about converting Jews to essentially "kosher neopentecostals":
During the hearing, Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) asked Castellani if Teen Challenge hires non-Christians as employees. Castellani said, "No." During later questioning, Castellani was asked if the group takes non-Christians as clients. He said yes, and then boasted that some Jews who finish his Teen Challenge program become "completed Jews."
("Completed Jews" is a euphemistic term used in Assemblies circles for "messianic Jews"--aka Jewish people who have converted to neopentecostal dominionism but who still keep the High Holidays and Jewish cultural traditions and identity.  Legitimate Jewish groups do not consider these people to be Jews; it should also be noted that the Assemblies of God may well have the most aggressive "missions outreach" of any denomination designed specifically to convert Jewish people to another religion.)
There also appears to be concern re its transparency--not news to those who've read this article so far, but apparently the Better Business Bureau has some concerns on this.  (Sadly, these are probably minor compared to the other major concerns re Teen Challenge.)
And sadly--much as has been the case with the very facilities at the target of the Congressional hearings on HR 5876--Teen Challenge is among those programs that have literally turned out to be fatal due to abuse and neglect.  The step-parent of a man who died as a result of abuse and neglect at Teen Challenge's Florida facility speaks out in a story that sounds frighteningly similar to the very testimony given yesterday by other parents of kids who died in other programs:
My stepson Vincent Sarli was a heroin addict and we sent him to teen challenge in pensacola fl - he had just gotten out of the hospital from peritonitis and had a wound in his side. Mike Barfield the intake director in Pensacola kept saying get him down here and we will take care of him - My stepson was 41 yrs old and had two children - He wanted to come stay with us in jacksonville florida but Barfield insisted on getting hm to pensacola.
We got him a flight from NY to pensacola on Friday Jul 14 06 and after he arrived he was left in the airport for two hours - finally one on the other residents was sent to pick him up and no intake or evaluation was done - Barfield went home and he was thrown in a room. His roomate couldnt even find a piece of gauze to change the bandage on his side.
On sunday am at 11:00 the director Pastor Van Horn passed his room and asked why he was in bed obviously the intake director told no one about his medical problems - he told the pastor he was sick and the pastor didnt even ask what was wrong he just contined to church. What a concerned Christian!!! So much for caring for the sick.
Shortly after this Vincent asked to call us and was told he couldnt use the phone until 4:00 pm those were the rules.
Some time after this his roomate returned to the room and found Vincent hanging from a belt in the closet.
This situation can be documented by reading the pensacola police dept file #06-018290 dtd 7-16-06.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Teen Challenge International : Kiddie Gulag

Teen Challenge: The Assemblies' own "kiddie gulag"

I've written quite a lot on the subject of coercive "behaviour modification" facilities in past--including legislative efforts to stop the industry in its tracks as well as exposes of their heavy usage as a dominionist "parallel economy" alternative to legit mental health and info on gross abuses in these facilities.
Over the next few days, we are going to focus on a specific chain of these facilities (which have been compared to Abu Ghraib)--Teen Challenge, a chain of Assemblies-run "faith based rehabs" that was the target of a "get out of jail free" deregulation of the "kiddie gulag" industry in Texas by none other than George W. Bush.
We begin with a history of how Teen Challenge was deregulated, and some of the reports of gross mistreatment at the facility--including just about every form of abuse that could have been done to those kids.

