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Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastors, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sin

lester roloff
Lester Roloff

In the 1970s, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher Lester Roloff began what later would be called the IFB teen home industry (re-education camps). In 1958, Roloff started The Lighthouse for Boys, a home  for “delinquent boys to be isolated from drugs and liquor until they were delivered.” Marie, Lester Roloff’s wife had this to say about The Lighthouse:

“the Lighthouse has been a haven for boys no one else wanted- boys who were one step from reform school or the penitentiary. … The boys come in all sizes and shapes, but they have one thing in common regardless of their age- they are old in sorrow, sadness, and hostility. … At first the boys cover their inward hurts with belligerence and a bravado that they do not actually possess. These boys are almost without exception bereft of parental love and guidance. Some are actually homeless while others have rebelled against parental authority and have gotten into serious trouble with the law.”

In 1967, “while preaching at a gospel meeting in the Fort Worth, Texas area,… Roloff became aware of a need for a home for unwed pregnant girls.” A short time later, Roloff started the Rebekah Home for Girls near Corpus Christi, Texas. Marie Roloff described the girls at Rebekah Home this way:

“as we began working with these girls, we realized that many of them were unwanted and consequently unloved. Lester said, ‘No wonder children have become embittered and even criminals at an early age. They’ve never seen love in those who gave them birth. The right kind of love would lock and stop the wheels of divorce, delinquency, murder and war and turn this hell on earth into a haven of peace, rest, and joy for these children.”

Countless IFB churches and pastors supported Roloff in his attempt to bring order, discipline, and righteousness into the lives of rebellious teenagers. When parents were frustrated with their “rebellious” teenager and didn’t know what to do, The Lighthouse for Boys and Rebekah Home for Girls became the go-to places to send their children. Their pastor assured them that Brother Roloff knew how to “fix” their offspring. (Please see the Texas Monthly feature article, Remember the Christian Alamo.)

Many parents, churches, and pastors didn’t understand that Roloff and his staff used violence to beat children into submission. After the homes closed for the last time in 2001, The Texas Monthly reported:

…The Rebekah Home took in fallen girls from “jail houses, broken homes, hippie hives, and dope dives” who were “walking through the wilderness of sin,” he told his radio listeners. Roloff remade these “terminal cases” into Scripture-quoting, gospel-singing believers. Girls who had been saved harmonized along with his Honeybee Quartet at revivals and witnessed to the power of the Lord on his radio show. He showed off his Rebekah girls at every turn, and he was amply rewarded: Each day, packages arrived at Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises laden with checks, cash, jewelry, the family silver—whatever the faithful could provide.

Discipline at the Rebekah Home was rooted in a verse from Proverbs: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.” The dictum was liberally applied. Local authorities first investigated possible abuse at the Rebekah Home in 1973, when parents who were visiting their daughter reported seeing a girl being whipped. When welfare workers attempted to inspect the home, Roloff refused them entry on the grounds that it would infringe on the separation between church and state. Attorney General John Hill promptly filed suit against Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises, introducing affidavits from sixteen 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. Roloff defended these methods as good old-fashioned discipline, solidly supported by Scripture, and denied that any treatment at Rebekah constituted abuse. During an evidentiary hearing, he made his position clear by declaring, “Better a pink bottom than a black soul.” Attorney General Hill bluntly replied that it wasn’t pink bottoms he objected to, but ones that were blue, black, and bloody…

…The Rebekah Home was bent on driving sin from even the wickedest of girls and making them see the light of God. Jo Ann Edwards was brought to the Rebekah Home in 1982, after running away from home at the age of thirteen. “I was an acolyte at my church before I went there, and God was very close to me in my heart,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Victoria, where she is the mother of five children. “But that place turned me against Him for a while and made me very hard. I thought that even He had left me.” As a new girl, she was scrutinized by “helpers,” the saved girls who handed out demerits for misbehavior. Demerits were given for an endless host of wrongdoings: talking about “worldly” things, singing songs other than gospel songs, speaking too loudly, doodling, nail biting, looking at boys in church, failing to snitch on other sinners. Each demerit earned her a lick, which the Rebekah Home’s housemother administered with a wood paddle. The beatings left her black and blue. “I got twenty licks my first time, and I was hit hard—so hard that I couldn’t sit for days,” Jo Ann said. “I begged [the housemother] to stop. When she was done, she hugged me and said, ‘God loves you.’ She told me to go back to the living room and read Scripture and sing ‘Amazing Grace’ with the other girls.”

Only Rebekah girls who had proven their devotion by repeatedly testifying to God’s grace could avoid Bible discipline. Some girls were genuinely troubled teenagers who had gotten mixed up with drugs or prostitution; others had been caught having sex; many were guilty of nothing more than growing up in abusive homes. Tara Cummings, now 31 and a mortgage consultant in Chicago, was sent there by her father, a preacher, whose beatings had left her badly bruised. Even she was not immune to judgment. “I was told that I was a reprobate, that I was beyond help and was going to hell,” she said. She was treated to the full range of the Rebekah Home’s punishments, which were not limited to lickings. “Confinement” meant spending weeks hanging her head without speaking. “Sitting on the wall” required sitting with her back against a wall and without the support of a chair, even as her legs buckled beneath her. But kneeling was what she most dreaded. Kneeling could last for as long as five hours at a time; she might have to kneel while holding a Bible on each outstretched palm or with pencils wedged beneath her knees. Only girls seen as inveterate sinners received the full brunt of the home’s crueler punishments. “You had to be saved,” Tara said. “It didn’t matter if you didn’t feel moved to do that—you did it to survive.”

