The Christian Alamo
Missouri is recapitulating recent history in Ireland. It has these “faith-based” institutions – or prisons, to be blunt – for teenage girls, which go in for ferocious discipline coupled with secrecy, and Missouri…looks intently in the other direction.
Authorities in the state are barred from inspecting the homes or even keeping track of them. (New Beginnings has operated under multiple names in Florida, Mississippi, and Texas.) “It’s hard to understand it, but faith-based is just taboo for regulation,” says Matthew Franck, an editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who authored an investigative series on the state’s homes in the mid-2000s. “It took decades of work to get just the most minimal standards of regulation at faith-based child-care centers,” he adds. “I just knew that when certain lobbyists would stand up to say, ‘We have a concern about how this affects faith-based institutions,’ the bill was immediately amended—it was a very Republican legislature—or it would immediately die. That’s still true.”
That is terrifying, especially when you read about what goes on there.
The girls’ behavior was micromanaged down to the number of squares of toilet paper each was allowed; potential infractions ranged from making eye contact with another girl to not finishing a meal. Roxy, who suffered from urinary tract infections and menstrual complications, told me she was frequently put on redshirt, sometimes dripping blood as she stood. She was also punished with cold showers, she said, and endless sets of calisthenics after meals.
There are a lot of these places, though it’s unclear exactly how many.
New Beginnings is emblematic of an unknown number of “troubled teen” homes catering to the Independent Fundamental Baptist community—a web of thousands of autonomous churches linked by doctrine, overlapping leadership, and affiliations with Bible colleges like Bob Jones University. IFB churches emphasize strict obedience and consider teen rebellion an invention of worldly society, so it’s little surprise that families faced with teenage drinking, smoking, or truancy might turn to programs promising a tough-love fix. Fear of government intrusion—particularly on account of the community’s “spare the rod, spoil the child” worldview—is so pervasive that IFB congregations are primed to dismiss regulatory actions against abusive facilities as religious persecution.
Well quite – they’re afraid the gummint will tell them to stop hitting the child with the rod, so they paint themselves as martyrs to religious persecution. The teenagers they’re torturing, on the other hand, are just sinners.