Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network

Human Rights Defenders

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1





Teddy Roosevelt:

"Unless a man is honest we have no right to keep him in public life, it matters not how brilliant his capacity, it hardly matters how great his power of doing good service on certain lines may be... No man who is corrupt, no man who condones corruption in others, can possibly do his duty by the community."

Minnesota Teen Challenge & Crime

In spite of US Congressional Investigations - Abusive Rehab Centers Remain

A recent report by the US Congress revealed that there are significant problems in the teen rehabilitation industry and a general lack of oversight and accountability. The US House under the leadership of Congressman George Miller conducted investigations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) during the 110th Congress uncovered thousands of cases and allegations of child abuse and neglect since the early 1990’s at teen residential programs. The US Congressional investigation revealed that currently these programs are governed only by a weak patchwork of state and federal standards. A separate GAO report, also conducted by at the committee’s request, found major gaps in the licensing and oversight of residential programs – some of which are not covered by any state licensing standards at all. GAO concluded that without adequate oversight “the well-being and civil rights of youth in some facilities will remain at risk.” State reported data to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System in 2005 found that 34 states reported 1503 incidents of youth maltreatment by residential facility staff. Of the states surveyed by GAO, 28 reported at least one youth fatality in a residential facility in 2006. GAO concluded both of these statistics understate the incidents of maltreatment and death. But many facilities are outside the scope of this limited study and many still remain unregulated and uninspected.

The US Congress has needed to examine this problem before in residential treatment centers - first with The Seed and then with Straight Inc. Each time the offending substance abuse treatment program was shut down, but very rapidly new ones sprung up with new legal identities to start the same kind of program all over again. Now there are even more programs who have been reported to be abusive, in spite of numerous state and local investigations and even federal investigations. To those who have been victimized in one of these facilities it is a source of frustration and dismay to realize that not even several US Congressional investigations can prevent the re-occurrence of the same kind of abuse to children. It is a national disgrace that the abuse of children in residential centers has not stopped but has gotten even more governmental power to hide its true nature from law enforcement and regulators. Abusive teen rehabilitation centers are now even more numerous and the industry is still not regulated by the US federal government. There is no adequate means to monitor these facilities for human rights abuses. So it is important to trace the development of public policy in regards to these residential treatment programs in order to determine how they managed to evade public scrutiny and governmental control.

Abuse in Residential Treatment - References

Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy Programs responds to Congressional Hearings 11 OCT 2007 — Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy Programs responds to the testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor on "Cases of Child Neglect and Abuse at Private Residential Treatment Facilities."

Catherine Freet Wilderness Therapy Programs Sends Letter to U.S. Representatives 30 JAN 2008 — Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy Programs sends letter to all members of U.S. House of Representatives Education Committee members in response to Committee hearing on residential treatment facilities held on October 10, 2007.

Final GAO Report on Residential Facilities (Full Report) (May 2008) Residential Facilities: Improved data and enhanced oversight would help safeguard the well-being of youth with behavioral and emotional challenges, Report to Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives [PDF, 95 pages}

Final GAO Report on Residential Facilities (Highlights) (May 2008) Residential Facilities: Improved data and enhanced oversight would help safeguard the well-being of youth with behavioral and emotional challenges, Report to Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives [PDF, 1 pages}

GAO Report: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth (Full Report) (October 10, 2007) Full report of testimony before the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives. [PDF, 38 pages]

GAO Report: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth (Highlights) (October 10, 2007) Highlights of the report of testimony before the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives. [PDF, 1 page]

Residential Facilities: State & Federal Oversight Gaps May Increase Risk to Youth (Highlights) (April 24, 2008) Highlights of the report by Government Accountability Office of testimony before the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives [PDF, 1 pages]

Residential Facilities: State & Federal Oversight Gaps May Increase Risk to Youth Well-Being (April 24, 2008) Full report by the Government Accountability Office of testimony before the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives [PDF, 21 pages]

Residential Programs: Selected Cases of Death, Abuse, and Deceptive Marketing (Full Report) (April 24, 2008) Full report of testimony before the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives. [PDF, 24 pages]


Teen Challenge in the U.S.A. - Nationwide

Teen Challenge is a national faith-based residential drug treatment program that is in many states including CA, WA, TX, AL, AZ, AR,CO, CT, ID, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY,OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA. The programs have no medical component and center instead of around prayer, Bible study and religious conversion.

The official Statement of Purpose of Teen Challenge is, "To evangelize and disciple those with life-controlling problems." The publication, "The Teen Challenge Therapeutic Model" states, "Traditional residential substance abuse rehabilitative structures clearly do not provide an analogy for the Teen Challenge model. Teen Challenge is, in all issues of therapy, direct and indirect, a purposeful comprehensive focus on the whole life of the student relative to that student’s functionality as a Christian disciple [after s/he is evangelized]...

Teen Challenge currently operates five drug treatment centers in Texas – none of which have a state license, but only two of which have formally registered their status as a faith-based facility exempt from state licensing. As exempt faith-based drug treatment centers, Teen Challenge facilities are not required to have licensed chemical dependency counselors, conduct staff training or criminal background checks, protect client confidentiality rights, adhere to state health and safety standards, or report abuse, neglect, emergencies and medication errors. Even prior to seeking an exemption from state licensing, a 1995 state inspection revealed that Teen Challenge was not compliant with numerous state health, safety and quality of care standards. Teen Challenge USA has been reported to be abusive and has even hired staff even though they were already registered child sex offenders.

There is a direct recruitment of ex-convicts as ministers and also as staff for Teen Challenge centers. Teen Challenge New England boosts that over 90-98% of their staff are former “graduates” of the Teen Challenge drug addiction program. Teen Challenge New England was at the time directly recruiting from within the prisons – including an in house program at Dartmouth House of Correction. Also the court system court still orders persons into Teen Challenge in lieu of jail time.

See the 185 page May 2008 Doctors Thesis of Rodney Hart – former “recovered graduate” of Teen Challenge and Director of the Teen Challenge New England.


Also see The Texas Faith-Based Initiative at Five Years:Warning Signs as President Bush Expands Texas-style Program at National Level

"Texas Freedom Network, a 23,000-member non-partisan grassroots watchdog group based in Austin conducted a five-year study of the policy and found, “As exempt faith-based drug treatment centers, [such] facilities are not required to have licensed chemical dependency counselors, conduct staff training or criminal background checks, protect client confidentiality rights, adhere to state health and safety standards, or report abuse, neglect, emergencies and medication errors.”

Teen Challenge Worldwide

Teen Challenge's outreach is not limited to the United States of America or even to US jurisdictions.  Teen Challenge Global and Teen Challenge International operate on a worldwide scale.  The Assemblies of God church is active in 82 countries.  Teen Challenge as an outreach program and also as a residential program operates over 1,000 centers worldwide.

With promises to parents of residential treatment or missionary work overseas and with glossy brochures depicting tropical paradises, beautiful landscapes, and areas of historic and scenic beauty,  the reality of these residential treatment centers are hidden from their paying clients and from those who donate to their cause.


These are the countries where Teen Challenge Global runs programs:



American Samoa, Angola (3 facilities), Argentina (2), Aruba, Australia (9), Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus (2), Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil (14), Cambodia, C anada (24), China (3), Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic (3), Denmark, Dominican Republic (2), Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland, France (2), Germany (20), Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, West Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland (6), India, India (7), Ireland (2), Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan (16), Kenya, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia, Latvia, Lithuania (5), Macedonia, Mexico (5), Moldova, Nepal, Netherlands (2), New Zealand, Norway (2), Pakistan (3), Paraguay, Poland (4), Portugal (8), Romania, Russia (14), Serbia (3), Singapore (4), Slovakia (3), South Africa (11), Spain, Swaziland (8), Sweden, Switzerland (3), Trinidad-Tobago, West Indies, Uganda, Ukraine (7), UK, Wales (8), UK, England (8), UK, Scotland (4), Uruguay (2), Venezuela

Teen Challenge USA National HQ
Men's Program, Women's Program
National President: Jack Smart
PO Box 249
Ozark, MO 65721 USA
Phone: 417-581-2181

The Assemblies of God Church exists in 82 countries and runs outreach through over 1,000 centers overseas. Teen Challenge is directly connected with Assemblies of God Church – both through management and also through financial connections even though they attempt to hide this association when trying to recruit clients for their centers.

Global Teen Challenge is headed by  Jerry Nance is President and C.E.O.   Global Teen Challenge which is divided into seven regions with a director or representative for each region.

Latin America and Caribbean - Duane Henders; 1,250 beds in 102 centers in 17 countries.
Europe - Tom Bremer; 892 beds in 58 centers in 28 countries.
Africa - Doug Wever, 1,034 beds in 14 centers in 9 countries.
Asia Pacific - James Lowans; 357 beds in 51 centers in 9 countries.
Northern Asia - 30 beds in three centers.
Eurasia - Kevin Tyler; 11,600 beds in 370 centers in 14 countries.
North America - Jack Smart, 7,536 beds in 223 centers in 2 countries.


Additional Information about Abuse at Teen Challenge

"Commerce is as a heaven, whose sun is trustworthiness and whose moon is truthfulness."

Bahá'u'lláh 1817-1892, Persian nobleman and founder of the Baha’I religion.

Hon. George Miller, Chair of the Committee on Education and Labor in the U.S. House of Representatives initiated the Legislation H.R. 6358 (formerly H.R. 5876) after recieving a shocking report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding abusive and neglectful treatment of chidren in residential programs as well as the fraudulent practices of these institutions. The House of Representatives approved legislation to Stop Child Abuse in Teen Residential Programs — The bill would help ensure parents have information they need to keep their children safe.

The latest update: This bill was sent to the Senate on June 26, 2008.




Bill Passed

Vote on HR 6358 

June 25, 2008 – House Approves Legilation to Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs

May 14, 2008 – GAO Report Shows Need for Minimum Standards to Protect Teens in Residential Programs, Says Chairman Miller—Education & Labor Committee Will Vote Tomorrow on Legislation to Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs

May 13, 2008 – The Gavel

May, 2008 – Residential Facilities – Improved Data and Enhanced Oversight Would Help Safeguard the Well-Being of Youth with Behavioral and Emotional Challenges.