The worst form of punishment, the lockup, was reserved for girls who had not yet been saved—who had talked of running away or who had proven to be particularly intractable. The lockup was a dorm room devoid of furniture or natural light where girls spent days, or weeks, alone. Taped Roloff sermons were piped into the room, and the near-constant sound of his voice was the girls’ only companionship. Former Rebekah resident Tamra Sipes, now 34 and working in advertising for a newspaper in Oak Harbor, Washington, remembers one girl who was relegated to the lockup for an entire month. “The smell had become so bad from her not being able to shower or bathe that it reeked in the hallway,” she said. “We could do nothing to help her. I remember standing in roll call one day waiting for my name to be called off, and I was directly across from the door. She was singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to herself in such a pitiful voice that I couldn’t help but cry for her.”…

You can read the entire Texas Monthly article here.

Though Roloff died in a plane crash in November 1982, the Roloff homes remained in operation until Wiley Cameron, Roloff’s right-hand man, closed them in 2001. When  asked about charges of abuse, Cameron stated:

We feel it’s a Bible mandate, like the Samaritan, to help people in the ditch. If we have to get down in the ditch to help people, sometimes we get a little dirty doing it. Put another way, We get troubled kids and we use unconventional methods. We have never abused one person—all of these years, there has never been one case of child abuse that’s been proved in court. There have been allegations, but some people construe abuse where there was not abuse.

In IFB circles, Lester Roloff was quite popular. He and the traveling singing groups from the Rebekah Home for Girls made countless appearances at IFB preacher’s conferences and churches. As a young pastor, I heard them several times. Roloff appealed to pastors to support his work through his preaching and the singing of the Honey Bees, Rainbow Quartet, and Rebekah Choir. Pastors, thrilled that there was a place where troubled church teenagers could get godly, Fundamentalist Christian help, made sure Roloff had a steady stream of teenagers to “help.” This stream would later number 500 or more children under the care of  Roloff’s “ministries.”

The above video from 1979 was recorded at  Piney Heights Baptist Church, now Lakeside Baptist, in Clearwater, South Carolina. Bill Reese pastored the church for over 50 years. Please listen carefully to this video. Look at the girls in the singing group. What do you see? Happiness? Joy? Where are their smiles? Listen as Roloff calls his charges terminal cases, and dividends paid out to stockholders. Listen, as Roloff and Reese brag about how God is using them in a mighty way.

My wife and I grew up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, attended Midwestern Baptist College, an IFB institution operated by Tom Malone, and pastored several IFB churches in the 1970s and 1980s. Lester Roloff and the great work he was doing in Texas and his battle against the evil government were topics of frequent discussion. We never heard one person speak negatively about Roloff. While we heard rumors about the charges of abuse, these rumors were dismissed as government attempts to destroy Roloff’s work or the words of jealous men who weren’t as blessed by God as Brother Roloff was.

Influenced by Roloff, many IFB pastors started up group homes to help rebellious teenagers.  New Bethany Home for Girls was one such enterprise. In 1971, Mack Ford opened New Bethany. Following the Roloff blueprint, administrators used physical violence to break the will of rebellious teenage girls who were incarcerated against their will at New Bethany. Girls were also sexually violated, molested, and raped. As with Wiley Cameron in 2001, Ford denied anything untoward happened at New Bethany. He died on February 11, 2015, having never been brought to justice.

It’s time for IFB churches and pastors to atone for their sins. It is now known that IFB teen group homes routinely used violence to harm the vulnerable boys and girls sent to them. In some instances, sexual abuse took place, and serial predators committed criminal acts. In addition, IFB churches and pastors provided these homes with a steady supply of children (and money), children whose lives were often scarred forever by their experiences at these homes. Just as the man who drives the getaway car for a robbery crew is an accessory to robbery, IFB preachers are culpable in the abuse that took place at The Lighthouse, Rebekah Home for Girls, New Bethany Home for Girls, New Bethany Home for Boys,  Hephzibah House, and other similar red-education centers.

Where are the IFB pastors who are willing to admit their culpability? Where are the preachers who are willing to air the dirty laundry of the IFB church movement publicly? Countless boys and girls had their lives ruined by men like Lester Roloff and Mack Ford. Thanks to the Internet, the stories of abuse, rape, and violence are readily accessible. So when will a noted IFB pastor, one of the big dogs, decide to publicly and completely expose IFB teen group homes for what they are/were: money-making businesses that abused and molested children in the name of God?

Here and there, often under the radar, IFB teen group homes are still in operation. Exempt from state and federal laws, these homes are free to follow Roloff’s plan for making rebellious teenagers submissive. In some cases, these current Roloffs and Fords use their homes to take sexual advantage of vulnerable boys and girls. So why is there not an IFB pastor willing to stand up and say ENOUGH? Is their hatred of the government blinding them to what went on in these homes and what continues to go on until this day?

Thankfully, I can say that I never had a part in sending a child to one of the IFB teen group homes. It almost happened once, but the parents decided against it. In the 1980s, Ron Williams and a group from Hephzibah House came to the church I pastored in southeast Ohio. By then, I had doubts about the IFB church movement, so nothing came of Williams’ visit to our church.

While my hands are relatively clean, I know a number of pastors who promoted and supported men like Lester Roloff, Mack Ford, Jack Patterson, Olen King, Ron Williams, and others whose names are lost to me. Countless IFB churches and pastors continue to materially and financially support unlicensed teen group homes that use violence to break “rebellious” teenagers. Why do they continue to do so? Why do they lend their support to abuse and violence?

