Accelerated Christian Education: Aiding and Abetting Child Abusers?

picture-14Jonny 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.

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  • alizardx

    Who funds this?

    • kowalityjesus

      By their own propaganda, “His homes had never received government aid, for he depended upon God’s provision.” probably small donations, or church collections.

      You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses…
      Remember I am sending you out as sheep among wolves, so be cunning as serpents and yet harmless as doves. Matt 10:7-13

  • kowalityjesus

    I can’t find it online, but I think the statistic was ‘it takes an average of 32 hours before a runaway is approached by a child trafficker’ (from the Shared Hope presentation at the Value Voters summit in 2011.)

    Not that this validates corporal punishment (which my dad administered when he was a public high school teacher as late as the early 80s), but domestic child trafficking is a HUGE and unseen problem in the US. I would think twice before I looked this gift horse in the mouth. http://sharedhope.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Infographic_DMST_with_sources.pdf

    • Calypso_1

      Are you calling the ACE a ‘gift horse’?

      • kowalityjesus

        It isn’t asking much is it?

        • Calypso_1

          And as it stands, your rational seems to be related to the possibility that such an institution exists as a bulwark against runaways from falling into the world of sexually exploitation/trafficking. Or were you making some other case?

          • kowalityjesus

            it seems to me that whats-his-name Roloff has taken a bite out of the domestic child sexual exploitation industry, yes.

          • Calypso_1

            Is your assesment informed by your personal religious beliefs & the solidarity they might evoke by someone utilizing the trappings of common associations?

          • Andrew

            Smells like moral relativism to me.

          • kowalityjesus

            yup, any side as long as its not mine. You guys are terds

          • Andrew

            I tried Christianity for the first 30 years of my life. It did more harm than good.

          • kowalityjesus

            So go whine about it.

          • Andrew

            Okay. WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE.

            There. I feel better now. Good suggestion!

          • kowalityjesus

            I should have pointed out how you lost the argument so you changed the subject.

          • Andrew

            You mean like when you changed the subject from reports of ACE possibly beating children to the possibility of child sex traffickers?

          • echar

            From my persepective, Andrew is being completely honest and you are not being honest with yourself.

          • kowalityjesus

            I don’t know why I am standing alone here.

          • echar

            What would Daniel do?

          • kowalityjesus

            walk past the lions because God gave him that power

          • Andrew

            You might be wrong.

          • kowalityjesus

            I would start to wonder…if I was dealing with a level of rhetoric or maturity that was capable of any form of compromise. Which it has continually proven that it is not. hahaha

          • Andrew

            Nice projection.

          • kowalityjesus

            I don’t know what that means. You continue to prove yourself incapable of any form of compromise and stick to your plan of doing everything in your power to contradict or discredit me regardless of the content of my character or rhetoric. Undoubtedly you will even contradict me on this (or ignore me). You’re about as mature as my roommate who can’t admit he used up my soy sauce, hahahah. what is wrong with you?

          • Andrew

            > Undoubtedly you will even contradict me on this

            You are quite correct on that. It seems to me you are the one who is unwilling to compromise, and the one being immature. Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe you’re projecting your own faults onto the rest of us, and that much of what you’re saying is nearly the exact opposite of the truth.

          • Calypso_1

            That, in and of itself, is amongst, but not the greatest of, reservations I have about your ability to view this topic in an unbiased fashion and in character w/ espoused beliefs.

          • kowalityjesus

            Its not so much standing alone, as I am the only one capable of assuming a non-superlative position on this guy. No one has said anything nice about this guy who devoted his life to making a home using donations for children that decided or were forced to run away. I have made concessions for his poor conduct, none of you have made concessions for his good conduct. In keeping with the moors of the internet the only spoken alternative is, “Christianity bad! I never wrong!”

          • Calypso_1

            I have made no comment yet about ACE, Roloff, xtianity or a potential position of superior insight.

          • kowalityjesus

            When I am under fire by certain parties who tend to be militant contrarians, I tend to forget the finer points of a debate.

