Abusive Reform Schools Have Received Faith-Based Funding
While the crowd may have been small, the message was anything but trivial. On Tuesday evening, the 25 Reedies in attendance witnessed Michele Ulriksen’s sobering presentation. Unlicensed, unregulated religious reform schools, many of which are notorious for abuse, not only exist in the hundreds in the U.S; they have even been funded under former President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative. Some of these “treatment” facilities are even receiving federal subsidies to this day.
And Michele Ulriksen, the survivor of Victory Christian Academy, an all-girls, unlicensed, Baptist reform school, witnessed firsthand the abuse in such schools for troubled teens. At her reform school, the girls were constantly berated by the Dean, Mike Palmer, told that their hardships were divine retribution for Eve’s sinning in the Garden of Eden, and were never even allowed to wear pants. But the abuse gets worse. The girls were starved, forced to eat their own vomit, and were even sexually assaulted. All in the name of Jesus Christ, the supposed Prince of Peace.
Although it is hard to believe that such facilities exist, Michele Ulriksen presented a clear timeline of the abuses at Victory Christian Academy. According to the ideas presented in ”The Perils of the Faith Based Initiative” lecture, the deregulation of religious institutions is dangerous. For example, under a Statute in Florida, such schools for troubled teens need only gain 501 (c) 3 tax exempt status, in lieu of actual government regulation. And those on the board which approves these schools need only be members of the existing exempt-from-regulation facilities.
The end result, Ulriksen explained, is that Victory Dean Mike Palmer was able to sit on the same Board that approved the Victory Christian Academy in Florida. What is even more frightening is that Americans’ tax dollars are supporting facilities that don’t even respect the basic rights guaranteed under the Constitution. While actually shutting down all such facilities in the U.S. may be impossible – citizens can speak out. And Michele Ulriksen’s presentation really inspired Reed Secular Alliance President, Leslie Zukor. “We have to do something,” she explained, “before another kid dies in one of these facilities.”