For further information on IFB teen group homes (please use the contact form to send me any other links that should be added to this list):

Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls

Jo Wright, Victimized No More

Kathryn Joyce, Horror Stories from Tough-Love Teen Homes

HEAL database for New Bethany Home for Girls

HEAL articles on Fraudulent and Abusive Treatment Centers for Children and Young Adults


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    Sir, I’ve read your article and I known about Roloff as I was a boy in one of his homes in Corpus.

    You are wrong, I was there under his program almost 40 years ago. I cannot speak to this other programs. But I can say you have no idea how incorrigible the boys were that I knew there. I was disciplined for the first time in my life there and am a better man for it. I most certainly would have ended up dead or in prison if not for the man.

    So I am imminently qualified to say “you know nothing of what you wrote”. If you are indeed a Christian, you will at your death meet Bro. Roloff. I hope you apologize for the stain you are attempting to put on his good name.

    Walk with sinners awhile, hang out with the homeless, visit the prisons. You will see the people he reached….the same ones Jesus dealt with in his day. If you don’t….don’t be too critical of those who do

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      All that you are imminently qualified to say is that you being beat didn’t psychologically or physically harm you — a contention some readers of this blog might take issue with.

      I so wish there was a hell. If there were, I would hope that Roloff and the other child abusers who followed in his steps would have bunks right next to the hottest spot in Hades. These men of “God” harmed thousands of children and teens, and thanks to lax regulation and indifference, these types of homes continue to abuse children in the name of the Evangelical God.

      Roloff and I shall never meet, but as long as I am alive I intend to do all I can to put an end to unregulated, unlicensed Evangelical group homes.

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      Gretings Otto, You never deserved to be harmed, to be ‘disciplined’ in this way. You might not even remember some of the things done to you to ‘save’ you from prison or worse but I know you were harmed because you willingly support humiliating and physically hurting youngsters for Jesus’ sake. You believe you were evil and possibly still do even after Roloff ‘treated’ you to evangelical correction. Are you willing to state in detail just what happened to you there? No, I doubt it because you really must hide that kind of harm inside you. You cannot let us know what happened because we are not on Jesus’ baseball team and cannot be trusted to understand the need to harm children as you were harmed.
      I am sorry you were not cared for and were given over to Roloff to suffer that fate and I am sorry too that you have had to deny what really happened to you and to say abuse saved your life. It is very sad what sick, evangelical men and women do to children who simply need to be loved, cared for, allowed to be. You did not have that and Roloff confirmed your fate. I sure hope you are not passing on the harm done to you by beating and disrespecting any children in your life. No matter what you believe now, sir, you did not deserve what happened to you. Don’t do it anymore. Don’t pass on the injury while calling it God’s way.

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      I was there & these are not exaggerated stories, I know Corpus Christi the had several homes on the property & each housed different people. I was in the lighthouse. Attended the same church as the Rebecca home girls. I was penalized for looking at the girls. There were many others who weren’t under the same rules as us.

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      Well, Jeff, you say nothing to shed light on the charge so how do I respond? Have you read Alice Miller and do you know about recent findings in epigenetics showing that beating, the ‘discipline’ you Christians call your assaults on babies and children, have lifelong negative effects and actually harm brain development? Do you care at all or is it another Crusade for you and Jesus: Kill them all! God will know his own!
      It sickens me that grown men and women are so barbaric and have little to no insight regarding the harm they do to children, often the very same harm done to them as youngsters. Do you have children you hit? How can you be so blasted blind when you are assaulting them to think that you are doing some good? Don’t you remember what it was like to be abandoned and assaulted? Or have you been forced to put those memories away for good?
      First, do no harm. Second, let the child lead.

      • Avatar
        Denise Coffee

        Roloft helped my husband if it wasn’t for that man my husband wouldn’t be here today ..he changed my husband’s life ..he would of been a desatude human ..he is proud to be a lighthouse boy …and I Robert j coffee is a lighthouse boy and I’m very proud to carry that ….he was never harmed while in that place …

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          I would have to hear his story to know whether he was harmed. And just because he had a “good” experience doesn’t mean other people did. The evidence is clear, Lester Roloff caused untold harm to vulnerable children. And he continues to do so today, as IFB preachers use his methodology to abuse this generation of children.

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      Well, Jeff, you say nothing to shed light on the charge so how do I respond? Have you read Alice Miller and do you know about recent findings in epigenetics showing that beating, the ‘discipline’ you Christians call your assaults on babies and children, have lifelong negative effects and actually harm brain development? Arthur Janov’s Life Before Birth? It doesn’t matter to you, does it, because you need to harm. Do you care at all or is it another Crusade for you and Jesus: Kill them all! God will know his own!
      It sickens me that grown men and women are so barbaric and have little to no insight regarding the harm they do to children, often the very same harm done to them as youngsters. Do you have children you hit? How can you be so blasted blind when you are assaulting them to think that you are doing some good? Don’t you remember what it was like to be abandoned and assaulted? Or have you been forced to put those memories away for good? Many in denial say exactly as Otto did, that being harmed fixed him.
      First, do no harm. Second, let the child lead.

  2. Avatar

    Bruce, you’ve got an awful lot of restrictions on your comment policy for someone who claims that evangelicals “don’t play well with orhers!”

