Why Jesus is Not a Regulator
by Maia Szalavitz | April 8, 2001
Published in American Prospect Magazine

One of the primary goals of President George W. Bush's new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is "to eliminate unnecessary legislative, regulatory, and other bureaucratic barriers that impede effective faith-based and other community efforts to solve social problems." Bush has said that America needs more "faith-based treatment" for addiction and juvenile delinquency and that he would like to "promote alternative licensing regimes to recognize religious training as an alternative... [CLICK TO READ ARTICLE]

A Press Briefing on Exploitation of Youth & Families: Perspectives on Unregulated Private Residential Treatment Facilities
Washington, DC | October 18, 2005
Sponsored by: A START: Alliance for the Safe, Therapeutic and Appropriate use of Residential Treatment
A collaboration between The Dept of Child & Family Studies, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, University of South Florida and Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Growing concerns about unlicensed and unregulated residential programs are shared by mental health professionals, program staff, parents, youth and advocates. These concerns are described in the following statements, which are provided by a panel of individuals representing a range of perspectives. Further details of counter-therapeutic treatment, restricted family rights, substandard education, poor quality medical care, parental distress and negative after-effects are provided... [DOWNLOAD THE PDF REPORT]

(You will need Acrobat Reader to view the PDF. Click here to get it. Note: This will open a new window.)

Co-sponsored by:

  • American Psychological Association
  • American Association of Community Psychiatrists
  • American Orthopsychiatric Association
  • Child Welfare League of America
  • Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health
  • National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
  • National Mental Health Association

ASTART Fact Sheet: An alarming residential care phenomenon that has been occurring since the early 1990s has been linked to reports of mistreatment, abuse, and death.
In conjunction with the University of South Florida

A concern about a growing number of reports from youth, families and the public media regarding the exploitation, mistreatment, and abuse of youth in unregulated, private residential treatment programs has given rise to an alliance of individuals and organizations that are working together to address this problem. Over the past decade in the United States, hundreds of private residential treatment facilities for youth have been established, described as a $1 billion to $1.2 billion... [DOWNLOAD PDF FACT SHEET]

(You will need Acrobat Reader to view the PDF. Click here to get it. Note: This will open a new window.)

The White House Office of Faith Based Initiatives: Helping These Schools Thrive
by Candice Aiston | June 26th 2008
Used with permission.

When George W. Bush became president, he created the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives ( Mr. Bush created Centers for Faith-Based Initiatives in several cabinet departments. The purpose of the Centers was to eliminate regulatory and contracting obstacles for faith-based and other community organizations. This made it possible for religious boarding schools, like the one I was in, to avoid becoming licensed and regulated leaving those inside no protection.

It began when Mr. Bush was Governor of Texas. Texas’ legislature passed the Faith Based program there in 1997 allowing deregulation for faith based boarding schools. The legislature then passed a bill allowing the creation of alternative accreditation programs in which faith-based child-care centers could forego state licensing and instead receive accreditation from one of these newly created private agencies. Deregulation was an essential component of the faith-based initiative because it ensured that more faith-based providers would be eligible for government funds (see Texas Freedom Education Fund at This plan created new licensing laws for religious facilities; self-regulation that substantially reduced health and safety requirements and oversight.

The state of Texas approved the Texas Association of Christian Child-Care Agencies (TACCCA). The board of TACCCA was comprised of eight pastors, three of whom also operated homes accredited by TACCCA. Upon TACCCA’s creation, the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (TDPRS) no longer held jurisdiction over these programs. Therefore, TDPRS could not investigate complaints of abuse. Also upon creation of TACCCA, then-Governor Bush invited the Roloff Homes to return to Texas, even thought the State of Texas closed down the Roloff Homes in 1985 after numerous allegations of abuse. The State’s position was that the Roloff Homes should either comply with licensing requirements or close its doors. The Texas Supreme Court agreed and the United States Supreme Court dismissed the appeal from this decision (State v. Corpus Christi People’s Baptist Church, Inc., 683 S.W.2d 692 (1984) and Corpus Christi People’s Baptist Church, Inc. v. Texas, 474 U.S. 801 (1985).

TACCCA was supposed to uphold the same standards as TDPRS. TACCCA, however, never conducted a single legally required surprise-inspection at any of its facilities (see letter from Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services to Rev. Davis Blaser, Texas Association of Christian Child-Care Agencies (Mar. 8, 2001) (on file with the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services).