          • Calypso_1

            I don’t believe you are facing contrarians, rather those who have viable viewpoints outside of your own chosen perspective. Some of whom have even faced personal harm from the system you are defending largely out of sectarian & personal sensitivities. That can hardly be used as a basis for a reasoned claim to the validity of that system for others or the right of anyone to use indoctrination & punishment based conditioning to graft religion, personality cult & education.

          • kowalityjesus

            Back to the argument we were originally having (thanks for mentioning it), I don’t think this is a case of a cult, and I don’t think there was an inordinate amount of violence (as claimed) that took place on the premises, and I think there was a glut of young unfortunates, some of whom found something more than what they had in this guy’s place. I don’t know why I ever said anything else.

          • Andrew

            > I don’t think there was an inordinate amount of violence (as claimed) that took place on the premises

            On what do you base that opinion?

          • Andrew

            I was unaware you’d made concessions regarding his poor behavior. If that’s the case, I take back much of what I’ve written and apologize.

          • Andrew

            Well, to be completely honest, I don’t know for certain how much harm vs. good Christianity did me. I believe it did both. But I do know that I don’t respect the alleged morality of arguments which try to excuse child abuse by appealing to God and the possibility of worse child abuse.

          • echar

            This is what I know. Jesus (allegorical or litteral) would never hurt anyone, especially a child. He would show them love, and let them know that every one of them is special in their own way. Much like Mr. Rogers.

          • Calypso_1

            There is, from my vantage point, a very dangerous aspect of the xtian culture formed around concepts of their own redemption within an extracorporeal reality construct that absolves from, denies and diminishes those who have been harmed by their ranks.

          • The Well Dressed Man

            All is forgiven if you’re really really sorry. Rinse and repeat.

          • kowalityjesus

            You guys must think I’m the fucking pope. I guess this context is like what happens to the token black guy, everyone assumes he is the embodiment and paragon of all black culture. It is frustrating because there are generally a bunch of privateers and I am the only ship flying a flag, therefore I am subject to all the trickle-down politics that no one is brave enough to stand on the unpopular side of.

          • Calypso_1

            It seems my own soul is worn too thin to help you parse your cat’s-cradle of defense mechanisms or weather the miasma of catechized persecution complexes.
            Simply put, it’s not about you.

          • kowalityjesus

            I am not impressed with your semantics, and I am not convinced either.

          • Calypso_1

            How droll, neither am I.

          • emperorreagan

            I know you’re not the pope because I have 500 business cards that say I am.

          • echar

            No, I am the pope.

          • kowalityjesus

            My apologies, your holiness.

          • echar

            Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Sunday’s Slave
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9sB1y–Uno

          • echar

            There are statistics that say that the probability of abuse rises for children who are in foster homes. I know a person who became a ward of the state and was abused more than once due to being placed within the supposed safe haven of foster care. This person eventually decided to live on the streets.

          • kowalityjesus

            My sentiment is weighted with the idea that this establishment is in keeping with a tradition of Christian charity, and thus one could expect certain decent moors. Honestly, I can’t believe I have to defend this school/shelter completely alone. This article is written by people with a very acerbic agenda. I think my statistics pointing out the plight of runaways and welfare children make it a fairly weighty argument that this guy did a good thing even if we can observe specks in his eye. Hey! this guy is operating without the government isn’t that a good thing?! I think this guy suffers from Ron Paul syndrome here on disinfo. LOL

          • jnana

            imagine if jesus was considered a runaway when he was traveling the East, and taken to one of these schools.
            this guy is a Pharisee, a child of the devil, and his minions, a brood of vipers.
            when jesus said, “suffer not the little children to come unto me” did he mean, so he could whip the snot out of them?

          • kowalityjesus

            It seems like this article, thanks to its clear agenda, inflates the amount of violence that occurred, and by extension so are you. Its like taking the history of Shakespearean plays and pointing out that half the time men were cross-dressing to play roles: yeah so what? Did you notice how important it was that the plays took place regardless of their questionable methods?