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I’ve been blogging for ten years. I’ve interacted with countless Evangelicals on this blog through the comment section, email, and on social media. Based on these experiences, I can confidently say that Evangelicals generally don’t play well with others. That aside, my house, my rules. I am the God of this universe, so I have set rules that benefit/protect my target audience: people who have questions and doubts about Christianity and people who have already left Christianity.

      Hardcore Evangelicals have never been my target audience. I have no interest in arguing with zealots. I did at first, but time has taught me that arguing with Evangelicals is a colossal waste of time. Thanks to chronic health problems, I have a short window of time each day to write and engage readers. I don’t want to waste this time arguing with closed minded people.

      That said, lots of Evangelicals read my writing, so I’d like to think and hope that some of what I write is reaching them. By telling my story, I hope it resonates with readers. If, in doing so, someone abandons Evangelicalism, I am happy. If not, I’m fine with that too. There’s no hell, no heaven, no God, so I am content to live my life, tell my story, and help as many people as I can along the way.

      I assume you are an Evangelical. If so, Evangelicals get one opportunity to say whatever it is their God wants them to say. Use your opportunity wisely. You will not get another one.

      Thank you for commenting.


    • Avatar
      Michael Mock

      Hi, Jeff.

      I imagine you’d be quite surprised by the number of Christians and other people of faith — though perhaps not the sorts of faith that Evangelicals generally recognize — who read and comment here fairly regularly.

      There’s not a lot of Christian doctrine, apologetics, or accusations that the readership of this blog isn’t already more-than-familiar with. Those of us who don’t believe have heard most of it so often that we don’t even want to answer anymore. We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and hearing it again just makes us tired. So Bruce’s general rule — you get one chance to tell us what Jesus wants from us and/or why we should believe such an entity exists — is frankly a welcome relief for most of us, as well as a good strategic use of Bruce’s emotional energy.

      There’s an entire Internet out there — more than enough room to say your piece at any length you care to. Bruce’s housekeeping decisions are none of your business, except insofar as they affect your decision whether to comment here or not.

    • Avatar
      Charles S. Oaxpatu

      I too discovered long ago that Christian Fundamentalists and Conservative Evangelicals do not play well with others in any sandbox—-including nonfundie Christian sandboxes. This knowledge comes by both time and experience. Shame on all of you!!!

  3. Avatar

    Here’s Otto,

    I never said I was harmed. I learned there are consequences for the choices we make. And I learned that Life here in This country turns out to be the sum total of the decisions we make.

    I was paddled once at an appropriate level. Not beaten. Same thing happened at public schools.the Discipline I mentioned was not punishment but rather steadfastness and the confidence and security acceptance of Jesus brought to my life. There were rules and I learned to follow them, that’s the discipline I’m referring to. Up to that point parents schools and friends had not been able to instill that in me and many others as well.

    David said “in sin did my mother conceive me”. Sin is a condition we’re born with. Don’t believe it? Catch an innocent 3 yo coloring on the wall and with a crayon in his hand. Ask him Did you color on that wall? 100% will look you in the eyes and lie as they shake their head no.

    Some kids in these United States are not delivered from that condition for whatever reason. Roloffs was an environment which isolated me so the Bible instruction could focus on my life without distractions.

    I promise those posting here. You would enjoy me and many other alumni as your neighbors. Had we not gone through that , you all would probably feared our presence in your life.

    Sometimes desperate means are required for desperate situations. And for most if not all the alumni that is where we were. A level of desperation, with absolutely no resources that I (based on your posts) am fairly certain none o you have ever experienced.

    And if your truly so concerned and expert about, perhaps you should devote your life to developing a program to help these kids and direct them the way they should live.

    Hehehe, you wouldn’t last a month.

    • Avatar

      Thank-you for trying to explain, Otto. Unfortunately, you are not being sensible because you have been misled to believe that we are evil as human beings unless we buy into the program you feel saved you from becoming a bad neighbor. You say:
      “David said “in sin did my mother conceive me”. Sin is a condition we’re born with. Don’t believe it? Catch an innocent 3 yo coloring on the wall and with a crayon in his hand. Ask him Did you color on that wall? 100% will look you in the eyes and lie as they shake their head no.”
      This is the cock-eyed stuff that you choose to believe, Otto and because you need to do it, you judge a little child coloring on the wall and being confronted by an adult and who then chooses to ‘lie’ about it. This does not prove anything other than that the child has a brain and feelings and does not want to suffer what the adult is bringing to them, the so-called just consequences meted out by damaged adults. If a child is wishing to express themselves by drawing on the wall, why not cover the wall with blank newsprint and encourage their creative work instead of calling them evil and born in sin, hitting them in utter disrespect. You want to ‘discipline’ for yourself, to take away the innocent gift of pure creativity because why? Your pretty painted walls? What depravity you express you do so because you were taught to disrespect both yourself and others and the black book tool was turned into a weapon. I feel badly that your children have to be exposed to that Otto and that you seem to not see the obvious harm in your testimony. Sorry, I don’t buy it. Do you know Steven Anderson or Michael Pearl, Otto? They believe as you do and paddle-beat children and like you are proud of it. Your creepy last comment, hehehe, you wouldn’t last a month, is just plain sad. It is the sensitive, human heart in you that did not last when you were harmed and then decided to continue harming yourself because it made sense of your life. There are better ways to ‘make sense, Otto. First, do no harm. Second, let the child lead you.

  4. Avatar

    A huge thank you to you Bruce and all people like Brian who keeping this horrendous story in the limelight. Maybe the government will step up and outlaw all places like this. It is unbelievable that humans can be like this.