Teen Challenge--an Assemblies of God-run "kiddie boot camp" chain
It is almost impossible to understate just how much of a "get out of jail free" card Teen Challenge was provided by George W. Bush.
Teen Challenge is notable for several reasons.  Firstly, it is one of the few groups promoting abusive "kiddie boot camps" that is clearly linkable to a known religious group with documented coercive tactics (to the level that Narconon was linked to the Church of Scientology); secondly, it is a known recipient of federal funds under the "Faith Based Initiatives" program (one of the few abusive facilities of this type to get such funding); thirdly, Teen Challenge acts as a wonderful example of the bad things that can happen when "faith-based" kiddie gulags go completely unregulated.
One reason Teen Challenge has likely gotten preferential treatment from Bush is because it is actually an Assemblies of God frontgroup (and a very closely connected one at that--namely, it's technically a division of its youth ministries program focusing on "troubled youth").  The group operates a chain of facilities (including not only ranches but other inpatient facilities similar to the now-closed "Love In Action/Refuge" "degaying" center) across the US and in several other countries.
Of note (and in a sign that the Assemblies does operate Scientology or Moonie-style fronts), it does not openly advertise its Assemblies links or the fact it is technically an Assemblies youth ministry but this information is easy enough to find, including on the Assemblies' own website.
Teen Challenge has also been the subject of multiple reports of abusive activity--not only spiritual abuse, but physical and mental as well.  There are also in fact two expose groups on Teen Challenge--not only a site operated by a Teen Challenge survivor, but a second page detailing additional reports of abuse (and further documentation of the Assemblies linkages).
In addition to unlicensed counselors hired at the Texas ranch (an occurence common across Teen Challenge facilities and one which has led to a known child molester being manager of a Teen Challenge facility in Maine), there was evidence of educational neglect (educationally insufficient material) and reports of physical, mental, sexual, and emotional abuse.  And such reports are not isolated; Teen Challenge (which is an Assemblies of God frontgroup managed by their youth ministries division which focuses on "troubled youth") has had many reports of abuse at their various facilities including forced missionary activity, possible violation of child labour laws, forcing people to sign over paychecks to Teen Challenge for not joining additional programs, and the abusive use of "discipling and shepherding", and physical abuse and medical neglect including at least inmate suffering a miscarriage who was not referred to appropriate medical care.
Teen Challenge has also been listed on one group's listing of abusive "faith based" centers--the same site notes that Teen Challenge's present program has close links to Mel Sembler of Straight, Inc, (via his Drug Free America Foundation).
Texas' experience with Teen Challenge's "get out of jail free" card did not go unnoticed--or unchallenged..  Texas Freedom Network, a group fighting dominionism in the Lone Star State, had a specific example of the efforts that eventually led to partial re-regulation:
Teen Challenge is a national faith-based residential drug treatment program that had nine branches in Texas in 2004. The programs have no medical component and center instead of around prayer, Bible study and religious conversion.
Teen Challenge currently operates five drug treatment centers in Texas – none of which have a state license, but only two of which have formally registered their status as a faith-based facility exempt from state licensing. As exempt faith-based drug treatment centers, Teen Challenge facilities are not required to have licensed chemical dependency counselors, conduct staff training or criminal background checks, protect client confidentiality rights, adhere to state health and safety standards, or report abuse, neglect, emergencies and medication errors.
Even prior to seeking an exemption from state licensing, a 1995 state inspection revealed that Teen Challenge was not compliant with numerous state health, safety and quality of care standards.
Rather than force Teen Challenge to meet the basic health and safety standards to which their secular counterparts must adhere, then-Governor George Bush pushed through legislation that would exempt Teen Challenge and other faith-based drug treatment centers from state licensing – and the health, safety and quality of care standards that accompany that licensure. "Teen Challenge should view itself as a pioneer in how Texas approaches faith-based programs, I’ll call together people, ask them to make recommendations. I’d like to make recommendations to the legislature...But Teen Challenge is going to exist...and licensing standards have to be different from what they are today," then-Governor Bush said. (World Magazine, 7/29-8/5/1995)
A repeating pattern around the country
Texas is also, sadly, not the only state that Teen Challenge was given a carte blanche in.  Florida has a nearly identical scheme to the one Texas had until recently, in that centers can be completely exempted from regulation by joining the Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies--and Teen Challenge happens to be a member of FACCCA.  Not surprisingly, evidence of extensive abuse has turned up with the Florida facility of almost an identical manner to what was documented in Texas before Dubya shut the investigation down:
West Florida Teen Challenge Boys’ Ranch—in Bonifay, Florida is a confirmedly abusive teen program.  The contract parents must sign with Teen Challenge does not indicate that the school meets standards that might be roughly equivalent to state requirements.  The contract states that the Florida Association of Christian Child-Caring Agencies’ (FACCCA) "intent" is to "insure the physical and spiritual health, safety, and well being" of the children and therefore that thee boy’s ranch must meet FACCCA’s "minimum standards," but the only one described in the contract is allowing access to public officials who inspect for fire, health, safety, and sanitation codes.  Parents have to agree to hold the ranch and its employees harmless from "any and all liability" for injury to the child "even injury resulting in death."  Parents must agree "that God desires that they resolve their dispute with one another within the church and that they be reconciled in their relationships in accordance with the principles stated in I Corinthians 6:1-8, Matthew 5:23-24, and Matthew 18:15-20."  If they cannot resolve their disagreement privately within the church, parents must accept resolution through "biblically based mediation" by rules of the Association of Christian Conciliation Services.  There is no refund of tuition or deposits if the boy leaves the ranch before 15 months even if the ranch has expelled him.  Several former students say that staff, "use physical punishment, ridicule intimidate and/or verbally abuse children; use chemical restraints; employ cruel or humiliating treatment or other emotionally abusive behavior; assign excessive exercise or work duties, deny food, clothing, shelter, medical car, and/or prescribed therapeutic activities, or contacts with family, counselors, or legal representatives as a form of punishment."  Please do not send your child to any Teen Challenge program.   Detailed report provided by Children’s Healthcare Is a Legal Duty, Inc. Nov. 4th, 2004 newsletter.  
(CHILD, Inc. is a group working to stop religiously motivated child abuse and neglect, in particular working towards removing "religious loopholes" to providing children lifesaving treatment.)
There have also been similar reports focusing not only on Texas and Florida but also with a facility in California, and reports have been made by walkaways of similar abuses not only in the US but with Teen Challenge facilities overseas as well.

