Warning to Texas Parents: This might be a really bad time to enroll your child in a faith-based private school

Warning to Texas Parents: This might be a really bad time to enroll your child in a faith-based private school

 

Will your child be attending a private, faith-based school in Texas this fall? In light of a recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court, you may want to rethink that plan.

 

The Texas Supreme Court made a decision this past week that could adversely affect the lives of thousands of children across the state. In the John Doe vs. Episcopal School of Dallas case, the justices refused to consider a harmful ruling issued by a lower appellate court. The ruling allows a faith-based school to avoid civil liability for harming a child in its care. In other words, Texas parents may have just lost their right to sue a faith-based school their children are enrolled in, even if those children were abused by school staff.

The case involves a child who was expelled from the Episcopal School of Dallas for allegedly smoking marijuana off campus. Since the expulsion was in violation of the contract between the school and parents, the father sued ESD for breach of contract, fraud, and other claims. ESD filed a motion claiming that, under the First Amendment,  it was immune from being sued and sought special review in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Dallas. (The trial court rejected ESD’s argument.) The appeals court agreed with ESD’s claim that the father had no right to take the school to court. It’s reasoning came down to one simple truism: ESD claimed to be a “faith-based” institution. Read More »

Will Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch help those it traumatized as children?

Will Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch help those it traumatized as children?

 

Boys Ranch has a program that provides assistance to alumni. But it’s not working well for those who were abused while growing up there.

 

It’s been six months since the news broke that Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch was not the place it purported itself to be.

The nearly 80-year-old institution has long claimed that it does a great job caring for children. It portrays its founder, professional wrestler Cal Farley, as a man who was forward-thinking and compassionate toward children. The privately funded, residential facility—whose 2016-17 annual report shows revenues exceeding $48 million—takes in children often left by parents who can’t or don’t want to care for them.

According to Boys Ranch’s website, “We hold true to the values set over seven decades, and still we prepare young people to become responsible citizens.”

But last December, an article that appeared in The Guardian made public that such “preparation” often included extreme physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that spanned 40 years or more. Boys Ranch admitted that the abuses had, indeed, taken place and offered a weak apology.

It’s unclear how many children were victimized. According to Boys Ranch, about 12,000 young people have lived at the campus in its 78-year history. A Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch Survivors Facebook group that was made public a year ago has grown to 75 members. Read More »

Ending the abuse and betrayal of religious child maltreatment

Ending the abuse and betrayal of religious child maltreatment

Religious institutions continue to perpetuate child sexual abuse. Ongoing abuse further undermines any claims to moral authority by religious leaders. Now that religious groups are being forced to disclose this collusion, we must do our part to end religious child maltreatment, abuse and betrayal.

Stories of clergy sexual abuse are all too familiar to those of us whose lives have been devastated by such crimes. And we feel further betrayed by the institutional leaders and their followers who continue to protect abusers and turned their backs on victims.

Here are just a few examples:

  • It has been a decade since the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled a class action lawsuit, avoiding court proceedings wherein graphic details of clergy sexual abuse and cover up would be public.
  • This June, the findings of a Pennsylvania grand jury related to child abuse allegations in 6 Catholic dioceses will be released.
  • In Chile, a court has determined that “a series of absolutely reprehensible acts” have occurred in the Catholic church that involved “unacceptable abuses of power, of conscience and sexual abuse.”

Read More »

My abuse weaponized me against my body. Until my body won.

My abuse weaponized me against my body. Until my body won.

Bethany Brittain, a former board member of the CFFP, talks about how the physical and emotional abuse of her childhood affected her relationship with her body and, ultimately, her health.

When I was 13, I declared war on my body. It wasn’t hard to do. It was quite natural even. There were dysfunctional events and forces in my past that had groomed me for that moment. I had received physical discipline from the time I was 6 months old. My family had unhealthy standards for female “modesty.” Physical and emotional boundaries that were essential for mental health were nonexistent.

Meanwhile, outside of my household, I saw many visuals that defined for me what the “ideal” body looked like. Most transmitted a plastic look found in your average Barbie doll. My wobbles and bulges were proof that my body wasn’t anything near ideal.

It all got to be too much. And so I took the only option I thought I had: I decided my body was something to be despised and declared war.

Read More »

Why the Waffle House Shooter’s Homeschooling Background Matters

Why the Waffle House Shooter’s Homeschooling Background Matters

Three Christian homeschoolers became radicalized domestic terrorists this year and it’s only May.