    • Avatar

      Thank-you for your support, Kathleen. I have come to believe (I’m sixty-five now) that we must learn to respect ourselves and others and that our children should be the first recipients of that basic human right. If we can love and respect our children, we change the whole world, beginning at home. Those of us who were brought up in Christianity, learned basic disrespect for self and others and we were taught to sing of that as amazing grace. It is not an easy brainwashing to overcome. That is why Trump dug out some old Bible and carried it to a rally. I stand for this, he was saying. We need to build a wall, keep the foreigners out, take what we deserve from the world. Christian extremists do the same thing with belief: Separate yourselves and arm yourselves for Satan is after you in a nonbeliever’s turban! We are the victims and we will fight to the death against dark powers.
      It is quite addled and widespread. Thank goodness for people like old Norm Lee, who when he saw his boys wanting to color on the wall, went out and bought a ream of newsprint and plastered it all over his walls at home. The kids colored and were allowed to be. We too often decide to ‘train up’ children instead of simply letting their brilliant minds and hearts learn the world with us alongside. I cannot begin to express the deep gift in this way of being with your kids. It truly changes your life. It saves you from the judgement.

  5. Avatar

    Let the child lead. Are you really serious. What world do you live in. You are a spoiled American. The tenants and principles taught in the Bible are common amongst many people.

    This hippie mentality you speak of Is directly responsible for the condition of our public schools. Where we were once the leaders in the world with education and innovation in the workplace. We now sadly trail nations who espouse the ethics and child rearing tenants we as a nation used to embrace.

    We are truly a hedonistic people seeking to fulfill our pleasures Why do we have the largest Prison Population on the planet, why are there so many murders, crimes……most of these issues are the result of undisciplined youth.

    I’m sorry and respect your right to express your opinion, but there is a direct correlation between unrestrained behavior and our nations current condition. And it is most certainly not inanimate objects.

    Maybe some of the homes you abhor have been guilty of the things I’ve read on this forum, but not the one I had experience with.

    I think a lot of your opinion is formed by third fourth and fifth hand information. If you truly cannot stand their attempts to help. Don’t knock them, Start an outreach and teach the world how it should be done. But don’t be so quick to judge those who are actually trying to help troubled kids….

    Really……Shit or get of the pot

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Two people can have differing experiences in the same Baptist group home. Fact: some children and teens in these homes were raped, sexually assaulted, beaten, put in solitary confinement, and many were verbally assaulted and psychologically abused. Fact: It all started with Lester Roloff. He may not have done any of these things, but his homes, programs, and methodologies led to all sorts of physical and psychological abuse, both at his homes and those started as a result of his influence.

      My information? I am friends with numerous men and women who attended these homes. I had their groups sing and “minister” in the churches I pastored. I know numerous families and pastors who sent children and teens to these homes. In other words, I am shitting, off the pot, and doing all I can to make sure that these kind of homes go out of business.

      I feel sorry for you. You have normalized — in your mind — physical and psychological abuse and cultic manipulation. Until you can see the harm done by these homes, there is not much more that I can say to you that will matter. I certainly don’t intend to argue or debate the matter with you. Doing so re-victimizes those who were abused in the name of the IFB God.

      I wish you well. I assume, now, that you have said all you intended to say. You have made your beliefs known. Rest assured, virtually no one on this site embraces your view of the world and the ritualized abuse of children (nor does everyone embrace Brian’s view either). There are, of course, Fundamentalist and right-wing sites that might be more sympathetic to your defense of Baptist group homes. Not here. Sorry, not here.

      Bruce Gerencser

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        Do you know if there are still homes like this operating in North America? Or, as was reported, that some are based in the US but have operations in other countries where can do as they wish? I mean homes that have no accountability to anyone and it seems , can start one up and be run by sadistic people? I realize that they are not all abusive.

        It is hard to believe that our society will allow this abuse to go on in this day.

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          Yes, these kind of homes are still in operation in the United States. The reason for their continued existence is simple. In most states, religion-based/sponsored homes are exempt from state regulation, inspection, and licensure. Daycares and Christian schools are also often exempt from state control and regulation.

          These churches/parachurch ministries believe God commands violent child training methods, so it’s no surprise that these practices are authorized and approved of in their schools and ministries.

          Regulation doesn’t, of course, eliminate abuse, but it does make it more likely that abuse will be spotted and investigated. Church ministries should be licensed and regulated just like secular ones.

          The reason churches oppose regulation is that they know how their abhorrent, violent, anti-children disciplinary actions will be viewed by the “world.” Damn straight, Skippy. Time to shine the light on the evil works done in darkness by people who think their God commands and approves of physical and psychological violence towards children and teenagers.

          Sadly, Otto’s opinions about these things are quite typical of those found in IFB churches.