          • echar

            Soul Wound

            The Legacy of Native American Schools

            U.S. and Canadian authorities took Native children from their homesand tried to school, and sometimes beat, the Indian out them. Now Native Americans are fighting the theft of language, of culture, and of childhood itself.

            http://www.amnestyusa.org/node/87342

            Imagine if a group of Humanist killed your parents and took you to a re-education school. Where the Catholicism is beat out of you, your name is changed from something biblical, if caught praying you are tied too a radiator, and more horrors.

            Try it, Jesus wants you to understand.

          • kowalityjesus

            Yes I am aware of this, I think about it, and pray that we don’t repeat these mistakes as a nation, or faith, or species.
            Do you ever think that burning fossil fuels could be looked on as the equivalent of genocide in a climate-gone-wrong dystopian future?

          • echar

            Yes, I’ve spent years of my life mourning what the culture I was born into has and continues to do. The only actions I know within my power is to work towards refraining from being a part of that culture as best that I can.

          • Andrew

            It could, and justifiably so. I’m little better than Roloff, but I don’t pretend to be righteous, and try not to spread my mental illness to children.

          • jnana

            I don’t truly know how much violence went on there, but in my and other’s experiences w/ strict fundamentalists of the older generation, corporal punishment can be quite severe and authority figures quite hypocritical and dick-ish

          • jnana

            he may have kept a couple kids from that, maybe. but how many are scarred (possibly just as badly) from their experiences at Roloff’s reform schools?

          • kowalityjesus

            yup, any side as long as its not mine. You guys are terds.

          • jnana

            great, he’s not a sex criminal. I guess we shouldn’t ask for much more from the religious.

          • kowalityjesus

            how about you stop looking the label of Christian/religious/[espousing any weltanschau] and appreciate what a humane thing this guy is doing in the first place, giving housing/education to people in need. Maybe he doesn’t get a gold star sticker, but he is higher than the mud he is being dragged through.

          • Andrew

            How do you know he’s “higher” than that “mud?”

          • jnana

            I tend to hold men of god to higher standards, being “separate from the world”.
            a worldly man i expect to look at girls. a man of god deserves admonition from a brother should he do that.
            when its about how a man of god should treat children, there is no excuse for such harshness.

          • Andrew

            If God likes to make children choose between being raped or being beaten, then damn him to hell.

          • kowalityjesus

            strawman

          • Andrew

            Strawgod!

            But seriously, it seems to me you were the one suggesting we not criticize a “man of God” for child abuse because those children might be raped on the streets.

          • kowalityjesus

            yeah, I would say draconian education is preferable to prostitution. Some might disagree.

          • Andrew

            False dilemma.

          • kowalityjesus

            yeah you can always join the circus!

          • Andrew

            That doesn’t change the abusiveness of ACE’s methods, if the allegations are true, one iota.

          • echar

            Some would argue that education may be a form of prostitution.

          • Andrew

            He who is not a whore cast the first stone?

          • The Well Dressed Man

            Wicker?

          • echar

            That doesn’t work with those who are completely indoctrinated, because they are conditioned to not question the mysterious ways of “God”.

        • Andrew

          It’s asking more than I’m willing to give.

          • kowalityjesus

            not surprising

    • jnana

      I travel with a lot of runaways and although many(especially girls) have had exploitative experiences, I’m not so sure the statistic you gave is in any way true. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of kids who runaway are NEVER approached by a child trafficker. I can’t say I’ve met any, and I travel with them.
      Although, I did meet this really nice Xian couple who brought the 3 of us to their house, fed us well, gave us a place to bathe and clean clothes and rest for the night. This couple actually ran(or worked for?) a home for troubled boys. And by the sounds of it, they were much appreciated by the boys and had quite a few success stories and continued relationships with “their boys”. They did not perform corporal punishment b/c they knew “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” I imagine they taught the boys Xian teachings and values without jamming them down their throat.
      By the way, how many people have turned from Christ because of places like this?

      • kowalityjesus

        Your experiences make you a primary source of some representative anecdotes and therefore you are probably right, the statistics are exaggerated or over-speculative, perhaps with the intention of creating initiative for the problem. But it might be different in other parts of the country.