Originally posted to dogemperor on Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 02:02 PM PDT.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Challenging Teen Challenge on "Curing" Homosexuality

AlterNet - January 7, 2011

What Happened When Fundamentalist Christians Tried to "Cure" Me of Homosexuality

By James Voss, Truth Wins Out

My experience at Teen Challenge began in Aug of 2007. At the age of twenty-four, I found myself facing the county prosecutor on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol after leaving a gay bar near Troy, Michigan. This was my first time getting a ticket for anything.

I had spent most of the past three years dealing with the pressure of coming out to my friends and family while attending a private four-year bible college. North Central University is a self-proclaimed “Christ-centered Pentecostal school with a commitment to academic excellence that prepares students to fulfill biblical models of leadership and ministry throughout the world .”

I left for North Central University right after high school to become a youth pastor. The one obstacle of graduation was my sexual orientation. According to the university, homosexuals suffer a life controlling disorder that can be overcome through self-discipline, prayer, and by living a life centered in Christ and obeying the N.C.U Way. At a certain point I decided that I needed to love myself enough, and admit that I was gay and leave NCU.

At this point I admit that I had little direction in my life and started looking for what gay community I could find at the bar. As I began to come out to my family I found myself in total isolation and the support system that comes with it. You see, my family shared the same world view on homosexuality that North Central University and the Assembly of God did as whole.

My family chose to accept the official teachings of the church that include such anti-gay opinions:

“In the face of a militant homosexual movement that is pressing for legal and social acceptance of homosexuality, the church must keep its focus. First, homosexuals are sinners like everyone and need God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. Second, homosexuals can through the miracle of the new birth be set free from the power of sin and live changed moral lives. The church must reach out to all sinners with the love of Christ, no matter what the sin. And we must never let the declining moral climate of our nation pressure us into condoning what God condemns. ”

Coming out was a hard process when your family and culture is against you, so as I left the gay bar in 2007, I had very little in the way of family or friends to rescue me from the prison cell I found myself in. I sat in jail for ten days unable to reach anyone in my family to post bail.

As it ended up, I was able to obtain a lawyer and all terms of my probation would be met if I completed a court assigned program at Western Michigan Teen Challenge.

Teen Challenge by its own definition is an Assemblies of God USA evangelical Christian recovery program and a network of Christian social and evangelizing work centers. It is a 12-18 month program that serves drug addicts, alcoholics gang members, prostitutes, and people dealing with the life controlling problem of same sex attraction and addiction. Think of the program as a sanctification quick stop to redeem one in the eyes of the Assembly of God Church. I was told that once I spoke in tongues that god would work in my life and remove the gay feelings.

