Jonny Scaramanga writes at Leaving Fundamentalism:
If you’ve been following my series on Christian reform homes, you’ll have noticed the name Lester Roloff popping up. It is, as Abigail McWilliam puts it, the common thread uniting reports of abuse from ‘troubled teen’ homes across America. Everything comes back to Roloff. Almost all of the homes we’ve discussed were founded by him or one of his former employees and associates, and all of them run on the model of Roloff’s original Rebekah Home.
If you haven’t been following, the reform homes have a pattern: They are single-sex boarding schools on compounds surrounded by chain-link fences topped with barbed wire. Punishments are extreme: extended periods of solitary confinement; kneeling on hard surfaces for hours, sometimes with pencils under your knees; and whippings and beatings of the cruelest kind.
And they all use Accelerated Christian Education. In return, ACE produces educational materials specifically praising the convicted felon and his reform homes.
From the beginning, Lester Roloff was one of ACE’s best-known supporters. Christian School Confidential calls him “a big advocate for ACE. Probably their best salesman.” You can see him and one of his staff discussing ACE in this video (ACE segment starts at 8:33). Like all ACE promotion, it contains a fair amount of anti-public school propaganda.
The connection between Roloff and ACE does not end there. Roloff’s lawyer was one David Gibbs Jr, also counsel for ACE. Gibbs later became ACE’s president after its founder Donald Howard was unceremoniously ejected from the company. He also appears in many ACE promotional videos. Acting for both Roloff and ACE must have kept Gibbs very busy. As well as Roloff’s eight-year legal battle with the state of Texas, Gibbs would have overseen most of the one hundred and fifty lawsuits in which ACE was engaged between 1970 and 1993 (source: Roger Hunter, “Christian Fundamentalist Education: A Twentieth Anniversary”). Almost all of these were battles over accreditation. Roloff, Gibbs, and ACE all believed that Christian schools should not have any kind of state accreditation, licence, or recognition whatsoever, because they had a command from God to do what they did.
So, was Roloff really a child-abusing monster?
Interestingly, since I began my investigation of Christian reform homes, a few ex-students have contacted me to defend Roloff. It’s only Roloff himself – no one has written in defence of his protégés like Mack Ford or Wiley Cameron, who also stand accused of child abuse. One or two have even threatened to sue me if I say anything against Roloff.
Many protest that Roloff was a kind and loving man of God. That argument doesn’t wash with me, because if you met my old ACE supervisor, you would undoubtedly describe her as kind and loving too. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that she was a child abuser (not sexually, I should clarify, but in almost every other way). Remember, too, that Roloff described his students as “parent-hating, Satan-worshiping, dope-taking immoral boys and girls.”
Read more here.