Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Teen Challenge : EPIC FAIL - Dangerous Cult/Group Litmus Test


One of the many purposes for a "Separation of Church and State" in the United States of America, is to protect vulnerable citizens from becoming the victims of unregulated leadership who would use religion or faith as a pass for what would in any other setting be considered unethical practices.  Federally funded organizations like Teen Challenge, who OPENLY REJECT MEDICAL SCIENCE, promote falsified success rates, and foster abuse-prone environments all with no government regulation or outside accountability, are in violation and in defiance of the ethical separation of Government and Religion.  

Although Teen Challenge receives substantial Federal funding, the organization also rallies interdenominational support from within the Christian Church by organizing fundraising events and soliciting donations from individuals and congregations.  Unfortunately most donations come from well meaning, good people who would never knowledgeably support the abuses and negligence affiliated with the Teen Challenge programs.  

Please JOIN US in boycotting monetary and non-monetary support of Teen Challenge  until they acknowledge the abuses that have taken place and furthermore submit to outside accountability and regulation. 

 Teen Challenge currently receives funding from the Federal Government.  

Tell your congressman that you DO NOT want YOUR tax dollars supporting these abuses!

Lets compare the Teen Challenge program to a list of patterns exhibited by DANGEROUS CULTS throughout history to see how it lines up!  Yes means that Teen Challenge meets this cult criteria, and No means that it does not.  Hint: Here Yes is bad.

LITMUS TEST: Red Flags/Warning Signs of a CULT

  1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.Yes

    When a student begins their stay in a residential program, Teen Challenge immediately seizes control over every aspect of the their life in a way that is to say the least, oppressive.  No contact with the outside world is allowed, even immediate family are barred from contacting their minor children.  Furthermore, Teen Challenge is not accredited or regulated by any Federally recognized third party organization.  The organization is allowed to operate with NO ACCOUNTABILITY to outside regulation, despite the fact that TC is supported by Federal funds.  Meanwhile, numerous allegations of abuse, negligence and even RA go unacknowledged as TC continues with business as usual, of course behind closed doors.
  2. Unaccepting/Intolerant of questions or critical inquiry.Yes

    Our research from numerous case studies shows that Students who question or respectfully challenge TC's methods, or use of scriptures to justify their practices are met with denigration, and reprimand.  Continued criticism, even if approached respectfully is well known among students and staff to be a quick path to expulsion.  Transparency and communication is necessary in order to educate youth and those in need.  No Christian or Christian organization should endorse such stifling of information.  We want them to ask questions.  How else will they learn?
  3. Promotes unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.Yes

    Radical Oppressives that we see within the Christian Church, teach that the world itself is a thing to be feared.  This includes everything that is "of" the world, not just the things that are or can be sinful.  It can be a bit difficult for an outsider to understand, especially if he or she has had no experience with the Christian church and it's diverse differences in teachings among denominations.  This is a misinterpretation of the verse that states we should "be in this world, but not of this world."  You can see how this verse can be contextually misinterpreted by cult leadership as an all too convenient justification for seclusion from the outside world.  Of course seclusion and control for a radical religious organization NOT HELD ACCOUNTABLE is a very dangerous thing, and time and time again, victims speak out against this organization, but no changes have been made (Big political players in TC's pocket).  We intend to change that.
  4. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.Yes

    An individual who is ejected from the Teen Challenge program is usually cited as not abiding by TC rules and regulations.  While this is most likely the case in many situations, we have received stories from those who have been unjustly expelled from Teen Challenge and are likewise upset about it, and we empathize sincerely. However, we would remind everyone that rehabilitation programs exist aplenty, and
    many are actually based upon sound medical knowledge; run by professionals, unlike Teen Challenge, which will promote graduated addicts/students to positions of staff if they succeed and exceed expectations within the program itself.

    Self perpetuation and self-education, by the law of nature is bound to lead to further degeneracy of the environment and standards that Teen Challenge keeps.  In the meantime, abuses and ethical violations go unacknowledged and unchanged by the TC program.
  5. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.Yes

    One need only refer to our blog archive, or do a simple internet search to find a small sample of the numerous stories alleging Teen Challenge abuse and negligence.  The stories told by former students and staff alike do share heartbreaking commonalities and recurring themes. 

    We encourage former students and staff of Teen Challenge who have experienced these kind of abuses to tell their story to us so that we can share it with others who need to know exactly what they are getting into.

    Simply email: challengingteenchallenge@gmail.com  Do not be afraid. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Sharing your story with others could save someones life!
  6. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.Yes

    Closely related to Test Pt. 5, there have been numerous reports and articles from credible news sources questioning, if not denouncing the unethical methods and teachings of Teen Challenge.  There has been a range of controversy surrounding the organization for multiple reasons including TC's Federal funding grants, their quest to "cure" homosexuality as sexual "deviance", abuse and negligence of minors, unsafe housing conditions in residential programs, degrading verbal abuse of struggling students, and the list of controversies goes on and on.  Again, only a simple internet search is needed to find this information, despite multiple lawsuits (for which we have affidavits) by TC to prevent such articles from being publicized.
  7. Followers feel they can never be "good enough".Yes

    Among the reports we receive and have seen are those of verbal abuse, and denigrating language used toward students within the program.  Participation in all aspects of the program is required, so students being verbally abused are literally held captive to such abuses without any form of recourse or appeal.  Students are made to feel powerless by their surroundings, often leaving a lasting negative impact on their self esteem and outlook on life.