April 24, 2008 text of the day’s testimonies

April, 2008 – 110th Congress – Growing and Strengthening America’s Middile Class (more info on this act)

HR 5876 – “Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008″

Several Videos regarding this legislation on You Tube.

October 10, 2007 (first) GAO Report on Residential Treatment Programs

October 10, 2007 – Also Residential Treatment Programs: Concernes Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth GAO-08-146T

"Prison rape not only threatens the lives of those who fall prey to their aggressors, but it is potentially devastating to the human spirit. Shame, depression, and a shattering loss of self-esteem accompany the perpetual terror the victim thereafter must endure."


U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Farmer v. Brennan

Teen Challenge - Abuse Continues

The Teen Challenge teen residential drug treatment program has been accused of all manner of abuse and only exists because of deregulation of these facilities Governor George W. Bush who pushed through legislation that would exempt Teen Challenge and other faith-based drug treatment centers from state licensing and the health, safety and quality of care standards that accompany that licensure.  These Teen Challenge centers have close ties to Melvin Sembler, the Drug Free America Foundation, Straight Inc. and the New Freedom Commission. 

Teen Challenge is a national faith-based residential drug treatment program that had nine branches in Texas in 2004. The programs have no medical component and center instead of around prayer, Bible study and religious conversion. Teen Challenge currently operates five drug treatment centers in Texas – none of which have a state license, but only two of which have formally registered their status as a faith-based facility exempt from state licensing. As exempt faith-based drug treatment centers, Teen Challenge facilities are not required to have licensed chemical dependency counselors, conduct staff training or criminal background checks, protect client confidentiality rights, adhere to state health and safety standards, or report abuse, neglect, emergencies and medication errors.  Even prior to seeking an exemption from state licensing, a 1995 state inspection revealed that Teen Challenge was not compliant with numerous state health, safety and quality of care standards.  Teen challenge was linked with extreme coercive tactics and abuse and it was a known recipient of federal funds under the “Faith Based Initiatives” program.

In addition to unlicensed counselors hired at the Teen Challenge facilities, in one Teen Challenge facility in Maine a known child molester became manager of a Teen Challenge facility.  There have reports of educational neglect (educationally insufficient material) and reports of physical, mental, sexual, and emotional abuse.  There were many reports of abuse including forced missionary activity, possible violation of child labor laws, and forcing people to sign over paychecks to Teen Challenge. Texas is also, sadly, not the only state that Teen Challenge was given acarte blanche in.  Florida has a nearly identical scheme to the one Texas had until recently, in that centers can be completely exempted from regulation by joining the Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies--and Teen Challenge happens to be a member of FACCCA.

"I'm hoping that Teen Challenge will not have to go through the licensing procedures that clinical organizations have to go through."
-- John Castellani,  the Assemblies of God "Mission America" meeting in 2000 

John Castellani was the Executive Director of Teen Challenge, a "faith-based" drug rehab program owned by the Assemblies of God  denomination and well-known for years for fudging its success rate figures.  (   

George W Bush's "faith-based" initiative  was used to fund religious "outreach" ministries to escape the scrutiny to which nonreligious organizations must conform to get federal funding.   This "faith-based" plan is ultimately geared toward bringing greater financial power to groups which seek to criminalize abortion.

Government Funding of Teen Challenge in Florida

Teen Challenge of  Florida Inc. is not licensed or regulated by the Florida Department of Eduction.  Florida Statue 409.176 is the legislation that gives religious residential child-care facilities licensing exemption if they DO NOT receive state or federal funds.  But Teen Challenge Florida is receiving government grant money.
2007  They reported $74, 455.00 in government grants
2008  They reported $409,470 in government grants
2009  They reported $839,816 in government grants
2010  Information in not yet available from public records

Teen Challenge of Florida Inc. 24 West 10th Street, Columbus, Georgia 31901  IRS Employer ID # 59-2479228

According to the FACCCA's website it is FL Statue 409.176 which allows a religious organization exemption from licensing and regulation by the state. This was instituted in 1984.  FACCCA does not accredit Teen Challenge of Florida Inc.
The Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies is the accrediting authority in the state of Florida for children’s homes, and certain other ministries involved in the care and nurturing of children in a Christian environment.  FACCCA operates under the provision of Florida Statute 409.176 which was instituted in 1984.  This provision allows faith-based childcare providers to elect FACCCA accreditation as an alternative to state licensing.  All organizations seeking FACCCA accreditation must comply with the regulations set forth by Florida Statute as well as the standards established by FACCCA.  Currently there are 29 accredited member organizations and 6 associate members.

The start of a career in the teen rehabilitation industry

 Lester Leo Roloff was an American fundamental Independent Baptist preacher.He attended Baylor University and later Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Separated from mainline Southern Baptists because of his beliefs, Roloff began actively ministering toalcoholic and homeless men.  Roloff began preaching at small country churches in southern Texas, before taking on pastoral duties at churches in Houston and later Corpus Christi. It was in Corpus Christi in 1944, that Roloff began his radio show, The Family Altar. Roloff in April 1951 resigned as pastor at Second Baptist Church to enter full-time evangelism. He founded the Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises, a non-profit religious organization. In August of 1954, with convictions about being independent of the Southern Baptist Convention or any other denominational influence, he founded a church in Corpus Christi which was to be called the Alameda Baptist Church. Roloff gave speeches at Baylor University and over his own radio show. Separate from mainline Southern Baptists, Roloff began actively ministering to alcoholic and homeless men.

His first mission house was established in Corpus Christi in 1954. Roloff Homes was established for troubled youth and were privately run faith based residential facilities in Texas. Additional children's homes were eventually added throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and Georgia. The first Roloff home for females, The Rebekah Home for Girls, was established in 1968. It was touted as a place where girls in trouble could get worship as they got straightened out.  Punitive "Bible discipline" was the method used to chasten girls who had fallen from grace.

The only literature permitted to residents of Roloff Homes was the King James Version of the Bible. Daily church attendance was mandatory.  Contact with the outside world denied and all phone calls monitored even those with family members.  Windows were locked and alarm systems were used to  prevent escape. Contact with the outside world was denied except for monitored phone calls with parents.  Accusations of mistreatment  including the use of corporal Punishment,  lock-up, forced to hold stress positions for hours,  and quoting from Bible 1 hour per day, sermons played during sleep, brainwashing, verbal and emotional abuse.  No communication was allowed with the children's parents for 30 days, no unmonitored communication in or out by mail or phone.  Sometimes when permitted there were visits of 2 days at 6 months and 1 year.  Any inappropriate communication was marked out with permanent ink before letters were mailed, if you said wrong thing on phone,  the phone call was dropped.  Letters from parents were  often withheld so that staff could convince girls their families did not care about them. 

Sermon given June 21, 1996, by Dr. Buckner Fanning

Hatred never heals. Violence never brings peace. And out of that crucible of suffering, I came home and felt called into the ministry of One who answered a question one day when a passerby asked, "What is the greatest commandment, teacher?" And Jesus said, "The greatest commandment is this," and He reached back into his roots, your roots, my roots, and from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." The One whom I endeavor to follow said that the paramount virtue was love; love for anyone, everyone. Target no one. Love everyone. Love God with all of your heart, your soul, your strength, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love one another.

Dr. Buckner Fanning

Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, San Antonio

Complaints of child abuse surface

In the Roloff Home in Oklahoma  there were complaints of violations of  child labor laws – children as young as 12 were reportedly made to pick cotton in the surrounding fields starting at 5am and working until sundown without even using work gloves.   Reports surfaced about torture, violent beatings and starvation at Roloff Homes in Texas, which prompted the Texas Attorney General to investigate.

The Texas Attorney General's office began investigating reports of violent beatings, starvation, and torture at the Roloff Homes in 1971. April, 1973, when the state Welfare Department filed a suit in an attempt to have the Rebekah Home licensed. State and Local child protective authorities first investigated possible abuse at the Rebekah Home in 1973, when parents who were visiting their daughter reported seeing a girl being whipped. Rebekah girls who said they had been whipped with leather straps, beaten with paddles, handcuffed to drainpipes, and locked in isolation cells-sometimes for such minor infractions as failing to memorize a Bible passage or forgetting to make a bed. When girls who had not yet "been saved" tried to run away they were thrown in the lockup which was a dorm room devoid of furniture or natural light where girls spent days, or weeks, alone. In spite of repeated warnings by state child welfare agencies, there were continuing accounts of beatings, forced restraints and use of isolation on the teens which lead to the Texas Attorney General recommending the facilities be regulated and licensed or be closed. (see the case of Deanne Dawsey

This led to a confrontation between Roloff Homes and the Texas AG over legal issue of the separation of church and state. If licensed, the home would have been required to hire a home supervisor who holds a degree in social work and who is approved by the Welfare Department. That supervisor would be required to complete an additional fifteen hours of college level social studies every two years. Roloff Holmes would be required to file financial reports regularly with the Texas Welfare Department. The home would also have to hire one state-approved worker for every eight girls.

On August 3, 1973, an injunction was signed, in which Roloff was enjoined from operating a child care institution without a license for those under sixteen years of age. On October 5, 1973, a district judge heard the case and fined Roloff $500 and $80 in court costs for contempt of court when he refused welfare guidelines. With Roloff still refusing to have the home licensed, the Welfare Department leveled charges against the home, based upon the testimony the girls. At that time 1,500 girls had spent time at Rebekah Home. Some of the homes were temporarily closed in 1973, but re-opened the following year after Roloff successfully appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

"In God we trust, all others bring data."

Dr. W. Edwards Deming 1900-1993, American Statistician

Evading prosecution through shuffling ownership

Roloff at one point transferred ownership of the homes from Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises to his church, the People's Baptist Church, forcing the state to sue the "new" owners, and keeping the homes running. Then on January 31, 1974, the case went to court again in Corpus Christi and Roloff was found guilty--fined $5,400 and sentenced to five days in the county jail on contempt of court charges. The court also ordered him to remove all the girls from the home. 