Photo credit: The Tennessean.

On April 22, 29-year-old Travis Reinking made headlines when he shot and killed four people in a Waffle House in Nashville, TN. His motives are still unclear. Because Reinking is white and his victims were black, some have speculated that racism played a role. But I’m looking at another possible influence: the fact that Reinking was homeschooled in a fundamentalist Christian environment. Read More »

Idaho legislative candidates weigh in on faith-healing child deaths

Idaho legislative candidates weigh in on faith-healing child deaths

Once a subject it seemed no one was talking about, candidates running for the Idaho House of Representatives in next week’s Republican primary are now saying just how they feel about so many children in their state dying from “faith-healing medical neglect.”

Due to the great work of child advocates, such as the nonprofit Protect Idaho Kids, many Idahoans are aware of this life-and-death issue. Tragically, religious exemptions in state laws permit parents who deny their children necessary medical care to avoid prosecution, even in cases of great suffering and death, as long as the parents claim they used only prayer as “treatment.” Learn more about the issue by going here.

With the primary happening on May 15, the Idaho Press-Tribune has posed this question to all candidates running for the state House of Representatives: Canyon County experiences the highest rate of child deaths due to faith healing in the state. How will you address it? Read More »

Guest Blog: A physician weighs in on Iceland’s effort to protect boys from genital cutting

Guest Blog: A physician weighs in on Iceland’s effort to protect boys from genital cutting

The oldest running parliament in the world may soon achieve a legislative first—ending circumcision of both girls and boys.

A bill before the Icelandic parliament proposes to expand its law that currently protects girls from genital cutting to also protect boys, including infants.

The measure states that medically unnecessary circumcision of children violates their rights. Female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation, is already illegal in the United States and most European countries. The bill proposes a penalty of up to 6 years in prison for anyone carrying out a circumcision on a minor that is not medically warranted.

While the bill acknowledges that parents have the right to provide to their children religious guidance, it also states that “such a right can never exceed the rights of the child.” The bill says children who wish to be circumcised may do so when they reach an age at which they “understand what is involved in such an action.” Read More »

Will Texas parents lose their right to sue faith-based schools that abuse their child?

Will Texas parents lose their right to sue faith-based schools that abuse their child?

 

A decision by the Texas Supreme Court could give religiously affiliated private schools legal carte blanche to harm children.

 

As parents, when we enroll our children in a school, we entrust it to care for our kids and keep them safe. That’s certainly true for private K-12 schools which can cost upwards of $15,000 to $30,000 a year. Some parents believe that religiously affiliated schools are particularly trustworthy because of their spiritual teachings.

But, of course, all schools—be they religious or secular—can leave children vulnerable to psychological harm, as well as physical and sexual abuse. Now there is a case in the courts in which the Episcopal School of Dallas has been alleged to have caused a child emotional trauma, while the school claims that no court has the right to intervene because it is faith-based. Read More »

Evangelicals: The single most important change for #MeToo

Evangelicals: The single most important change for #MeToo

In the last days of 2017, riding the wave of the #MeToo movement, a group of 140 evangelical women released a petition on “Breaking the Silence on Violence against Women and Girls.” Under the hashtag #SilenceIsNotSpiritual, it invited “the community of faith” to “join this historic moment . . . sparking genuine change in the very place we call our home – the local church.” The petition has quickly garnered more than 5000 additional signatures.

More specifically, the petition issues a two-fold call to action for evangelical churches. First, it urges the creation of “protected spaces” so that survivors of sexual abuse who offer their stories will be received “with empathy, love, and care.” Second, it calls on faith leaders to cease their “silent assent” to harmful “systems, structures, and practices” and “to fight both systemic and individual injustices.”

This is the kind of talk that makes me want to pump my fist in enthusiastic support. Read More »

Mormon wants to end church’s “masturbation interviews”

Mormon wants to end church’s “masturbation interviews”

Sam Young (Credit: Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle)

What if you learned that your young son or daughter had been grilled about sex or masturbation without your permission? As a parent, I would panic. And then I would start asking questions; Who is doing this, why are they doing it, and is my child okay after enduring such a bizarre and intrusive questioning?

Sam Young knows the answers all too well. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints routinely asks such questions of children. (The ‘why’ is a bit more complicated.) And children, he says, are, without question, often harmed as a result. Read More »