In 1999, the state of Texas found evidence of physical abuse and neglect at the Roloff Homes’ Rebekah Home for girls. Charges were filed against Faye Cameron, the home’s supervisor (and wife of Pastor Wiley Cameron). As a result of the charges, Faye Cameron was convicted and banned from ever working with children in Texas again. Nonetheless, TACCCA reaccredited the home. Pastor Cameron served on the board of TACCCA at the time of reaccredidation. Sadly, this would not be the first case of conflict of interest we would see with these faith based self-appointed organizations. The rate of confirmed abuse and neglect at alternatively accredited facilities was 25 times higher than that of state-licensed facilities. This can be confirmed by the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. Because of the problems incurred, the Texas legislature had to discontinue its alternative accreditation program in 2001.

Luckily someone was watching and paying attention: because of past problems with these facilities, the Texas Freedom Network was created by concerned citizens. This is a watchdog group that was founded in 1995 and is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of more than 23,000 religious and community leaders - - it monitors far-right issues, organizations, money and leaders.

FACCCA – Florida is the new safe haven for unregulated religious schools

Although Texas was forced to abandon its alternative accreditation program, those who wished to avoid state interference were not left without options. The Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies (FACCCA) was created to do the same thing TACCCA did in Texas. When Faye Cameron was banned forever from working with children in Texas and TACCCA was discontinued, FACCCA and the State of Florida welcomed the Camerons. FACCCA also welcomed the Palmers after the State of California shut down their facility in Ramona, California; the school I was in.

There have been numerous complaints of abuse against FACCCA facility employees. Rebecca Ramirez’s sexual assault allegation against VCA’s Palmer (Secrets in the Schoolhouse by reporter Mollye Barrows) is not an isolated allegation. In 2003, a former student of FACCCA’s Camp Tracey filed a lawsuit against the facility alleging that he was forced to perform sex acts with two camp counselors (Paul Pinkam, Man Sues Church, Alleges Abuse - Harvest Baptist’s Camp Tracey Cited, The Florida Times-Union, May 10, 2003, available at

A grand jury investigated Camp Tracey in 1987 after years of physical abuse allegations by children and parents. Allegations leading to the investigation included excessive corporal punishment and the use of ropes and handcuffs to restrain children. The grand jury criticized the absence of procedures allowing residents of Camp Tracey to contact authorities in the event of abuse ( ). In 2004, John Burt was convicted of molesting a fifteen-year-old girl at another FACCCA-accredited facility, Our Father’s House (Activist Gets 18 Years for Molesting Teen, AP, May 12, 2004, ).

Shockingly, FACCCA allowed Burt to open the home, even though he had served jail time in the eighties for his anti-abortion activities. In May 1993, Burt was present at the fatal shooting of a Pensacola Medical Services doctor (Associated Press, Troopers Nab Anti-Abortion Figure Sought in Sex Case, St. Petersburg Times, June 11, 2003, ). He led a demonstration on one side of the clinic, while his follower, Michael Griffin, shot Dr. David Gunn on the other side of the clinic. When Burt was arrested on the molestation charges, FACCCA President Ed MacClellan said the charges were “out of character with his public persona.” (Associated Press, Preaching Life While Preying on Their Fears, St. Petersburg Times, June 12, 2003, ).

In 2003, authorities shut down Teen Transformation Ministries, another FACCCA-accredited school, after a former resident made an abuse complaint against the facility (Associated Press, Boys’ Home Closes after Abuse Reports, St. Petersburg Times, June 11, 2003, ). The thirteen-year-old boy was denied medical attention for a broken shoulder. He also alleged that he was thrown into a septic tank and made to stay there for ten minutes. He further alleged that he was forced to pull down his pants and sit on a fire-ant mound.

Each of these complaints show what program participants may be subjected to in the absence of state regulation. There have been other allegations made against FACCCA’s facilities, but because FACCCA seems not to require the facilities to allow participants access to victims’ services, it is impossible to provide statistical data about the actual occurrence of abuse. The allegations that have been made, however, indicate the absence of any real regulation by FACCCA. Deregulation systems such as those in Texas and Florida are unconstitutional. Deregulation violates the program participants’ Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection rights by placing them in a less protected class than children in state-regulated programs. Deregulation also violates the First Amendment Establishment Clause by allowing special treatment for religious groups.

In a state regulated program, it would be rare to find staff members who are child molesters or abusers because in order to work in a state run facility, you must pass a criminal background check to work with minors. Anyone with a questionable background would be immediately disqualified. But at these unregulated FACCCA run schools, a staff member’s background goes unchecked and they rarely have anything but a high school diploma making them unsuitable candidates to work with kids who have mental health issues. All they have to say is that they are a Christian and they are deemed suitable to work in the facility with your kids. This is horrifying at best.





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