Questioning the constitutionality of state licensing

On February 4th he was given the opportunity to present his argument on the constitutionality of state licensing of a church-operated home before the Provisions Committee of the Texas State Senate. The high court finally ruled that children sixteen or over could be cared for by Roloff and as a result overturned the contempt of court charges May 20, 1974. The Attorney General refilled the case, forcing an injunction that tried to shut the ministry down. In 1975, the State of Texas passed laws that required licensing of youth homes. Roloff was arrested twice for refusing to comply with this law. March, 1975, the Texas Welfare Department had filed against Roloff again for contempt and for being in violation of their rules and regulations. By January 1, 1976, the new guidelines by the Welfare Department became law, making it illegal for unlicensed homes to take in children under the age of eighteen.

Political power from the pulpit brought to bear on state regulators

But Roloff had vocal support from his followers which included many evangelical preachers. In his very successful radio show, the late evangelist, Lester Roloff, praised the use of punitive "Bible discipline" as a method to chasten girls who had fallen from grace. As a result the faithful showered Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises with checks, jewelry and other valuables and he made millions. Texas State welfare workers received reports of physical abuse and Attorney General John Hill finally filed a suit against Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises.

In 1979 an incident occurred in this church vs state battle, which became known as the "Christian Alamo." Lester Roloff urged churches and pastors across America who supported the Roloff ministry to come to Corpus Christi and form a human chain around the church to prevent the Department of Human Resources from removing children from the homes. This human barricade of fundamental evangelical supporters prevented the girls from being removed by Texas State officials for 3 days. The Rebekah girls were essentially prisoners in this political show down between Roloff and the Texas Attorney General. Lester Roloff was expressing his political power and the hidden support network of thousands of fundamentalists who adhered to similar beliefs and listened to his radio show. So the Roloff Homes was the center a twelve-year battle between church and state which ended in the Christian Alamo standoff. 

(For a more personal account of Roloff Homes see )

Still vowing to legally fight for separation of church and state and to prevent governmental interference in the way Roloff Homes disciplined children, Roloff Homes in 1979 placed themselves legally under the auspices of the People's Baptist Church. This forced the Kansas Attorney General to then sue a new legal entity and Roloff Homes again refused to apply for a Texas state license or to comply with state regulations regarding protection of children from abuse.

Legal battles with the State of Texas continued and the homes were closed and re-opened. The Texas homes were finally closed again in 2001 after Lester Roloff's death but the legal battle that had kept them open for so long had significantly changed the political landscape for all faith based organizations.

The political message was clear – there was a huge following of fervent religious people not just in Texas but throughout the USA. These were American citizens who had previously not engaged in the political arena, many of whom had never even registered to vote and who in large part lived their lives apart from the rest of the general society. They claimed the right to religious freedom and do what they wished within their religious facilities.  The Christian Evangelicals were 30 million strong and they claimed Lester Roloff as one of their own and he then embodied their right to separation of church and state. The Texas Attorney General and the social services agencies who wished to shut the facility down were representing the right of the state of Texas to assure that human rights abuses and child abuse did not happen to any minor child regardless of the religious beliefs of the parents. 

The Evangelical Vote:

In 1985 the state prevailed and forced the Rebekah Home to close. But the political message was heard by Texas Governor George W. Bush. Texas Governor George W. Bush in an effort to garner support from the fundamentalist churches and to secure their votes in the upcoming election supported legislation that would allow church-run child-care institutions to opt out of state licensing. This allowed George W. Bush to tap into the support of the huge numbers of fundamentalist evangelical unregistered voters and get them to vote in the upcoming election.

Death of Lester Roloff but rebirth of Roloff Homes in Missouri

On the morning of November 2, 1982, Lester Roloff boarded his Cessna 210 on his way to a preaching engagement at the Calvary Baptist Church of Kansas City, Missouri and his plane crashed.

After Lester’s death, Wiley Cameron Sr., assumed control of the Roloff Holmes. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Roloff Homes must accept state licensing and regulation. But Roloff Homes had political support and had become a symbolic cause for the Religious Right. On the eve of the court ordered shut down of Roloff Homes in Texas, Cameron Wiley and other church members, took about 100 teens in a convoy of buses to the state of Missouri where there were no requirements for state licensure and inspection. Roloff Homes moved to Missouri and ran facilities there for 14 years in exile rather than accept state oversight in Texas.

While in exile in the state of Missouri, Wiley Cameron ran the Rebekah Home and Anchor Home in this new state. But Wiley Cameron continued to lobby the Governor of Texas George W. Bush to permit alternative accreditation to religious child care facilities. In 1984 the Supreme Court of Texas sided with the state, holding that the licensing of church-run child-care facilities violated no First Amendment religious freedoms thus required Roloff Homes to submit to licensing regulations and inspection.

In 1987 investigative reporters for the The Kansas City Times ran an article on physical abuse at the homes. Two days after the article ran, Cameron Wiley shut them down and returned to Texas because by then he had politically maneuvered to be able to escape state licensing and inspection there.

Alternative accreditation of faith-based facilities

Meanwhile, Wiley Cameron strategically and politically lobbied for the alternative accreditation law. He got his wish with 75th Texas Legislature’s House Bill 2482 which allows child care facilities that meet or exceed state standards to be accredited by private sector entities instead of being licensed and regulated by the state. These child care providers will still be subject to the appropriate background checks. Florida-based attorneys for the Roloff Homes are the only witnesses to testify in favor of this legislation.

In 1997, the Texas Legislature passed two bills, House Bill 2482 (75R) and House Bill 2481 (75R), that set the stage for deregulation of faith-based facilities in Texas. There was the establishment through law of an Alternative Accreditation system that allowed faith-based residential facilities and child care facilities to be accredited by a faith-based entity in lieu of being licensed and regulated by the state. In addition legislation was passed that permitted faith-based chemical dependency programs to be exempted from state licensing and regulation. The Texas legislature also set a governmental system to implement and promote the provision of governmental funds to faith-based organizations. The Texas Department of Human Services and the Texas Workforce Commission were to reach out with liaisons to create partnerships with faith-based organizations.

Effects of loss of regulatory control over residential faith-based facilities

 So in Texas the new permissive regulatory climate allowed faith-based drug treatment centers must simply register their religious status with the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) to be exempt from virtually all health, safety and quality of care regulations required of state-licensed treatment facilities. Thus these facilities were exempted from all medical treatment guidelines, employee training and licensing requirements, abuse and neglect prevention training, client rights protections, and requirements for reporting abuse, neglect, emergencies and medication errors.

The only such non-governmental entity approved by Texas to be an Alternative Accreditation Agency was the Texas Association of Christian Child-Care Agencies (TACCCA). But this new accreditation process in which private accreditation agencies, rather than the state, were to oversee faith-based homes had only one registrant the TACCCA. This one and only agency to register with the state was the Texas Association of Christian Child-Care Agencies (TACCCA). The TACCCA had a six-person board of directors which included Wiley Cameron. The agency was created after the passage of the bill and was headed by Pastor David Blaser, a longtime admirer of Lester Roloff's. When the TACCCA agency applied for state approval, state accreditation officials hesitated, citing the new law's requirement that only "recognized" accrediting agencies be approved. But then Don Willett of Governor George W. Bush’s office, claimed that the law was not intended to rule out new agencies, and the state relented after determining that all six board members had experience running child-care facilities. Three pastors who ran facilities were on the board of the TACCCA and thus actually inspected and regulated themselves. These were the Roloff Children’s Home, Channelview Christian Daycare and Miller Road Baptist Daycare. TACCCA accredited a total of only eight facilities in the four years the Alternative Accreditation program was in place. In theory, TACCCA was required to enforce the same standards, and conduct the same inspections, at facilities it regulated as were enforced at state-licensed facilities but it did not do so.

Concerns regarding this alternative licensing were voiced by the Texas Freedom Network report: The Texas Faith-Based Initiative at Five Years: Warning Signs as President Bush Expands Texas-style Program at National Level:
• TACCCA was cited by the state for failing to conduct any unannounced inspections of its facilities, as were required by state law and TACCCA.s state contract to be conducted annually at each facility.
• The rate of confirmed abuse and neglect at alternatively-accredited facilities was 25 times higher than that of state-licensed facilities. Alternatively-accredited facilities had a 25% rate of confirmed abuse and neglect, compared to a rate of less than 1% at state-licensed facilities.
• The complaint rate at alternatively-accredited facilities was 75%, compared to a 5.4% complaint rate at state-licensed facilities.
• The state could not conduct site visits or address complaints at alternatively-accredited facilities unless TACCCA filed formal allegations of abuse against a facility it accredits.
• Alternative Accreditation buffered faith-based organizations from state oversight, but left the children in their care vulnerable.

The Texas Freedom Network reports that “TCADA has no authority to investigate complaints, remedy unsafe conditions or ensure quality treatment practices at faith-based treatment centers that are exempt from state regulations. As such, clients of exempt treatment centers have no recourse through the state if they have a grievance with a facility they attended.”hey attended.”

The Texas Faith-Based Initiative at Five Years: Warning Signs as President Bush Expands Texas-Style Program to National Level - The Texas Freedom Network released a report in 2002 that documented the lack of accountability and other failures in then-Gov. Bush's Texas faith-based initiative.

Abuse at Roloff Homes continues

Wiley Cameron was appointed to serve on the board of directors of Texas Association of Child Care Agencies (TACCCA). Roloff Homes moved back to Texas and was able to open 5 facilities accredited by the TACCCA. The Roloff Homes were the first of eight faith-based child-care facilities accredited by TACCCA. Despite continued complaints of abuse and neglect, TACCCA re-accredited the Roloff Homes in April 2000. By 2000, reports of physical abuse, beatings and sadistic punishments resurfaced. In July 2001 a staffer at Roloff Holmes facility run by the People’s Baptist Church was found guilty of two counts of unlawful restraint, stemming from an incident in which he tied two residents together at the wrist and forced them into a 15-foot-deep pit. Two residents at the facility, officially called the Lighthouse but also known as the Roloff Homes, claimed that staff used extreme discipline, including beatings and forced exercise. The two young men who brought the case, Aaron Cavallin and Justin Simons, claimed that they were tied together, made to run through brush and forced into the pit after they were caught trying to flee the facility. Testifying in court, the staff member said the two clients expressed regret after they were caught running away and that he wanted to test their sincerity by putting them into the pit. A structural engineer who testified during the trial said the pit, which had been dug the day before as a drainage ditch, was not safe and could have collapsed.