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      I have had a good shit, Otto, and arrived back to explain a bit more how very clueless you are… First, your phrase ‘spoiled American’ sounds like rigid Baptist patriarchy at its worst. In fact, I would hazard that just about everything you say comes directly out of the mouth of your favorite preacher. You are hateful and call it love. You enjoy hurting yourself and others (particularly women and children, I’m sure).
      When I suggest that you allow the child to lead, I am trying ever so hard to help you think a little bit and not just further harden yourself against humanity. Children are born with the great gift of fullness and their brilliance very often goes unnoticed or is punished by people like you. It is regretable that you cannot even imgine freedom anymore without images of mass chaos overtaking you. I never even suggested ‘unrestrained behavior’ and yet you need to harm others and yourself so much that you assume I said it. You have no idea what I am saying, Otto. Rather than waste your time and mine, I suggest that you read Norm Lee’s Parenting without Punishing. It is freely available by Google search…. Norm Lee was very nearly killed by his father who like you felt it was essential to beat children. Norm Lee, (unlike you, Otto) faced the horror of his own life and decided to get help (unlike you, Otto) and vowed that he would never assault his children (unlike you, Otto, who insists that beating on helpless people is required or the sky will fall.). Norm Lee is a brave man to face his past. Otto, you might try to be a bit more brave yourself and stop hurting helpless people. That you tell us God demands it, doesn’t change a thing. If God told you to kill your child, you would probably do so and call it God’s Plan. You are among a legion of believers who are very sad, frightened men. Are you brave enough to read Norm Lee’s book? (By the way, before you tell me to read the Bible, I am the 65 year old son of a conservative Baptist preacher and have read the book, believe me. Have you got the guts to look into the ideas I am sharing regarding the punishment paradigm?

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      Armata Xanthon


      I know that this may be… a little hard for your to grasp, but here are some actual facts about the state of American education and the prison system.

      1.) Many students in public schools are punished quite often and ineffectively, particularly through the use of detentions and suspensions which takes kids out of their classrooms and learning environments. Practicing harsh punishments that take kids away from the classroom has led to many students losing countless hours of crucial class time and often causes feelings of resentment towards authority, which can lead to more acting out.

      2.) Public school curriculum is going to privatized companies like Pearson; these companies make standardized tests, lesson plans, and help shape Congress’ education laws. If Pearson’s education systems work for too long, there would no longer be a need for new education ‘solutions’; due to their monetary greed, Pearson often wants students to appear as though they are not getting any better so that Congress and taxpayers will keep investing money in their company.

      3.) The top countries in education (such as Australia, Norway, Sweden, and Canada to name a few) are actually quite liberal and, to my knowledge, all the practices described in this article and revered by Mr. Roloff have been made illegal.

      4.) Prison is also a privatized system so they need prisoners in order to make money.

      I’m sure you can Google any of this to help you make up your own mind, if you don’t believe me. I trust you will eventually come to understand that, while your views may not change, the world is more nuanced than the IFB would have you believe.

      ~ A. Xanthon.

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    I was in Jack Pattersons home in.Sweetwater currently lookimg for the correct person to talk to but I am the reason he took off from Tennesee to Alabama in early 06 I have ben looking for somebody that can do something and will that Organization is basicly a legal human trafficking operation and to whom it my concern you let the wrong fish go Reclamation Ranch Ministries….You should have killed me

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    Armata Xanthon

    To Any Interested (and of course, Bruce),

    A Quick Note: I am using a fake name, but I am going to respectfully ask that such an action be allowed. The only reason I am using fake name is to protect my family and friends; my former pastor has had numerous run-ins with the police for physical assault, to the point that he once got arrested while taking some of his students/church members on a field trip to the police station since there was an existing warrant on him. I won’t be naming the man; I already provided the name of the church and that was frankly terrifying enough. The email provided was completely legitimate and created so that I could research these articles and share them with others who were abused and seeking information. Also, I will not apologize for this, but my sarcasm level is high and I may cuss; I did read the comment rules and I will do my best to be respectful though (Still, fair warning about my sass).

    While I was never sent to an IFB “reform home” for teenagers, I feel like I narrowly escaped being sent to one due to three factors: the most honorable and godly (At least, that is how he was/is described in my former church of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Greater Denver.) Lester Roloff died in 1982 and I was born in 1998, most of the homes that my former church (CBCGD, CBC, or the name above) knew about and gave the most ‘they are the godliest, most respectable’ rhetoric to had closed around 2001, and my pastor was willing to give us ‘loving and Godly’ beatings in house anyways. My family was poor and didn’t have the money to drive me or my brother to such a home; at least, not after they had spent thousands of dollars on youth conferences and godly meetings instead of the food and clothing that my siblings and I needed to survive. (Excuse me for not being a Godly teenage lady and waiting for all the pastors, men, elderly, etc to eat first during potlucks, but I was literally being starved.) Whenever we were disobedient, Mom or Dad would spank us until we were weeping out of ‘a broken spirit’, which was what was advised in the books that they read that dictated proper IFB parenting. These spankings could be as many as 20 to 1,000 (Or more) firm spanks with a wooden broad paddle, a bit of thin green tree wood (also known as a switch in CBC), or an open hand. When we weren’t getting abused at home, we got abused at the Christian ‘school’ or Denver Baptist Schools, which was operated by the Pastor, Youth Pastor, a few of the woman secretaries, and other church volunteers. The Pastor was our Principal for a long time and then he handed that over to his son, the Youth Pastor. Staff in the school were allowed to physically punish the students as well, with spankings, extremely long exercise in hot weather with no water or AC, and the occasional wrestling match for the boys (I shit you not. The pastor would wrestle the boys in some sort of dominance display to show that he was tougher or stronger than they were, forcing them to submit. Frankly, that was creepy and weird, particularly when he did a wrestling display for dominance during one of his sermons.). While some of the methods of DBS of CBC were not nearly as harsh as those done by Lester Roloff’s group homes, they still had damaging effects and they were still abuse.

