Sunday, June 12, 2005

Closets, "Christianity" & Cruelty

I've pretty much stayed out of the fray around kids sent to Christian boot-camp, after coming out to their parents, because I think people like Pam Spaulding, who have experience, better perspective and more talent than I, can do a much better job of it. It breaks my heart to know that there are parents who are so aghast to find out their child is gay that they would turn them over to a group that engages in psychological abuse in an attempt to program them into being the perfect child they always wanted. One such program is Refuge (aka "Love in Action"), a Christian ministry in the Memphis area, designed to help adolescents (13 - 18) to find "freedom" from "addictions" like pornography, drugs & alcohol, promescuity [sic] and homosexuality.
Primary Topics Addressed in Refuge include…

- Honesty - Addiction - Grace

- Abuse - Relationship - Finding a Voice

- Family - Future Planning - Rebellion / Submission

- Identity - Balance - The Blessing

By the rules of this program one can determine that they way they address the primary topics above (especially the ones I emphasized) is by undermining them and attempting to create a false self-"awareness" (i.e., if you have any image of who/what you are that is different from what they accept, your identity if false because you are diseased).

Interesting items in the rules are that the program claims to maintain confidentiality and requires clients to do so as well, but does not allow clients to interact with those who left the program without "graduating" unless chain of command (C.O.C.) gives them expressed permission to do so - how do you know someone was in the program and left early if you didn't see them there, they didn't tell you and/or someone didn't breach confidentiality?

Education is out of bounds:
No continuing education while in the program. Home-school Refuge clients may be allowed to continue their studies during the program, pending approval by LIA staff.
Your kid is a fuck-up because you and your church did a shitty job, you
must attend ours:
clients and their parents/guardians are required to attend Love in Action's host church, Germantown Baptist Church, on Sunday mornings. More information about GBC can be found online at
We don't want your kid to be able to document anything we don't approve of (and we search your ass to ensure it):
Absolutely no journaling or keeping a diary outside of the MI process unless directed or approved by staff.

As non-residential clients, Refuge participants must submit to an F.I. search every morning. With the exception of the very first program day, when they may arrive no later than 9:00 a.m., Refuge clients will arrive daily at the Love in Action campus no later than 8:50 a.m., waiting in a designated area until a staff member meets them to perform the F.I. search and check them in. Refuge clients may not enter any of the client spaces on campus before submitting to an F.I. search. All belongings brought to campus will be searched, including book bags, notebooks, wallets, handbags, purses, etc. Items that violate the F.I. policy or the dress code will be held for the client, to be returned no later than the client's last day in program. Clients may request to have their F.I. items returned by filling out a C.O.C.
Not cult enough for ya? Check these rules out:
1. All new Refuge clients will be placed into Safekeeping for the initial two to three days of their program. A client on safekeeping may not communicate verbally, or by using hand gestures or eye contact, with any other clients, staff members, or his/her parents or guardians. In case of a practical need, Safekeeping clients may write down their question or request and show it to another client, staff member, or their parent or guardian. Writing may only be used when absolutely necessary. Parents and guardians must enforce their child's safekeeping status at home or in their temporary lodging.

2. Refuge clients may C.O.C. to be removed from Safekeeping status. Safekeeping clients will be removed from Safekeeping at their staffworker's discretion.

3. Any client may be placed into Safekeeping at any time, at a staffworker¹s discretion.

4. Safekeeping clients are permitted to say "hello" and to communicate enough information to be courteous in public interaction (mostly in the clients' church setting).

5. Safekeeping clients are required to spend a minimum of two hours (in one sitting) a day alone in their room (note: by "alone" it is understood that parents or guardians can be in the room but are not to interact or disrupt the alone time of the safekeeping client). During the alone time Safekeeping clients may work on their treatment plans, read program materials or the Bible, pray, or work on other assignments from their staffworkers.

6. In the evenings, all Refuge Safekeeping clients must remain at home or at their temporary lodging with their parent or guardian (i.e. no going out to eat, to the store, etc. during Safekeeping.)

7. Non-Safekeeping clients are responsible to protect and uphold the Safekeeping parameters of the Safekeeping clients.
This stuff is just the beginning, you really need to read the whole set yourself (especially the note about not letting the client know about certain rules, etc. - so much for honesty). The point to this is that in their their lack of acceptance that homosexuality is not a disease or addiction, the Fundagelicals are willing to take children who are already prone to depression and suicidal ideation for just being different (especially in such a "traditional" religious family/setting) at a period in life already fraught with emotional upheaval and set them up for even worse emotional problems. Being gay in and of itself doesn't do this to you, the outside world does this to you and a kid in this sort of program has no safe haven as they attempt to monitor the child's every thought and feeling as well as action. This sort of shit will, of course, set kids further back in the closet - something I guess it's really aimed at doing, but there will be an eventual payback and I highly doubt the possible bad outcomes are really worth it to any parent that actually loves their child.

The lesson to kids of parents who would do this is to keep your mouth shut until you're away from home. The over-riding lesson to the rest of us is that [non-fundagelical] voter apathy could very easily lead us all into a country in which it becomes legal for anyone to be institutionalized into similar programs just because we too are different from what the right-wing demands us to be.

OC's note: the original content of this post was edited to remove some potentially identifying information of a minor that may be in treatment.

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