Weakened control of faith-based social services

State regulation of "faith-based" social services was dramatically weakened in Texas in 1997 when then-Gov. George W. Bush pushed through a new state policy. Roloff Homes' resistance to state inspection was one reason for the change. Under the Bush plan, "faith-based" homes for juveniles were given the option of being overseen by independent religious associations instead of the government. The idea was that the religious homes would keep tabs on one another through periodic inspections, but critics charged that the plan would foster lax oversight of the institutions. Ironically, few religious groups saw the need for the alternative system. Over the same period, more than 2,000 child-care facilities chose to continue operating under a state license and 900 chemical dependency programs, faith-based and non faith-based alike, were still maintaining their state licensing and continue to remain content to be under state oversight. Only eight homes, Roloff among them, signed up for the alternative policy. Roloff Homes’ administrators were criminally convicted in 2001.

The Right Step Program is registered with the TCADA Commission as a faith-based chemical dependency treatment program, which is exempt from facility licensure and doing business as Williamson Baptist Association. It still continues to operate legally in Texas without licensed counselors, adherence to state health and safety standards, or accountability for client rights.

The establishment of a two tier system of accreditation for faith-based programs has proven to be dangerous to vulnerable children and chemically-dependent people. The elimination of basic health and safety standards has endangered these populations. Parents and clients are often unaware that the facility is unlicensed by the state and does not have to meet state health and safety standards. Medical care is often not provided to those clients who need it. There is no accountability or transparency to prevent the co-mingling of taxpayer funds with faith based funds meant for exclusively religious activities. The blurring of the line between church and state leads to potential first amendment rights violations.

"From the standpoint of freedom of speech and the press, it is enough to point out that the state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them...  It is not the business of government to suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular religious doctrine."

Justice Tom C. Clark

(1899-1977) U. S. Supreme Court Justice

Political Climate for Faith-based Programs

In 1996 a welfare reform bill called the Personal Work and Responsibility Act (PWORA) was enacted and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The Personal Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act, PWORA, has altered the landscape of American religion. Embedded in the PWORA was a small provision Section 104 also known as Charitable Choice, which makes it illegal for state governments to discriminate against social service providers whose organization, has a religious mandate. President Bill Clinton during his presidency did not do a lot to further it. The PWORA was implemented primarily through a variety of executive orders issued by President George W. Bush. Executive Order 13199 by President George W. Bush called for eliminating “unnecessary legislative, regulatory and other bureaucratic barriers that impede effective faith based and other community efforts to solve social problems”. Charitable Choice blurred the boundaries between Church and State. Faith based initiatives were policies that were based in a larger concept of fiscal conservatism, decreasing the size of federal government, along with collaboration and cooperation in partnership with the religious community. Thus through Charitable Choice a stamp of authority was given to change the basic way in which the church and state interact. These faith based initiatives appeal to conservatives who want to decrease the size of government and see the initiatives as providing an inexpensive alternative to government-sponsored social services. The withdrawal of federal funding for social services creates a void which places the burden of care upon the nonprofit sector. This is sometimes called the “hollow state,” in which the government is much less active in its role for the financial responsibility to provide welfare services.

Prior to Charitable Choice, all 50 states already worked with religious organizations to provide social services. Many larger religious organizations have long been a part of the traditional provision of social services to the public through separate nonprofit agencies such as the Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services. These agencies are religiously influenced, but maintained separate nonprofit organizations through separate 501 C 3 IRS filings and did separate their social service functions from their purely religious functions (a bright line). These new faith based initiatives paved the way for a political system which relies more heavily on religious organizations and partnerships with them, while removing federal governmental funding for social services. This places a greater burden on the faith based community to take up the slack during the cuts in governmental funding through their own fund raising efforts.

But not everyone was in agreement that Charitable Choice was an appropriate way to spend taxpayer’s dollars. The Washington, D.C. based Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious freedom advocacy group in the United States which promotes the separation of church and state, has voiced opposition to the tax funded religious program. “Any program that relies on or requires a conversion to a particular religion is going to be a poor candidate for public funding.” Texas Freedom Network, a statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan alliance that includes 7,500 religious and community leaders, is challenging what it calls "the growing social and political influence of religious political extremists." Samantha Smoot, executive director of Texas Freedom Network, calls the faith-based effort in Texas "a lose-lose-lose deal." Taxpayers lose, she believes, "because they are forced to financially support religious activity, and they get virtually no accountability for how the money is spent," she said. "Churches lose, because the government strings that come with government funds threaten their independence. Poor people lose because they may be compelled to practice a faith not their own in order to receive services, and because Bush has exempted many of these programs from basic health and safety practices." Teen Challenge was cited by civil libertarians as flawed use of state funds for being a church-based drug rehabilitation program that argued that drug addiction is not a disease but a sin, with prayer and Bible reading as treatment.

One of the first constitutional challenges to a charitable choice contract came from the American Jewish Congress. AJCongress monitors issues like "charitable choice" proposals, in which federal funds would be given to faith-based institutions to provide social services historically the responsibility of government. The First Amendment separation of church and state is emphasized at AJCongress naturally and inevitably as part of its insistence that Jews in the United States are not guests but full-fledged citizens by right. Key to accomplishing its mission is the belief, “That only through the assertion of – and defense of – human rights in general, can Jewish rights themselves be guaranteed, that only through the pursuit of social justice for all can it achieve the narrower goal of justice for Jewish Americans.” The American Jewish Congress describes itself as an association of Jewish Americans organized to defend Jewish interests at home and abroad through public policy advocacy, using diplomacy, and the Texas Civil Rights Project filed a lawsuit in 2000 to invalidate a contract between the Texas Department of Human Services and the Jobs Partnership of Washington County (JPWC. The suit claimed that "Protestant evangelical Christianity permeates" the partnership's job training and placement program. The complaint charged that JPWC uses tax dollars to convince students of the need to "change from the inside out, rather than from the outside in, and that can only be accomplished through a relationship with Jesus Christ."

The concept of Charitable Choice was that small religious groups should not be discriminated against in government funding decisions. Most states have adopted faith-based practices and 39 states have appointed persons into Faith Based Liaison positions (FBL), 22 states created state Offices of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCIs) and some have done both. Forty one States also have passed legislation or enacted administrative policy changes and some have run state-sponsored policy conferences.

"Those in power need checks and restraints lest they come to identify the common good for their own tastes and desires, and their continuation in office as essential to the preservation of the nation."

William O. Douglas

(1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice

Source: We, The Judges, 1956

Exemption from Governmental Regulation and Inspection

George W. Bush as governor of Texas rapidly incorporated the provisions of Charitable Choice into Texas policy and politics. It was in Texas that the first state Faith Based Liaison positions were created. But there was opposition to the charitable choice proposals by the members of the Texas Faith Network which is made up of more than 400 clergy. Rabbi Peter Berg of Temple Emanuel in Dallas Texas asked “Who will decide which churches or synagogues, which denomination or sect, will be funded and which will be excluded?” There was clearly a lack of accountability on one hand and the unconstitutional lack of separation of church and state on the other. Thus although faith-based groups certainly play an important role in provision of social services, it is still necessary that they remain independent from the government. Taxpayers through the faith-based initiatives program end up financially supporting religious activity, but with no accountability or transparency for how that money is spent. There are strings that come with governmental money and also poor people are compelled to practice a faith that is not their own just to get services.

In 1995, George W. Bush’s first year as governor of Texas, Teen Challenge a Christian based drug treatment program was threatened with closure by a state regulatory agency, The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Although Teen Challenge did not receive any government funds, it did offer treatment to drug users and therefore fell under the state’s regulatory powers. The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) threatened to close the doors of Teen Challenge for violations of its regulations in April 1996. Roloff Homes was also a program supported by George W. Bush and it was also in violation of basic health and safety regulations. So two programs who were in trouble with the state of Texas for dangerous treatment practices were publicly defended by religious right leaders. Bush publicly defended these programs and changed state law to protect them even at the expense of quality of care and public safety.

In the mid 90s, Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) attempted to close down the San Antonio branch of Teen Challenge, a residential Christian program that relies solely on faith-based methods to treat drug abuse. According to a TCADA spokesperson, the organization violated Texas state policies, procedures and licensure standards. There were problems with hiring practices, not meeting training requirements for counselors, client grievance procedures, release of confidential records. Teen Challenge was also charged with disregarding state standards for the screening, orientation, treatment and discharge of follow-up of clients (Austin American Statesman, July 2, 1995).

In June 1995, TCADA suspended Teen Challenge’s license based violations that may even cause a potential danger to the residents. Bush intervened publicly on behalf of the faith-based program, saying TCADA was following procedure and stating publicly that he strongly supported the faith-based programs. (World Magazine 1995).

On Bush’s urging and other outside pressures, TCADA postponed judgment of the organization, dropped licensure demands, and agreed to wait until the legislature considered bills that would change the rules for faith-based organizations. According to the Houston Chronicle, the flap about Teen Challenge made the organization-a cause celebre among the religious right, placing Teen Challenge to the forefront of the faith-based self-help movement. Support came not only from Christian leader Pat Robertson, who featured the group on his 700 Club television show, but also from the conservative policy crowd (Houston Chronicle, December 1, 1995)

On May 2, 1996 Governor Bush in a show of continuing support of such organizations, Bush vowed to assembled an Advisory Task Force made up of 16 clergy and volunteer leaders and charges the Task Force with 2 objectives: (1)survey Texas legal and regulatory landscape to identify obstacles to faith-based groups and (2)recommend ways that Texas can create an environment in which these groups can thrive, free of regulations that dilute the faith factor.