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    Armata Xanthon

    (Part 2)

    For those wondering whether or not Christian schools can operate outside of governmental oversight, they can and often do. For example, I was a student of Denver Baptist Schools (of CBC) for about seven years; during that time, they had practices that were textbook cases of physical, mental, and spiritual abuse. These practices were never reported and did not have to be reported. Even for cases involving suspected sexual or physical abuse in the child’s home (which any teacher in the state of Colorado, public teacher or otherwise, is mandated to report to proper authorities) went unreported. I was one such case; my father threatened to molest me as a minor. When someone reported my father’s threats, they were scoffed and laughed at. A fellow student of mine was also often suspected of being a victim of child abuse and nothing was done (except the usual ‘Godly and loving’ beatings and brainwashing); I don’t know what happened to my fellow student and I certainly felt horrible about not being able to help her. Whenever a child in my IFB-cult church tried to speak out about something going on in the church, we were ignored, told to obey our parents, told that being ‘spanked’ was normal, or told that we were rebellious. Spankings were the will of ‘God’ and children were to be seen and not heard.
    As a matter of fact, most children do not act out due to some ‘sin bug’ or ‘Satan seed’ that they have in them from birth. Children copy their parents and other outside influences; imitating other people is how children learn to walk, speak, eat, and many other basic actions and behaviors. Imitation is often how children start to formulate their views of the world. When a child misbehaves, they are usually copying a behavior that they have seen or learned from someone else (often an adult, parent, or peer). When a misbehavior is not copied, that misbehavior will often be a reaction to a negligent/abusive environment. If you don’t believe the words of a random person commenting on a blog, then good for you! I, also, don’t want to just take someone’s word for granted, particularly on an issue as important as how -not- to hurt kids and how -to- interpret child misbehavior in an -appropriate- and -informed- manner. Here is a fairly comprehensive look into the matter of child abuse and its effects, by the CDC or Center for Disease Control and Prevention ( a government program responsible for credible and extensive research on domestic abuse, child abuse, and many other matters):
    I wanted to thank you, Bruce Gerencser, for helping me find the courage to start talking about my own story of abuse in the IFB cults, particularly by CBC, DBS, and their members and staff. I may be starting with posts in a fake name (I have nightmares about disappearing in a duffel bag for speaking out), but that is a start and I hope to gain the courage to do more soon.
    Thank you all for your respectful attention and valuable time. Stay well.
    ~ A. Xanthon.

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    M.J. Hallmark

    I am a survivor of Rebekah. I believe a child needs positive correction. How ever a child must be allowed to have self expression. A child that is consistanly abused will never have courage to stand up for them self. I know because that child is me. I have always told myself just to keep my mouth shut it will be over soon otherwise if I don’t it will only get worse.

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    Lorian Ruiz

    I went to Rebecca home for girls I was 13 and I was there for maybe three months maybe four and I remember getting a SWAT here in there because I was being rebellious trying to get in trouble but it was not bad I learned scripture and learns to you no lessons from school we learned lotta good things no one ever hurt as physically I never saw nobody locked away no one was ever physically emotionally or any molest station ever went on we just listen to Pastor Roloff we ate good food we went to church we learned memorizing “scripture for the church and everything was good all these things sound really crazy we got packages from home around Christmas time I mean I have no complaints about the place I’m thankful that it was there I mean sure I’m was mad at my grandparents for sending me my mom was mad at her fat father and she came and got me before the time I was supposed to stay there actually I was in Arizona and the courts but I was running away from school and just ditching and being bad doing drugs so they told me to go to Rebecca home for girls in Texas my grandpa drove me toCorpus Christi

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    Lori N Marshall

    I was in Rebekah for 2 years, there was none of the abuse that was mentioned in the Texas Monthly article. Yes there were times we had to kneel on the floor or sit in the wall, it was not to the extreme and no one was holding a Bible. We had a lockup and yes if you were sent there you slept on a mattress on the floor, there was a bathroom and you were fed. Demerits were given but not to the extreme like was stated in the article. And yes I recall the whippings with the wooden paddle. Yes it hurt but NO ONE ever got more than 3-5 licks, I got my share so I know. Tired of seeing all these girls lie about abuse that never happened!

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      Brian Vanderlip

      Lori N Marshall: One of the saddest things about abuse is what it does over time in the heart and mind. For a youngster, being harmed is hard but not impossible most of the time. One steels oneself and if necessary disassociates and mentally departs the experience even as it is happening. So, Lori, listen for a minute: You were a young person made to kneel on the floor, locked in isolation with only a mattress, whipped. And, Lori, that was okay, not at all abuse of a young human being. And now, as an older person, would you put your own child through that horror? Would you wish it on anyone?
      At one time, I was unable to sleep nights because my mind had been filled with images about hellfire. Those images were preached to me, Lori. As a child.
      Lori, you do not recognize plain abuse. You have been harmed so that it all seems okay, not at all a horror and certainly not abuse. I trust that if you choose to have children, you will search your heart before seeing them harmed as you were. I am sorry it happened and I will not say it was nothing at all, nothing at all.
      I wonder if you have read any books by Alice Miller, the child advocate? Or would you at least Google search a page written by a teacher, Norm Lee? It it at this address:
      Lori N Marshall, You did not deserve to be harmed as you were and no child/youngster should have to face what you did. It is simply wrong and not justified by Patriarchy or any God. It hurt you deeply in ways that I read clearly in your writing but you do not want to reveal. I am sorry you are so tired of it but it will not go away.

