Back in September, I posted about an unlicensed Christian boarding school for girls in Missouri that was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Physical and sexual abuse ran rampant there, and the place was forced to shut down.
This isn’t a unique situation in Missouri. That’s largely because the state is one of only two in the country (along with South Carolina) where faith-based schools are exempt from licensing requirements, allowing them to ignore any regulations.
Just this week, Pastor David Bosley and his wife Tresa, who ran a completely separate Christian boarding school in the state, had a different facility shut down in the state of Washington for (wait for it) alleged neglect and abuse.
The point is: Missouri draws in problematic Christians who are well aware they can operate these “schools” without oversight, no matter how much damage and suffering they cause.
That’s why many victims of these schools are now urging Missouri lawmakers to pass legislation that would require some basic oversight of religious schools.
“I was beaten, assaulted, starved,” said Colton Schrag, of New Mexico, who attended Agape Boarding School in Cedar County from 2006 to 2010. “I’ve seen kids put through walls; I’ve been put through a wall. Kids getting slammed on tile, concrete and asphalt.
“I don’t know how a kid has not died in your state in these schools that exist.”
Several advocates spoke in favor of the proposed legislation. Jessica Seitz, of Missouri KidsFirst, said the measure would “help us know where these facilities are, be able to check on kids, and if necessary shut them down.”
The legislation they want passed is the “Child Residential Home Notification Act,” which would require religious schools to register with the state, require federal criminal background checks for anyone working at the schools, and adhere to fire and safety guidelines.
It’s literally the least they could do. And yet you can bet conservative Christians will complain because any kind of oversight — even in the name of protecting children — strikes them as government imposing on their faith.
Those conservatives do not care about the health and safety of children. They want complete freedom no matter how much evidence exists showing they’re incapable of being left on their own. They’re like children who demand to be left home alone despite all the times they’ve set fire to the house. At some point, the adults need to step in and put a stop to it. In this case, the state wouldn’t be interfering with the religious practices of these schools; they would simply have the information they need to take action in case of abuse allegations.
“These are bad actors who are using other people’s faith to abuse children,” [State Rep. Keri] Ingle said. “People of faith could not commit these atrocious acts. We are essentially describing torture.”
“This is not church versus state or state versus the church,” [Kelly Schultz, director of the Missouri Office of Child Advocate] said. “This is state versus people hurting kids and giving us the bare minimum of what we need to do to protect children in the state of Missouri.”
Ingle, who sponsored the bill in question, is wrong. People of faith can and do commit atrocities in the name of Jesus. They need to be prosecuted, not shielded from the consequences. Christians should not be running unlicensed anythings. They haven’t earned the trust necessary to do the bare minimum without a second pair of eyes on them.
The legislation is necessary. As it stands, there’s no way of knowing these schools even exist, much less who works there or how many children live there. Missouri lawmakers need to figure out if they give a damn about kids, or whether people yelling the name “Jesus” can distract them enough to ignore the testimonies of numerous victims of faith-based abuse.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)