On August 22, 1996 The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act is signed in law (PL 104-193). Section 104 of this federal welfare reform legislation - authored by then-Senator John Ashcroft - opened the door to so-called Charitable Choice provisions that allow states to contract with faith-based and community-based organizations for the provision of welfare services. This provision has been interpreted to apply to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Social Security Income (SSI), food stamp and Medicaid programs.

In 1997 legislation was passed exempting religious child care and drug treatment facilities from health and safety regulations.

For more than two decades, the Roloff Homes which was a group of faith-based homes for troubled teens - had been the subject of allegations of severe abuse. Efforts in the 1980’s by the Texas Attorney General’s office to force the homes under state regulation led to a long legal battle. The organization’s founder, Lester Roloff, was a fundamentalist and leader of the People’s Baptist Church in Corpus Christi who maintained that the state had no right to license his homes (Houston Chronicle, March 13, 1999). The Roloff Homes became a high-profile cause among religious right circles, with one minister even chaining himself to the Texas Supreme Court doors in protest.

The case found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the homes had to be licensed by the state or close down. In 1985, rather than accept state oversight, the homes closed down and moved to Missouri-where they stayed until invited back to Texas by Gov. Bush to receive licensing under his newly created alternative accreditation agency - the Texas Association of Christian Child Care Agencies (TACCA).

The first facility to apply for and receive accreditation from TACCCA was one of the Roloff Homes. According to the Washington Post, TACCCA is supposed to inspect the facilities once and year and make sure they meet minimum requirements (Washington Post, April 11, 2000). April 10, 2000 Texas authorities arrested men connected to Roloff Homes for allegations of severe abuse of juveniles in their care. Two weeks later, the Texas Association of Christian Child Care Agencies (TACCCA) re-approves the Roloff Homes license. April 15, 2000 Wiley Cameron, the head of Roloff Homes, resigns from his position on the accreditation committee of TACCCA.

Teen Challenge might not have survived without the help of then Governor George W. Bush. Because Teen Challenge claimed it did “treatment”, it thus needed to abide by state regulations regarding having persons who were qualified with academic degrees and a certain amount of clinical expertise. Teen Challenge did not hire counselors based on those criteria because Teen Challenge promoted the view that addiction is a sinful behavior prompted by a lack of religious commitment. Claiming spectacular results –which turned out to false- they demanded that the investigator be fired and the laws changed.

The supporters of Teen Challenge viewed this as infringement of their rights as a religious organization, so the shutting down of the organization by the government offered a ripe opportunity to question the rightness of church-state separation. These objections to the shutdown of Teen Challenge created the political support for the creation of the broader faith-based initiatives. George Bush created a Governor’s Advisory Task Force on Faith-based Community Service Groups, changed the course of faith-based public policy by creating a redefinition of faith-based practices in Texas and a report in December 1996, called “Faith in Action: A New Vision for Church-State Cooperation,” and George W. Bush announced it personally with enormous fanfare at a ministry in San Antonio. This report had concrete policy recommendations to exempt Teen Challenge from state licensure and oversight. In 1997 the Teen Challenge Bill which changed the role of the TCADA to one of just registering the names of programs in a single one page document (name, address, and what they do). By granting Teen Challenge in 1997, a crucial exemption, Governor George Bush went against Texas State regulators. With the governor's exemption, Teen Challenge and other faith based addiction programs are allowed to call themselves treatment facilities. That, exempted Teen Challenge counselors so they didn’t have to get the 270 hours of clinical training and thousands of hours of supervision, as was required of non faith based treatment programs. As exempt faith-based drug treatment centers, Teen Challenge facilities are not required to have licensed chemical dependency counselors, conduct staff training or criminal background checks, protect client confidentiality rights, adhere to state health and safety standards, or report abuse, neglect, emergencies and medication errors.

But there are critics, who argue that the drug counselors need this kind of professional training. This legislation removed Teen Challenge from any governmental regulatory oversight. Teen Challenge would then claim to be an exclusively religious program not a blend of religious and medical treatment. A medical model program would require governmental regulation and therapeutic clinical records. So in order to be exempt from governmental supervision and oversight, these programs had to be purely religious ministries designed to help people with addiction problems through religious devotion.

Teen Challenge in Texas was exempted from licensing and inspection regulation. The arrangement between governmental financial support and Teen Challenge meant that Teen Challenge was not required to meet regulatory health and safety standards, and their facilities were not inspected even though Teen Challenge received taxpayer funds. Amidst all the media coverage over Teen Challenge child abuse and without this influx of federal funding from faith based initiatives, the centers would surely have lost clients and probably closed.

“This freedom was first in the Bill of Rights. It was set forth in absolute terms, and its strength is its rigidity. The First Amendment's purpose was to create a complete and permanent separation of the spheres of religious activity and civil authority by comprehensively forbidding every form of public aid or support for religion.”

Tom Clark

Source:Everson v. Board of Education

Additional Information about Abuse at Teen Challenge

Additional Information on the Teen Challenge and Food Stamps:

Teen Challenge New England Intake Form

Government Teen Challenge Record on Food Stamps

Food stamp fraud in Honolulu and elsewhere,-paying-for-institutionalised-abuse

Under Charitable Choice provisions TNAF provided extensive financial support to Teen Challenge.

CRS Report - Charitable Choice, Faith-Based Initiatives, and TANF Vee Burke, Domestic Social Policy Division

Additional Information about Sexual Abuse at Teen Challenge:

Establishment of Alternative Accreditation to Evade Inspections

In Florida and Texas, Teen Challenge centers were being accredited by the Texas Association of Christian Child Care Agencies (TACCCA) and the Florida Association of Christian Child Care Agencies (FACCCA). The programs have no medical component and center instead of around prayer, Bible study and religious conversion. Teen Challenge facilities did not uphold First Amendment rights and also did not enforce workplace anti-bias laws. There was also lack of proper oversight over the educational standards of the program.

Florida also decided to exempt Teen Challenge in that state from regulatory inspections by allowing Teen Challenge facilities in Florida to be alternatively accredited. Florida has certified an alternate accreditation board for "faith-based" groups, and its head of Department of Children and Families and Department of Human Services heads are both former Straight, Inc. leaders.

Florida Association of Christian Child Care Agencies is just the same as the Texas agency and Teen Challenge center in Florida are members of Florida Association of Christian Child Care Agencies or FACCCA. Not surprisingly, evidence of extensive abuse has turned up with the Florida facility of almost an identical manner to what was documented in Texas. West Florida Teen Challenge Boys’ Ranch in Bonifay, Florida is a confirmed abusive teen program. The contract parents must sign with Teen Challenge states that the Florida Association of Christian Child Care Agencies’ (FACCCA) "intent" is to "insure the physical and spiritual health, safety, and well being" of the children and therefore that the boy’s ranch must meet FACCCA’s "minimum standards." Parents have to agree to hold the ranch and its employees harmless from "any and all liability" for injury to the child "even injury resulting in death." Parents must agree "that God desires that they resolve their dispute with one another within the church and that they be reconciled in their relationships in accordance with the principles stated in I Corinthians 6:1-8, Matthew 5:23-24, and Matthew 18:15-20." If they cannot resolve their disagreement privately within the church, parents must accept resolution through "biblically based mediation" by rules of the Association of Christian Conciliation Services. There is no refund of tuition or deposits if the boy leaves the ranch before 15 months even if the ranch has expelled him. Many residential treatment centers were run with no insurance liability policies and these legal waivers were used to prevent liability law suits. Thus parents were told that if they signed the waiver they had no legal rights even if their child was injured.

Further Protections through Official State Liaison Positions

To further insulate Teen Challenge from governmental regulation and oversight, Governor George W. Bush’s advisory board made recommendations which resulted in state legislation creating official state liaison positions in several key government entities and limiting certain licensing requirements for FBOs. Texas was also the first state to create a formal OFBCI. Creating an OFBCI, as well as appointing liaisons in various sections of government, was part of a larger cultural and structural shift that redefined the boundaries between church and state in Texas. An adviser was appointed by Governor George Bush to change key agencies to alter their regulatory procedures and protocols to make them more receptive to faith-based programs such as Teen Challenge. In addition people were selectively chosen based on their receptiveness to the new policies and then place in positions of power and authority on state governing boards. In Texas, Governor George W. Bush had a close relationship with leaders of the resurgent evangelical community, such as Joe Loconte, Marvin Olasky, Stanley Carlson-Thies, and Carl Esbeck. This led to the Bush administration creating far reaching changes in state government policy and administration. This state level implementation of Charitable Choice did not create new funding for faith based organizations, instead it consisted of a symbolic alteration of the relationship between church and state and manifested in laws, policies and procedural practices.

The Bush policy team in the Texas governor’s office worked with Stanley Carlson-Thies and Carl Esbeck, who were the chief architects of Charitable Choice as it passed through the US Congress. After Charitable Choice passed through Congress, Carlson-Thies and Esbeck went to Texas to meet with state agency heads to help them understand the new law and to garner support for it by creating Texas faith-based policies. These changes in policy were then presented to the executive directors of the state agencies (TWC-Texas Workforce Commission, DHHS-Department of Health and Human Services, TEA—the Texas Education Agency) and to certain key board members of those agencies. These discussions were to push Charitable Choice principles that Congress enacted in August 1996 as part of federal welfare reform. Texas also added a “nondiscrimination” section in 1997 but did not label it as a Charitable Choice provision. The early political goal was to change the governmental culture from within and without needing to confront and convince state legislators to get on board with legislative changes. Thus only 10 states only enacted 41 laws between 1996 and 2000 that were related to faith based initiatives. But since then, there has been an increasing amount of legislation specifically focused on the initiatives.

In July 1999 Bush delivered his first major policy address as presidential candidate in Indianapolis. There he unveiled his new pro-faith agenda and to paint himself as a “new kind of Republican” – one that is politically conservative, fiscally conservative but who would support the use of faith-based nonprofit organizations to deliver help to those in need.

After the election of President Bush in 2000, 230 additional laws regarding faith based initiatives were enacted, and now 31 states have enacted some form of legislation. Several states of note are New Jersey, Oklahoma and Florida. In each of these states, George W. Bush has close ties. New Jersey’s Governor Christie Todd Whitman was a close friend, so was Oklahoma’s governor, Francis Anthony "Frank" Keating. In Florida, Bush’s brother, Jeb Bush was the governor. Jeb Bush asked for increased legislation including new faith-based prison wings, and a new office for the initiative. A OFBCI was established in Florida in 2004. Jeb Bush assigned a point man in each office to oversee the implementation of faith based initiatives.