    As Teen Challenge staff are NOT therapists or 
    counselors, they usually DO NOT have any education in regards to rehabilitation or human resource management.

    Without the proper education to handle difficult situations where a therapist or counselor might know how important encouragement is, the reports we see show it seems that often negative incentive, threats, or attack on the student's character are being used instead.  A tragic, yet strong example of this is the story of James Voss who recounts how TC beat and denigrated him emotionally, simply because of his differing views, and genetic inclination.  

    It is true that the Biblical teachings used by the TC program include, "There is none righteous, no not one.", and another, "For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God."  However, these verses do NOT justify unethical treatment of students, by TC staff, for even they are sinners themselves by the very same teachings.
  8. The group/leader is "always right" mentality (MY way or the "High"way)Yes

    See test point 2 and 3.  There is no room for inquiry or criticism from students, once they have been admitted into the program.  To expand any further upon this point would simply be repetitious information which has been covered in previous points.
  9. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.Yes

    This is true for Teen Challenge in every sense.  Teen Challenge openly rejects Medical science (blatantly says so on their site) in the field of addiction and drug rehabilitation, psychology, etc.  for their own brand of pseudo-science which they claim to be based off of scriptural teachings.  This is without a doubt one of the strongest cult indications of those we list here .   Cult teachings usually ask their followers (in this case students) to disregard scientific truth, with little more than a vague explanation, necessitating blind faith in the superiority of their own "truth" in comparison.  Those who would misuse or misquote the Bible, using it's vague references inappropriately to claim pseudo-wisdom or knowledge of all things are simply a fraud.   Though the Bible can provide wisdom for the ages, it cannot tell us what color socks Aunt Matilda was wearing last Thursday and it was never intended to be a medical reference guide.

    Offering itself inappropriately as a solution to vulnerable people with a very desperate need.  This is again one of the more common points of mutuality Teen Challenge has with other well known cult organizations throughout history.
  10. Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.Yes

    When someone says they are a Christian or part of a "Christian organization", many people instantly trust them just a bit more, even if it really isn't true.  Our culture has raised us to show respect for those of faith, which is a good thing, as long as we remember to
    look out for those that would misuse faith as a shadow over their own misdeeds.  This is very common in the Church and faith based organizations, partly because the Christian faith teaches that becoming a Christian offers "sinners" a safe and convenient way to "wash their sins away", without any true penance or consequences regardless of those whom they may have hurt along the way. Of course we don't believe that the teachings of this faith are intended to shelter the dirty habits of pedophiles, sex offenders, addicts, or any other destructive habitual behaviour, but the structure of the system lends itself to this corruption of thought.
  11. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.Yes

    See test point 1.  Upon admission to the Teen Challenge program, minor children are not allowed outside contact, even with immediate family.  This kind of isolation tactic is incredibly dangerous as illustrated by the death of Nicklaus Ray Ellison, who was discharged from TC by staff who claimed that he was under the influence of alcohol.  They later stated that they could tell something was wrong with him and had dropped him off in a hospital parking lot instead of a bus station.  Later it was determined that Teen Challenge had LIED about the circumstances, when Nick's dead body showed a toxicology report with no alcohol whatsoever.  It's hard to tell why Nick died, because the circumstances are so shady around every corner.  It's no wonder why TC keeps their staff and students isolated.  With a simple statement, even though it was later discovered to be untrue Teen Challenge may have easily just gotten away with negligent homocide.  Because Nick couldn't contact his mother, someone else consequently found him in the streets, and shortly thereafter Nick died.  This could all have been avoided if Nick had been allowed to contact his REAL support system, his family.  Isolating someone from their family is bad enough, but doing it in an UNACCREDITED  facility/program WITH UNEDUCATED STAFF is exponentially worse.  What have they to hide that they should keep these children from speaking their own parents at all!?  It should be noted that most TC facilities DO in fact have working landline phone service.

    Phone calls for minors to their parents should be protected by law, especially when there is no other resource for the child in need.

Overall Test Results: FAIL
An organization that truly intends to empower and enrich lives, especially in the field of addiction treatment, should operate with integrity, compassion, transparency, and accountability.  Teen Challenge has created a network of programs with no accountability or credibility which operate as radical Right Wing Christian cult recruiting programs rather than faith based rehabilitation facilities as they are self proclaimed to be.  While there may be well intentioned Teen Challenge leadership that truly care about helping people, we do not see THEM representing this company; we see rather a leadership that cares more about conversion rates and fundraising from the government and the church.  Hypocrisy reigns in cult organizations like Teen Challenge and time after time, we see these red flags and allegations of abuse, negligence, rape, assault, and degrading humiliation tactics surface around this program.  It's time to put it to an end.  It is all of our responsibility to do whatever it takes to STOP ABUSE IN THE NAME OF GOD.  So start a blog, write your congressman, print flyers, signs and make some noise!  If you know someone who is considering supporting or enrolling their child in a Teen Challenge facility or program, please urge them to reconsider.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of negligence or abuse by Teen Challenge, please email challengingteenchallenge@gmail.com.  Share your story so that others may be spared. Your story could save someones life!


  1. New Mexico State Police has set up a new Dedicated Tip Line to call if you have information on abuse, neglect, or exploitation of youth who were students at Teen Challenge of NM.

    Please contact Agent Rich Williamson with information you may have at the following numbers:
    Tip LIne: 505-841-9277
    Cell: 505-228-2455

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