  • Eric Bradford

    I am so glad this is finally coming to light. In the late 80′s early 90′s, I had been a troubled teen, and had been raised by ultra conservative Free Will Baptist parents. When I came out to my mother, I was sent to Lester Roloff’s Light House for young boys, in Corpus Christie, Texas. This place was the most horrid experience of my life, and I am now 42 years old.

    Two men picked me up at the airport and drove me to an ex military base the cult owns, past a guard gate and up a road for about a half a mile until we reached the cross shaped building.

    I arrived with long hair, and was promptly shaved bald, made to strip, and shower with delousing agent in front of three men. I was then introduced to the “flock.” Unbeknownst to me at the time, Texas state prisoners can go there to serve a lessor sentence.

    I was forced to scream bible verses each day at the top of my lungs first thing in the morning, then it was breakfast. During each meal they played recordings of messages given by Lester Roloff himself. We were then forced to work on the commune in whatever capacity was needed that day. Then after dinner each evening was forced bible study, and religious services twice on Wednesday and three times on Sunday.

    Punishment for not following the heard’s rules, or doing anything that was not perceived as Christian was “running miles”, “on the wall”, or both.

    I always thought it odd during the sermons, when the men were actually allowed in the same space as women, if a woman walked by the men had to drop their heads as to avoid lust of the eyes. Failure to do so resulted in being forced to run eight (8) miles.

    As I mentioned earlier, I was a troubled teen, and had just came out. I needed to be away from certain people at that time and the only thing that was positive from this experience was that I was able to get sober.

    I have so much to say about this place. The boy’s dorm over-keeper was an ex-convict, who I am sure was not allowed to have a firearm, but he often wore a loaded pistol on his side. He was the only reason my parents let me out of that place, since they were holding all outbound postal mail. After a few months of not hearing from me, my mother called the facility to speak to me. During our conversation the ex-convict was overheard by my mother telling me to “shut your Goddamned mouth or I will bust it all over the Fucking wall.” She didn’t think that sounded very Christian and then instructed him to take me immediately to the airport.

    I am lucky to have survived this place as a young gay male. It took me years to get over the brainwashing. The Light house for young boys is one of the main reasons I am not a Christian today. It was ripe with abuse, and should be shut down. It is a travesty to force a human being to be exposed this vitriol.

  • jasonpaulhayes

    Parent hating and Satan Worshiping? That’s laughable because it’s clearly the parents who don’t accept their children and indeed it’s themselves playing devils advocate to the church.

  • Juan

    Holy shit, man. That is fucking brutal. Glad you survived.
    Thanks for sharing:)

  • Juan

    I was wondering, did the unnecessary trauma your parents caused you as an adolescent leave you estranged from them? Did they ever acknowledge and take responsibility for the harm they caused you?

    • Eric Bradford

      It took many years, but my mother has apologized for sending me there. I will never be “right” in my families eyes since all they see when they look at me is a homosexual, and a sinner. It’s their loss. I have moved on with my life, and have achieved happiness.

  • Matt Staggs

    You might want to check out the podcast. I’ve done a couple of episodes on the “troubled teen” industry, one with a survivor of the infamous STRAIGHT program. Lost touch with the guy I interviewed. I don’t think he’ll ever be “normal”.

  • Pagan Spiritfire

    Google “His Mansion” in Hillsborough, NH, sometime, if you want an abusive “Christian” reform home. I was sent there in the mid-80′s……one of their “counselors”, a “Tony Booth”, did things to me that have scarred me for life. He was scarcely older than I was at the time-bastard……………………………….

  • kowalityjesus

    That sounds like a very unpleasant experience, but not very much like the one described in the article, because your parents sent you there and there were convicts from the state penitentiary. The article describes a home for runaways operating extra-governmentally. I sympathize with you and those who suffer, but would like to avoid specious overgeneralization.

    • Eric Bradford

      This place was not just about me. There were runaways, illegal aliens, poor kids, rich kids, but all of us were subjected to mental abuse and Christian based brainwashing. You can choose to call facts “specious over generalizations” if you choose. You did not have this experience.

  • kowalityjesus

    Under the risk of supporting your experience as a broad stereotype, I would maintain my position.

  • Juan

    Glad you have moved on.

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