"Those in power need checks and restraints lest they come to identify the common good for their own tastes and desires, and their continuation in office as essential to the preservation of the nation."

William O. Douglas

(1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice

Source: We, The Judges, 1956

Establishment of Funding to Faith Based Programs

In January 2001, President George W. Bush created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives within the Executive Office of the President by an Executive Order. Later Executive Orders created centers for the Office within the Departments of Justice, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Agriculture, as well as at the Agency for International Development. Then during George W. Bush’s first term as president, the Compassion Capital Fund (CCF) established in 2001 through the Department of Health and Human Services and distributed almost $200 million dollars to various faith and community based organizations. Through a series of executive orders and creating separate faith-based centers in 11 agencies and departments within the federal government, George W. Bush expanded faith-based initiatives significantly from a political standpoint. President George W. Bush also issued executive orders that would religious organizations to discriminate in their hiring practices, making it possible for them to hire only those who share their religious beliefs, despite their receipt of federal money.

President Bush actually promised $8 billion, during the campaign trail but the Compassion Capital Fund fell dramatically short of that goal, leaving many that supported the Charitable Choice with added social responsibilities and no federal funding stream to cover expectations. These faith based initiatives first obtained their support mainly from the evangelical churches, but later support came from a variety of black churches, and even the Catholic Church. Many in religious circles saw Charitable Choice as a means to allow the church greater religious freedom while performing social services. Critics maintain that vast amounts of this funding was funneled to political allies such Christian organizations that had politically supported George W. Bush and who endorsed Operation Blessing, a charity run by television evangelist Pat Robertson. This political bias in granting funds can also been seen in the support of the InnerChange Prison Program. Governor George W. Bush supported Chuck Colson’s Prison Ministry which became part of the Texas prison system. Colson was sent to prison for his involvement in the Watergate scandal. Chuck Colson was known as President Nixon’s “hatchet man” and is Believed to be a member of the Family (also known as the Fellowship).

But for many who politically supported the faith based initiatives these were just empty promises which did not increase funding for beleaguered faith based social service programs. This was especially true for the smaller religious organizations, as they were still in competition with the larger established church based providers, as well as community based NGO’s and there was a smaller pot of federal funding actually available due to welfare budget cuts. Charitable Choice federal funding did not ameliorate the problems of poverty for all but instead only seemed to materialize for the chosen politically correct few. So the actual shift of money in the faith based programs was away from government run welfare programs for the poor which often served minority, immigrant, migrant or disabled persons and instead toward upper middle class Christians.

George W. Bush White House OFBCI sent letters to all state governors in 2002, 2004, and 2006 encouraging them to create their own OFBCIs. But there were no guidelines on how to establish the offices, or on how to fund them, and thus an unorganized program implementation ensued. Most States relied on administrative changes to encourage faith-based groups to apply for and receive government money. There are three primary means by which states have implemented the faith-based initiatives:

1) Creation of liaison positions and/or offices,
2) Passage of legislation and administrative policies
3) Sponsorship of conferences

Three states have added Charitable Choice provisions to legislation. These are: Arizona (1999), California (1999), and Mississippi (2004). Since 1996, legislative appropriations processes in 16 states have offered some type of funding to FBOs or OFBCIs, leading to 42 separate appropriation bills which have allocated approximately $70 million. In 2007, a total of 10 appropriation laws were passed in 10 states, thus increasing the overall funding for faith based initiatives. Florida passed appropriations bills directed to faith-based and community groups for teenage pregnancy prevention programs, granting them $1,500,000 of non-recurring maternal block grant trust funds. New Jersey has allocated approximately $3 million a year since 1998. In fact, the vast majority of state legislative funding of FBOs has come from this one state. Thus public money has gone to faith based groups, but what monitoring and oversight occurs once the funds are distributed is a concern, as is whether there is political bias in selecting recipients.

While the vast majority of OFBCIs and FBL positions have been created administratively, some states have given these positions greater permanence by enacting them with legislation. Kentucky (2005), Iowa (2004), Missouri (2007), Virginia (2002), Louisiana (2004), North Dakota (2005), Ohio (2005), Alaska (2007), and Maryland (2008) have created FBL positions or OFBCIs by statute.

President George W. Bush by Executive Order created the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in each of these 5 federal agencies to work in tandem with the White House OFBCI, to make federal grants available to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives nationwide. Cabinet Centers for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:
1. Department of Health and Human Services;
2. Department of Housing and Urban Development;
3. Department of Labor;
4. Department of Justice; and
5. Department of Education.

Labor Fraud Schemes - Lack of Workmen's Compensation Insurance

In 2008 Sanford Florida, Wayne Gray, Director of Sanford Teen Challenge, did a telemarketing fraud scam. This criminal scheme utilized Teen Challenge teens in an abusive environment using them for dirt cheap labor to man the phone bank and paying the teens only 33 cents a day for a 40 hour work week. This time share vacation scam funneled customer’s credit card information over to men convicted of financial crimes. Sanford Teen Challenge director Wayne Gray has resigned in disgrace after a telemarketing scam he oversaw was exposed on WFTV. Gray fled when Action 9 news reporter Todd Ullrich showed up with a camera crew to do a follow-up.

Rather than being fired for violations of child labor laws and telemarketing fraud, Wayne Gray was moved from Sanford Teen Challenge and re-employed by Teen Challenge in Oklahoma City as Executive Director. Sanford Teen Challenge supervisor Danny McCrimon was arrested March 8, 2009 for DUI. McCrimon, who was Operations Director at the Sanford location, was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol and booked into John Polk Correctional facility on a $2000 bond.

Alan Pauler, a resident of Wichita, Kansas, was accepted into the Teen Challenge of the Midlands program on September 23, 2003. Teen Challenge of the Midlands (Teen Challenge) is a faith-based organization located on an 80-acre complex in Colfax, Iowa, with a smaller “reentry” facility in Omaha, Nebraska, and a non-residential facility in Des Moines. Teen Challenge is a 501(c)(3) corporation. At the time of admission, Pauler did not have health insurance. Teen Challenge does not provide health insurance to its participants—called students. Several staff members are members of Reverend Hunsberger’s family. There are no certified substance abuse counselors at the Colfax site. Reverend Hunsberger distinguishes the “discipleship” program from drug treatment, saying that discipleship is “based on scriptural model,” “eating meals together, hanging out together, and living together in a community.” Pauler was assigned to perform construction work on campus duplexes for use by Teen Challenge staff members. He was also selected to work on several construction projects at off-campus locations for which he was not paid, but from which Teen Challenge benefited financially. Pauler sustained a fractured patella, which required surgery and a laceration to his head which required sutures. He has suffered ongoing pain and restricted movement. Teen Challenge carried workers’ compensation insurance coverage for its staff, but not for participants. Coverage was denied. The court decided that there is no workers’ compensation liability in analogous situations involving individuals seeking spiritual development from organizations that provide room, board, and a work requirement.

Hillary Rodham Clinton on UN Human Rights Work

"It saddens me that a historic event like this is being misconstrued by a small but vocal group of critics trying to spread the notion that the UN gathering is really the work of radicals and atheists bent on destroying our families."

Hillary Rodham Clinton: from Andrew Browne, "China, UN Seek to Put Conference Back on Track" (Reuters: September 4, 1995)

Mounting Evidence of Criminal Activity Associated with Assemblies of God & Teen Challenge

Mike and Sharla Hintz from Clive Iowa campaigned for George W. Bush. But Reverend Mike Hintz, youth pastor at the First Assembly of God Church was later charged with the sexual exploitation of a child. Rev. Hintz was the youth pastor at the First Assembly of God Church for three years. Police said he started an affair with a 17-year-old in the church youth group. The Des Moines Iowa youth pastor was charged with sexual exploitation by another counselor and then turned himself in to police in 2004. Rev. Mike Hintz was fired from the First Assembly of God Church in 2004.

In Dallas Texas an 18-year-old man and his parents sued the Assemblies of God and the church's ranch for troubled youths, claiming the youth was molested by a counselor at the center. The alleged victim was 16 when he went to Dallas Teen Challenge Boys Ranch in January 1996. It was alleged tat the church Executive Director Paul Ecker employed men with known criminal histories. The alleged victim was according to his lawsuit sexually assaulted and molested on six different occasions by a counselor at the ranch who was a convicted drug trafficker. State regulations made it clear that this hiring of convicted offenders was illegal and yet Executive Director Paul Ecker continued to disregard regulations. Many clients of the Teen Challenge - Assemblies of God facility were court ordered into the Assemblies of God care as a condition of probation, and already had psychological or substance abuse problems. During the day, they performed chores, including caring for livestock, and took part in religious education. At night, they were "locked down" and monitored by alarm systems to prevent unauthorized departures. Employees and volunteers who were participating in an adult substance abuse treatment program called "Life Change" were admitted to the Teen Challenge facility as part of their probation. This was improper according to state regulations. (5/13/98, AP)

In New Mexico, Marty A. Hynes, 33, was charged with eight counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor, three counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor and one count of attempted criminal sexual contact of a minor. Hynes was a youth pastor at the First Assembly of God church when the alleged incidents occurred, between July and December 2001. (Las Cruces Sun-News, March 24, 2003) The allegations came to light after the girl attempted to take her life with over-the-counter medication.The girl testified that after she turned 17 years old, Hynes began to kiss and fondle her, and it eventually lead to sexual intercourse. The church dismissed Hynes from his position shortly after the allegations were made.

See article: Trial of former youth pastor begins

In 1998 in Gainesville, Georgia, Rev. L.G. Gilstrap, a 54 year old Assemblies of God minister, was convicted by a jury on 3 counts of child molestation and sentenced to 33 years in prison for a string of fondling incidents in 1988 involving brothers aged 10 and 13. Eight men testified during the trial that they too were molested by the minister when they were boys. Gilstrap, defrocked, started a new church, New Hope Ministries. Married, he was a former clerk for the Georgia House of Representatives. Three of the eight men who testified against Gilstrap said the minister occasionally took them to Atlanta to serve as House pages. After spending the day working at the Capitol, they said, the minister would take them to an Atlanta hotel and molest them. (Atlanta Constitution, 9/22/89)

Ex-Minister Gets 33-Year Sentence In Child Sex Case: Gilstrap Guilty of 3 Molestation Counts

Rev W A Criswell

"I believe this notion of the separation of church and state was the figment of some infidel's imagination."

Rev W A Criswell, Longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas

 Rev W A Criswell, interview, CBS Evening News, August 23, 1984, one of the first anti-Separationist statements from the Religious Right of today, from Richard Pierard, "Civil Religion: A Case Study Showing How Some Baptists Went Astray on the Separation of Church and State," Christian Ethics Today 2, No. 4 (November 1996): 4, quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom.

John Castellani Executive Director of Teen Challenge


"We're out to tell them [addicts] what we feel is correct as far as we understand Christianity, and that Christianity is a big part of our therapy."
-- John Castellani, explaining to a panel of the House Government Reform subcommittee precisely what our tax dollars will be funding should Bush's "faith-based" schemes become law, on May 23, 2001, quoted from AANEWS (May 25, 2001) from American Atheists

"...completed Jews..."
-- John Castellani, describing Jewish clients of the Teen Challenge program after the program has enticed them to convert to the Fundamentalist Christian religion, and suggesting that Jews are "incomplete" unless they believe in the divinity of Jesus, to a panel of the House Government Reform subcommittee, on May 23, 2001, quoted from Americans United, "Faith-Based Group Draws Criticism for Telling House Congressional Committee About 'Completed Jews'" (May 25, 2001)

"In a sense, it's a compliment," he told reporters. "They're not a Christian, they're still a Jew. They've just found another part of themselves. I thought I was being kind ... Evidently I'm in error, I apologize for that.
-- John Castellani, spinning his "completed Jews" remark after the testimony, and knowing full well that a "completed Jew" is every bit a Christian, quoted from AANEWS (May 25, 2001) from American Atheists

Scott Bloch Turns a Blind Eye To Teen Challenge Abuses

Scott Bloch was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Office of Special Counsel in 2001. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Director of the DOJ's Department's Office of Faith-based initiatives, he was for a decade an attorney in Lawrence, KS. In 2004, Justice Clarence Thomas swore him in as Special Counsel for the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Bloch was removed from his position at the Office of Special Counsel in October 2008, after it was discovered he had ordered his office to erase all references to workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, claiming his office lacked the authority to protect gay and lesbian workers.

During his tenure as head of the Task Force on Faith-based and Community Initiatives Scott Bloch turned a blind eye when Teen Challenge staff were accused of abuse of minors and young adults in their programs based on discrimination against them because of their religious beliefs and their sexual orientations. Teen Challenge was also accused of coercive abusive practices against young women who wished to have reproductive choice regarding their own bodies. Teen Challenge was found to do coercive practices against those of Jewish faith as well as other faiths in an effort to force them to accept Jesus Christ. Persons of other faiths were court ordered into Teen Challenge facilities under the false belief that they were treatment programs for substance abuse when in fact there was no medical or psychological treatment component to their programs and there was no licensed professional involved in supervising care in their facilities. Teens in Teen Challenge were "locked down" and monitored by alarm systems, to prevent unauthorized departures. Teen Challenge essentially kept youth in a locked up facility for a year to 18 months in order to force their religious conversion to evangelical Christian faith. While held in these facilities, there was no permitted communication or contact with the outside world not even to family members unless coercive control and oppressive monitoring by Teen Challenge staff. Teen Challenge facilities in both Texas and Florida had been exempted by the state governors - Texas Governor George W. Bush and Florida Governor "Jeb" Bush from licensing requirements and state inspection. Thus staff in Teen Challenge - many who were recruited directly from the Teen Challenge outreach to jailed prisoners - were at liberty to use the captives for any purpose they wished.

John Ellis "Jeb" Bush served as the 43rd Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. George W. Bush served as the 46th Governor of Texas from 1995 until 2000, when he resigned as governor following his election as the 43rd President of the United States. During the years of 1995 through the election of George W. Bush as President of the US - there were no meaningful protections for persons committed to lock up facilities owned and operated by Teen Challenge. Numerous allegations about child abuse surfaced but investigations were shut down without proper explanation and then the governors of Florida and Texas altered state law to exempt Teen Challenge from any state investigations and permitted them to be licensed by an accrediting agency that did no investigations at all and did not report to any governmental agency.

George W. Bush was the 43rd President of the United States (2001-2009) and the 46th Governor of Texas (1995-2000). As President of the United States George W. Bush encouraged Scott Bloch to provide money through the Charitable Choice program to certain religious organizations that supported him in his political campaigns. The growing concerns regarding the mounting evidence of criminal activity in Teen Challenge (fraud and money laundering) and also allegations of child abuse made it critical for the continuing unfettered operation of Teen Challenge that all federal investigations and whistleblower complaints against Teen Challenge be closed without prosecution and without even investigation. Teen Challenge was central to George W. Bush's war against drugs and also to his political popularity with the religious right, thus important to President George W. Bush's re-election campaign. So exempted from state licensing and regulatory oversight by Governor George W. Bush and Governor Jeb Bush, these centers would not even have federal investigations by the FBI, Health and Human Services, US Department of Labor, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Food and Drug Administration, National Institute on Drug Abuse, SAMSHA or any other federal agency, given the ability of the OSC to stop any federal employee whistleblower complaint in front of the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Scott Bloch’s Plea Agreement

Judge denies Scott Bloch’s right to appeal sentencing verdict 3-29-11

Judges order is stayed pending appeal in Scott Bloch case March 10, 2011

Bloch’s DOJ press release 4-27-10

Whistleblowers request special prosecutor in Scott Bloch case

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The Judge has ruled Scott Bloch to spend time in prison

The OSC is an independent federal agency charged with safeguarding the merit-based employment system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, with an emphasis on protecting federal whistleblowers. Bloch, a Bush  presidential appointee whose title was Special Counsel, headed the OSC from 2004 through 2008.

US prosecutors charging contempt of Congress charge is a rare. There are only two other reported cases in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in the past 20 years, according to court records. Bloch, who pleaded guilty to criminal contempt of the US Congress made a deal with prosecutors, claimed that he had the expectation that he'd get probation as part of that plea agreement. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson ruled that Bloch's plea requires "a mandatory minimum sentence of one month," The Washington DC US District Court Magistrate Judge Robinson rejected arguments for a lesser sentence from Bloch's lawyers and prosecutors. Robinson set Bloch's sentencing hearing for March 30, 2011. The Judge found Scott Bloch guilty of criminal contempt of the US Congress and gave him a month in jail. Bloch, represented by Winston & Strawn partner William Sullivan Jr. will be appealing the Judge’s decision. Questions still remain why the DC staff issued Scott Bloch a law license in DC even though at the time he applied for his law license he was actually under a FBI investigation. We will soon see whether Bloch’s law license will be revoked by the District of Columbia Bar Association as the result of the recent guilty plea and sentencing.

Former US Attorney Scott Bloch plead guilty of criminal contempt of Congress.  Civil and criminal contempt are defined by their purpose. (quoting Lamar Fin. Corp. v. Adams, 918 F.2d 564, 566 (5th Cir. 1990)). Civil contempt is used to coerce compliance with the court’s orders or to compensate others for the party’s violation.   No special safeguards are required, i.e. establishing the mens rea or proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  On the other hand, criminal contempt is a means to punish the non-compliant party and vindicate the power of the court.   In either instance a failure to comply with the court’s order can lead to jail time or monetary damages.   In the case of civil contempt, the prison sentence must be conditional and coercive; monetary damages accrue over time.  Conversely, prison terms for criminal contempt are meant to punish past conduct and are unconditional; monetary damages are enforced as a lump sum. Criminal contempt is governed by 18 U.S.C. §  401.

"According to the Statement of Offense, on March 4, 2008, Bloch submitted to a transcribed interview with staff members of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (“House Oversight Committee”), which was investigating, among other things, whether and why Bloch: (i) directed the deletion of emails or files on any of Bloch’s OSC-issued computers in December of 2006 by using the computer repair service Geeks On Call; (ii) directed that Geeks On Call delete emails or files contained on the computers of two of his OSC aides; and (iii) directed that any such deletion of computer files be done by use of a “seven-level wipe” process. This duly empowered Congressional inquiry came after various media reports that Bloch had directed the deletion of files on several OSC-issued computers by enlisting Geeks On Call to perform a “seven-level wipe” on them. " said Ronald C. Machen Jr.,  United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The Statement of Offense describes five separate exchanges during Bloch’s March 4, 2008 interview with staff members of the House Oversight Committee during which Bloch unlawfully and willfully withheld pertinent information from the Committee. Bloch admitted in Court that he refused and failed to state fully and completely the nature and extent of his instructions that Geeks On Call perform “seven level wipes” on his OSC computers as well as the two OSC-issued computers of two non-career OSC staff members in December of 2006.

Kenneth Connor, President of Family Research Council

"The first rule of politics is dance with the ones that brung you."

-- Kenneth Connor, criticizing president-elect George W Bush for picking for his cabinet people who are not hard-line right-wing fundamentalist Christians, Dallas Morning News, December, 2000, quoted in AANEWS #861, December 24, 2000

Tom Petters Ponzi Scheme Linked to Teen Challenge

On September 29, 2008, Businessman Tom Petters was arrested for operating a Ponzi scheme that allegedly, fleeced investors out of $3.5 billion.  Tom Petters was held in Sherburne County jail for over a year while his attorneys and government attorneys made preparations for this week's trial.  "U.S. vs Thomas J. Petters" finally got underway October 28th at the Federal Courthouse in Saint Paul, Judge Richard H. Kyle presiding. The second day of the trial began with Assistant U.S. Attorney John Marti questioning witnesses who became involved in Tom Petters' complex web of financial dealings. Witnesses testified how the scheme almost unraveled in 2000 when phony purchase orders were used to borrow large amounts of money. On the third day of the trial, Gregg Colburn of the Interlachen hedge fund told how Interlachen lost $60 million when Petters was busted by the Government in September 2008.