In the four months I lived at the teen challenge center in Muskegon Michigan, all personal decisions were left to the director of the center who was guided by a stern handbook that consisted of 111 individual rules and guidelines. A majority of these rules were designed to put program participants in submission to the program’s leaders who supposedly were anointed by God and spoke with the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. The physical evidence of their holiness the ability to speak in speak in tongues.

In the program, we were not ever allowed to look at females directly. Men and women had to sit on separate sides of the chapel and if a woman was singing or giving a testimony she did so behind an office cubical wall so that only her eyes were visible.

People that entered the center with psychological problems were often not allowed to take medications prescribed by doctors since there was a ban on any medication that had any affect on the brain. If you took medications you were told you weren’t showing enough faith and that Jesus could heal you.

Daily life consisted of chapel, bible classes, work duty, and two hours of praying on your knees. You physically had to kneel or you got in to trouble. Students were not allowed to talk about addiction or in my case homosexuality. Instead, you were only to think and talk about God and the scriptures that they had you memorize and meditate on.

One of the stated program goals was to reprogram or recondition the mind, because as they taught, human nature was evil and your mind was naturally wrong. We were all born sinners, they claimed. So, for a gay man to bring up that he was born gay was stating the obvious, because the program directors believed that we are all born into sin. “All man has fallen short of the Glory of God”, they preached, while they taught that all Christians are at war with their own flesh and blood. (I have included a link to the daily schedule so you can get an ideal of how regimented it was.)

By looking at the curriculum we can get a quick glance at what was covered in the three daily bible classes. In the first 14 weeks I was exposed to classes on attitude, growing through failure, temptation, anger and personal rights. We were told that we signed all our personal rights over to God and the pastors at the center when we entered the program.?Learning at the center was mostly done through rote memorization. Workbooks for classes had places where critical thinking could potentially take place, but students were expected to just memorize the correct answer and fill it in.

While living at the center, all conversations are monitored for ungodliness, all mail is read, and phone conversations are limited to five minutes every two weeks. No mail or phone conversations are allowed in the first four weeks that a student is attending the program. This is done largely because by the fourth week in the program, students are broken down enough that they no longer think for themselves and respond in a programmed way. Parents probably do perceive a change in their child, but is it real or simply a programmed, conditioned reaction to subverting and suppressing all individuality and critical thinking skills?

Program leaders believe the “gay problem”, as they call it, is a sin because “homosexual acts are unnatural because of their high correlation with major illnesses and terminal disease.”

In viewing Romans 1:27 we must ask what is the “due penalty” mentioned “for their perversion”, they preach. They go on to say that, “Though AIDS is not necessarily a direct judgment from God, as innocents are sometimes the victims of the sin of others, it remains a disastrous overarching consequence of sin through the fall of man.” (See Genesis 3).

They also preach:

“Contrary to the claims by homosexual public relations campaigns that claim gays and lesbians are normal, healthy, average people, the opposite is true. Former homosexuals describe a disgusting lifestyle of perversion and sexual obsession. In a study of the median age of death for heterosexuals and homosexuals, less than 2 per cent of homosexuals survived to age 65 while married and single heterosexual men and women living past 65 ranged from 57 to 80 percent.

Clearly on every front whether it is moral, spiritual, physical, or psychological, the practice of homosexuality has proven itself devoid of any individual good or social benefit. Furthermore, the historical record shows homosexuality as detrimental to the well-being of the individual participant, the extended family, and society at large.”

Is it healthy to teach a gay person and churchgoers that homosexuals are a detriment to the society at large? Is breaking a person down the best way to offer genuine help?

From my experience with Teen Challenge, I would have to say no.

In an environment where you are taught that all your personal rights belong to God and program leaders speak with the voice of god, gay students are given little choice but to believe and think how they are taught. At Teen Challenge, people do “change” because they are heavily conditioned how to respond.?Some of these adjustments were positive. For example, having every minute of the day programmed does bring order to one’s life. However, the overall program is quite harmful to those who participate, particularly LGBT people.

The LGBT Community needs to watch out for programs like Teen Challenge and remember that it a massive organization with over 223 centers in North America with the capacity to sleep over 7,536 people, according to its website.

Programs like this negatively impact a high number of gay youth. I can state from firsthand experience that Teen Challenge did some long-term damage to my self esteem.

This article was found at: