Just because parents appear to be “good Christians” doesn’t mean they’re not abusing their kids

Just because parents appear to be “good Christians” doesn’t mean they’re not abusing their kids

Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

 

When the parents of David Turpin learned that he and his wife Louise had been allegedly torturing their 13 children, they were “surprised and shocked,” because their son and daughter-in-law were “a good Christian family.” 

 

We hear it time and time again. People express shock and disgust that parents who appear to be religious have been abusing their children.

In the horrific case of the Turpin family, police found the 13 children, ages 2 to 29, shackled to furniture, severely malnourished and pale, living in filth, and injured. Many appear to have cognitive issues and nerve damage, a result of abuse. The children were so thin, police drastically miscalculated their ages; they thought a 17-year-old girl was only 10.

According to the children’s grandparents, James and Betty Turpin who live in West Virginia, David and Louise had so many children because “God called on them” to do so. James and Betty thought that the children had appeared thin and were aware that they had been given “very strict homeschooling,” Also, the grandparents said the children had been trying to memorize long passages of the Bible. Some even had been trying to memorize it in its entirety.

The grandparents hadn’t seen the home-schooled children in 4 or 5 years. But based on what they knew and had observed, did nothing stand out as a red flag? Were they not at all concerned about the way the parents were raising their children? Or were they satisfied just knowing that the children were being raised in the Christian faith?
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Advocating for Survivors of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch

Advocating for Survivors of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch

 

“A sense of safety is vital to a child’s ability to reach his or her full potential.”

— Website of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch

 

 

If you are a member of the media and would like to interview CFFP founder Janet Heimlich or a Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch survivor, call 512-825-2835 or email us.

The Child-Friendly Faith Project has been advocating for men who grew up at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch from the 1960s through the 1990s. The privately funded, residential facility is located outside of Amarillo and houses boys whose parents or guardians can’t, or won’t, take care of them.

The men, as child residents at Cal Farley’s, suffered ongoing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. After leaving the ranch, many men struggled to find work. They have struggled with addiction. Some have gotten into trouble with the law. Others have committed suicide.

Click here to read our “Healing Through Truth” proposal delivered to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch on April 21, 2017.

Early this year, we reached out to Cal Farley’s CEO Dan Adams and asked that the institution fulfill requests made by the survivors, such as issuing a public apology, making restitution, and being truthful in its marketing. Ultimately, most of the requests were denied. On December 20, a feature story exposed the abusive past of this nearly 80-year-old institution—a past that had been kept secret, until now.

“For a child, living with chaos and unpredictability often creates a feeling of powerlessness or a ‘learned helplessness.’” (Website of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch)

How we got involved

If you grew up in Texas, particularly in North Texas, chances are good you know about Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. For decades, there had been murmurings that the place was very strict. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon for children to be told, “If you don’t behave, you’ll be sent to Cal Farley’s.” But it wasn’t until I wrote a favorable blog post about the institution that I learned the harsh truth about its history. Read More »

Sexual abuse and a pastor’s suicide: What Dan Johnson’s death means for the #ChurchToo movement

Sexual abuse and a pastor’s suicide: What Dan Johnson’s death means for the #ChurchToo movement

Kentucky State Senator Dan Johnson (Photo credit: USA Today)

One of the most shocking revelations of the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements has been the death of Kentucky State Senator Dan Johnson. The 52-year-old first-term legislator and ultra-conservative preacher took his own life two days after it was reported that he had sexually assaulted a teenage girl in the basement apartment of his church.

For all of his preaching, the pastor of the Heart of Fire Church in Louisville was no saint. The man church members called “The Pope” repeatedly lied about his accomplishments, had been indicted for arson, and partied heavily.

Johnson was anti-gay and anti-Muslim, and he posted racist memes on Facebook. Some were so offensive, he was rebuked by the Kentucky Republican Party. For example, he posted an edited image of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with ape-like features. In one post, he wrote, “Allah sucks. Mohammed sucks. Islam sucks. Any of you Hadji’s have an issue with me saying this, PM me and I’ll gladly give you my address. You can come visit me, where I promise I will KILL YOU in my front yard!!”’ 

Remarkably, though, those actions did little to slow down Johnson’s political career, perhaps because the public was distracted by scandals surrounding other state officials’ alleged sexual misconduct. (Johnson also ran a dirty campaign in which he mercilessly slandered his opponent.) He was elected in 2016. Read More »

Videos

What does your religion say about hitting children?

What does your religion say about hitting children?

Where does your place of worship stand on the issue of corporal punishment of children? If you attend a conservative church, synagogue, or mosque, especially if it’s in ons of the southern “bible belt” states, chances are it supports hitting children as a form of discipline.

When the school district in Three Rivers, Texas, recently reinstated corporal punishment, one religious organization objected: the Satanic Temple. It put up billboards that said, “Never be hit in school again” and “Our religion doesn’t believe in hitting children.”

As the organization states on its website: “We believe in the inviolability of the human body and the right to personal sovereignty. Being hit, held against your will in isolation, or physically restrained clearly violate these fundamental tenets.”

To support students in schools that allow physical punishment, the Satanic Temple offers a pre-written letter that students sign and then give to their schools, informing them that “their deeply held beliefs do not allow for them to be hit in school, physically restrained, placed in solitary confinement, or deprived access to a bathroom.”

While not a conventional religion, the Satanic Temple’s billboard campaign is an example of how faith communities have sometimes dared to get involved in one of the most controversial childrearing issues. Read More »

Why we shouldn’t be surprised that many religious conservatives support Roy Moore

Why we shouldn’t be surprised that many religious conservatives support Roy Moore

There’s a lot being said about Roy Moore, the 70-year-old Christian, gun-toting hothead of Alabama who recently won the US Senate primary and has been accused by numerous women who say Moore sexually abused them when they were in their teens and Moore was 32. The youngest alleged victim was 14.

What’s also making news is the fact that many people in Alabama have come to Moore’s defense. But not just those who agree with Moore (he claims the alleged victims are lying, it’s a political conspiracy, etc.). We’re also hearing from folks who say that, even if Moore did try to have sex with the girls, he did absolutely nothing wrong.

Add to that, Moore’s supporters in this Bible-belt state are using religion to justify that stance. Read More »

As bad as the Harvey Weinstein scandal is, religious organizations accused of abuses could learn from Hollywood

As bad as the Harvey Weinstein scandal is, religious organizations accused of abuses could learn from Hollywood

The entertainment industry seems to get it: Harvey Weinstein couldn’t have sexually abused so many women without help from the enabling culture of Hollywood. Why is it so difficult for religious organizations facing abuse scandals to come to a similar realization?

Many in the entertainment industry know that the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was not just one bad apple who single-handedly raped and sexually harassed dozens of women for decades. Now that the scandal has finally made the headlines, it’s obvious that Weinstein had help.

Many people were complicit in Weinstein’s alleged crimes on some level. There were lawyers, publicists, and industry executives who knew about the rumors, or had full knowledge of the abuses, and chose to ignore them. Weinstein company officials were aware of payoffs their CEO made to victims dating back to 2015. Weinstein’s assistants set up meetings with him and would-be victims. Agents of abuse victims, instead of encouraging them to report the crimes, advised them to keep quiet. And media outlets sat on stories about the abuses rather than publish them.

There’s been plenty of criticism from within the entertainment industry about how Hollywood’s culture enabled Weinstein’s abuses and those of other sexual predators.
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The Cardinal Pell Case: A Turning Point for the Catholic Church?

Cases of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church are so prevalent, we tend not to pay much attention to them. But child advocates are keeping a close eye on one case that could mark a new beginning in how the church and outside authorities hold high-ranking church officials accused of sexual abuse accountable.

Cardinal George Pell, a top advisor to Pope Francis, has been charged with multiple child sexual offenses in Australia. A the age of 76, Pell is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be formally charged for sexual offenses. While details of the charges have not been made public, they are said to be “historical,” meaning that the alleged crimes occurred long ago and involve multiple accusers. Read More »

Idaho legislators support letting children die of medical neglect

Idaho legislators support letting children die of medical neglect

Gravestone of Pamela Jade Eells who died after she was denied medical care for pneumonia. Pamela had been raised in the extremist faith group, the Followers of Christ, which opposes medical care.

Telling constituents it’s acceptable to deny children needed medical care doesn’t seem like something that would get a politician re-elected. But that’s what’s happening in Idaho.

Child advocates have been imploring lawmakers there to change laws that prevent adults who deny children needed medical care from being prosecuted. The laws apply to people who claim to have only prayed over a sick child rather than take him or her to a doctor or hospital. As a result, there is an unusually high child death rate in one extremist group, the Followers of Christ. Read More »

What is Religious Child Maltreatment?

What is Religious Child Maltreatment?

baby

 

When I began writing my book, Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment, the term religious child maltreatment or RCM did not exist (and numerous searches proved that Google had never heard of it.)

This dearth of information indicated that there hadn’t been much study on the negative impacts of religious practices and beliefs. And when I began asking people about it, I learned that talking about the subject often made people uncomfortable and sometimes defensive. Read More »