Specifically, Thomas Petters was found guilty on the following charges:

10 counts of wire fraud
3 counts of mail fraud
1 count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud
1 count of conspiracy to commit money laundering

The Tom Petters Ponzi scheme laundered money through a Swiss bank but also utilized  Frank Vennes contacts  through Teen Challenge MN and the Assemblies of God Credit Union located in Missouri. 

Teen Challenge Received Money from Peters Company Ponzi Scheme

Frank Vennes Jr., born-again ex con who served on the board of Teen Challenge MN, was a fraudster and money launderer. According to a federal search warrant affidavit, Vennes helped convince five investors to put $1.2 billion into Petters's companies, which won Vennes more than $28 million in commissions. Previously Frank Vennes Jr. had spent five years in prison for charges of illegally selling a firearm, using a phone to distribute cocaine, and money laundering, but claimed to be rehabilitated after finding God. Frank Vennes found guidance from evangelical Christian ministry while in prison and then upon leaving prison found support from the Assemblies of God run residential treatment facility Teen Challenge in Minnesota. The Directors of Teen Challenge MN knew about his previous convictions for money laundering, drug dealing and gun running but they still placed him in charge of financial affairs for Teen Challenge MN and for fund raising activities. Congressman Michele Bachmann had received many thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Frank Vennes, his family and lawyer/lobbyist G. Craig Howse. In a letter to the Office of Pardon Attorney dated Dec. 10, 2007, a year after she was elected, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann wrote requesting a presidential pardon for Frank Vennes Jr., she stated in that letter to then President George W. Bush that Fidelis Foundation was "backed" by Frank Vennes Jr. and Bachmann stated that a Presidential pardon of Vennes would be "good for society".:

“As a U.S. Representative, I am confident of Mr. Vennes’ successful rehabilitation and that a pardon will be good for the neediest of society,” Bachmann wrote. “Mr. Vennes is seeking a pardon so that he may be further used to help others. As I know from personal experience, Mr. Vennes has used his business position and success to fund hundreds of nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping the neediest in our society. The Fidelis Foundation, backed by Mr. Vennes, has directed over $10.7 million in total gifts in the last three years, and the Fidelis Foundation has ranked #6, #9 and #7 as the largest grant-making foundation in Minnesota over the past three years.”

The appearance of Vennes’ success was a mask for a tangled financial web of lies. As a member of the Teen Challenge board as well as the financial committee, Frank Vennes reviewed the investment proposal with Petters’ business. Following a federal investigation, by Julio La Rosa, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the St. Paul IRS field office, Petters was convicted by a jury of masterminding a scheme that cost investors more than $3.5 billion. Frank Vennes was a broker for investors in Petters’ companies. Petters functioned as a venture capitalist and by attracting investment from hedge funds and individuals. Petters acquired Sun Country Airlines and Polaroid Corporation which are now in bankruptcy. Pretending they were selling real items such as electronic equipment, Petters and his colleagues took investors money for their own gain.. In 2009 Thomas Petters was found guilty, in front of U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle, on all 20 counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

Teen Challenge MN asserted the money invested in Petters Co. was given through a single contributor,the Fidelis Foundation. Fidelis Foundation is a public charity that acts as an investment agent on behalf of other public charities and nonprofits, including Teen Challenge. The Fidelis Foundation claims it is facing losses in the bankruptcy case of up to $27.6 million in Petters Co. notes. Fidelis Foundation, a Minnesota religious charity, had $27.6 million invested in eight promissory notes from Petters Co. backed by fictitious purchase orders. The Fidelis Foundation investment debt originally came from loans from the Harvest Foundation. The Harvest Foundation was the entity that initially loaned Frank Vennes $10,500,000 in 2001 and 2002.

Frank Vennes Jr. was a major financial contributor to Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann quickly distanced herself and withdrew the letter of support for a presidential pardon she had written for Vennes claiming that she may have too hastily accepted his claims of redemption. But she was not the only politican to receive money from Frank Vennes. Minnesota politicians, who were scrambling to jettison campaign cash donated by those involved in the fraud scheme, included Norm Coleman, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Pawlenty, Jim Oberstar, and Elwyn Tinkenberg.

Thomas Petters had major holdings in Sun Country Airlines, Polaroid and other companies. As the criminal case developed, several of Petters' companies were put into receivership and 10 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

Additional Information:, Petters case back in court, By DAVID PHELPS, Star Tribune, Last update: March 15, 2011, Part 3: Tom Petters: Giving that hurts, Charities that invested with Tom Petters dropped the ball when it came to making wise choices with donated funds, experts say. By DAVID SHAFFER, Star Tribune, Last update: October 27, 2008 - 11:54 PM
Audit firm sued over Metro Gem assurances, June 1, 2009 Star Tribune
The suit claims auditors failed to examine the business dealings of Frank Vennes Jr.'s company. ‘Dirty money’: MN Teen Challenge returned Bachmann’s contribution, By Karl Bremer, Minneosota Independent, 4/20/09

Vennes got pardon letter from Bachmann same month he saw Petters fraud,
By Chris Steller , Minnesota Independent, 1/11/09

Bachmann’s office claims she donated at least one Petters-tainted campaign contribution to charity, By Karl Bremer, Minnesota Independent, 10/16/08
Federal officials: Petters tied to multi-billion dollar fraud scheme
By David Phelp and Liz Fedor, Star Tribune, September 26, 2008
Developer Kuhn sues business partner, Published Thursday, August 9, 2007 The Florida Times Union
Reformed convict part of Petters probe, Millionaire Frank Vennes Jr. once gave inspirational talks to prisoners but is now under investigation.
By Jon Tevlin, Star Tribune October 4, 2008 - 8:27 PM Sunday, November 7, 2010 by Karl Bremer, Michele Bachmann's pardon pal Frank Vennes Jr. wants out of Petters Ponzi mess, Was post-election filing of plan to settle with investors politically motivated? Affidavit: Vennes knew of Petters fraud, David Phelps, Star Tribune, Jan. 10, 2009, Frank Vennes Jr., a Shoreview businessman who recruited investors for Tom Petters, found out something was amiss nine months before authorities moved in. Now they want access to his e-mail. Witnesses saw signs of fraud in 2000, Oct. 30, 2009, Star Tribune, David Phelps, With a subsidiary struggling to repay debt, Tom Petters wrote checks that bounced, GE exec Jack Marrone testified.

'Petters: 'It's not just me who knew', Nov. 4, 2009, Star Tribune, David Phelps, In a tape played for the jury, Tom Petters says he and his associates committed a fraud. Petters' woes haven't stopped his charity group, Sept. 2, 2009, Star Tribune, David Phelps, Separate from the businessman's fallen empire, the John T. Petters Foundation still awards scholarships -- it just keeps a lower profile.
Sketchy profile emerges for key player in Petters probe, March 3, 2009, David Phelps, A Los Angeles businessman who laundered money for Tom Petters' alleged Ponzi scheme may be in the government's witness security program. Sun Country seeks loan from a Petters company
Sun Country Airlines, in a motion filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, is seeking court approval to obtain short-term financing from a Petters Aviation company to help the carrier pay its bills until next spring. Star Tribune, Nov. 25, 2008 Mansion of Petters associate for sale; proceeds will be held
Frank Vennes Jr., a Shorewood businessman, got court approval to sell his Florida mansion for $5.8 million. A three-bedroom house in Bismarck, N.D., has already sold. # Part 1: The collapse of the Petters empire, Star Tribune,October 26, 2008 David Phelps,
Tom Petters, accused of massive investment fraud, has been a salesman since his youth. "He could talk your wallet right out of your pocket," a former boss says. # Part 2: Burned: The human toll of the Petters case, Star Tribune, David Phelps,
Flight attendants, hedge funds and retirees are caught in the wake of the federal probe. "I'm trying not to cry," said a woman who may have lost $100,000 in savings. Oct. 27, 2008 # Part 3: Tom Petters: Giving that hurts, Star Tribune, David Phelps,
Charities that invested with Tom Petters dropped the ball when it came to making wise choices with donated funds, experts say. # Part 4: Petters fraud case shakes foundations, Star Tribune,October 29, 2008, David Phelps
The future of the Thomas J. Petters Family Foundation is in doubt, and Another named for his son is bracing for fallout from the investment fraud investigation.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness."

Genesis 1:1-4

International Outreach of Teen Challenge and Money Laundering

The hiring of prisoners directly into Teen Challenge is not just in the USA but also is being done in Teen Challenge facilities throughout the world. Teen Challenge has facilities in 80 nations. The Northern New England District Assemblies of God located in Portland Maine with which Shondi Fabiano,(registered criminally convicted sex offender), was associated, also does outreach ministry to Taiwan, Peru, Paraguay, Argentina, the Caribbean, Russia, Chad and Honduras. The Assemblies of God runs their own independent Credit Union in Missouri to facilitate money exchange and sets up personal banking accounts for prisoners in the re-entry program who are employed by Teen Challenge.

In addition Teen Challenge was hiring ex-cons with criminal backgrounds in fraud and money laundering and putting them in charge of fund raising efforts for their operations. In Teen Challenge in Minnesota, Frank Vennes, a man with criminal convictions as a money launderer, was put on the Teen Challenge board and placed in charge of handling financial accounts. Vennes then defrauded numerous Christian donors in an elaborate affinity fraud and was a co-conspirator of the Thomas J. Petters Ponzi scheme. Vennes’ past federal crimes include money laundering, cocaine- and gun-running. Frank Vennes gave tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Senator Norm Coleman and former state GOP Chair Ron Ebensteiner all l supported a Presidential pardon from President George W. Bush for Vennes past crimes.

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
― Leo Buscaglia

Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network


P.O. 42700 

Washington, DC 20015

MedicalWhistleblowers (at)


"Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself."  Confucius

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt- Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic", delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910