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    This is ridiculous I can’t believe that some of these people are still defending Roloff if beating children and raping girls and locking them in solitary confinement and chaining them to pipes and chaining they to beds is not abuse then I’m afraid to hear what you think is abuse does this line up with what Jesus believed in or the disciples believed in I think not a lot of American Christians believe this way I am a christians but unfortunately a lot and I mean a lot of Christians here believe that this is right and it just ruins the reputation of the true followers of Christ so thank you for that it’s not just Roloff hundreds and hundreds of so called Christians which there not true Christians if they do this which there is good evidence that they do do this have been accused of rape of sexual assault and still in operation Roloff homes still in operation don’t know why these aren’t followers of Christ these are imposters that try to justify there actions by quoting bible verses that they totally take out of context sorry for the rant but it is frustrating for true followers of Christ like me to see these things and this is the reason why lots of people consider Christianity a cult

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    I am a Christian but this is not what Jesus taught it’s ridiculous the amount of people that are defending roloff for this if beating children with paddles and raping children and locking them in solitary confinement and chaining them to pipes and chaining them to beds is not abuse then I’m afraid to hear what your definition of abuse is hundred upon hundreds of people who call themselves Christians do this type of stuff and continue doing it and it ruins the reputation of the true followers of Christ not these imposters it’s not just roloff hundreds upon hundreds of pastors have been accused of sexual assault rape and beating there kids they try to justify it with bible verses by completely taking it out of context this is the complete opposite of what Jesus and the disciples preached they would not recognize this as followers of Christianity and the sad part is some of these home’s still operating today don’t even know why but I just want to let people know I am a Christian and I don’t condone any of this nonsense and outrageous things that these people are doing.

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      Brian Vanderlip

      What springs to mind when I listen to Christian zealots is how frighteningly similar they are to Islamic fundamentalists and how ignorantly they all state their case for harming children, quoting verses and listening to violent preachers. Christians like this are cut from exactly the cloth that has given us extremist Islam. They come, all of the zealots, as blinded humanity, unable to care for self or others, calling harm true love from God.
      This is why I must repeat the fact that Christianity is based not in perfect love but in harm. Jesus may have suggested that we love our neighbors as ourselves but with guys like the now deceased Roloff and Steven Anderson as neighbors to average citizens, would you say we neighbors will be respected, loved rather than harmed? The system of Christianity would not be recognized by it namesake… perhaps it never would have been in any of its historical forms.

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    No Name

    I am shocked at how accurate this information is about Rebekah. That place was absolutely terrifying.

    It was cult like with the Helpers (guards) watching you all the time. What you failed to mention was the food. What we consumed was so designed to make you fat and sluggish. There was absolutely no exercise allowed because they thought if you were in shape you’d try to run.

    Bible Disciple which was chanting chapter after chapter of KJV 1611 scripture starting with Romans 6 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin? was just brain washing. I have never ever stepped foot into a church after getting out of there and never will.

    These people that defend Roloff’s are either misguided or demented evil beings. I tried to testify about the homes when I got out and people came after me. After they broke into my home I left Texas forever.

    The only reason abuse was never proven was because we weren’t allowed to take down anyone’s name and phone number to talk to them again when they got out. Glad this information is out there if nothing else to remind people like me that if we survived that we can do anything. Maybe Rebekah originally had some divine purpose, but what it festered into by the 1980s was pure evil wrapped up with fake God stuff so they could keep those donations coming.

    Thanks for putting this out on the internet. It’s funny, if you do a satellite image of People’s Baptist Church, they don’t even show the fences and barbwire any more. The guard shack is still there though… I am sure they have a story for that too.

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    I am shocked at how accurate this information is about Rebekah. That place was absolutely terrifying.

    It was cult like with the Helpers (guards) watching you all the time. What you failed to mention was the food. What we consumed was so designed to make you fat and sluggish. There was absolutely no exercise allowed because they thought if you were in shape you’d try to run.

    Bible Disciple which was chanting chapter after chapter of KJV 1611 scripture starting with Romans 6 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin? was just brain washing. I have never ever stepped foot into a church after getting out of there and never will.

    These people that defend Roloff’s are either misguided or demented evil beings. I tried to testify about the homes when I got out and people came after me. After they broke into my home I left Texas forever.

    The only reason abuse was never proven was because we weren’t allowed to take down anyone’s name and phone number to talk to them again when they got out. Glad this information is out there if nothing else to remind people like me that if we survived that we can do anything. Maybe Rebekah originally had some divine purpose, but what it festered into by the 1980s was pure evil wrapped up with fake God stuff so they could keep those donations coming.

    Thanks for putting this out on the internet. It’s funny, if you do a satellite image of People’s Baptist Church, they don’t even show the fences and barbwire any more. The guard shack is still there though… I am sure they have a story for that too.

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    Reading today’s posts about child abuse in the name of jesus is sickening enough…but to read the comments of deluded fundies defending this abuse is vile beyond words. I want to ask why these abusers never ever quote the verse that their jesus said about those who cause children to stumble and millstones.
    Scotland has banned the spanking of children and I’m delighted that Wales, where I live, will follow in March 2022..

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      Bruce Gerencser

      Yep, and just today an Evangelical preacher left a comment questioning the “truthfulness” of abuse stories. I banned him. I will not let people such as him have a platform on my site.

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    Alisa O'Kelly

    Mr. Bruce, I confess first that I did not read the entire article, I had started a Google search on Rebekah home for girls in which I was imprisoned because of my ironically Catholic mother. I guess right now I just have a vendetta to go about and proclaim the abuse that I survived at the hands of Mr. Cameron and the Barretts. I have permanent injuries in my knees from being forced to kneel for hours on end on hard linoleum outside their office for imagined infractions. Mental scarring that I will never be good enough to do anything right for anyone. I absolutely hate and abhor religion on any level. I might believe, anthropologically, that Jesus might’ve been a good person who tried to do good things. But as far as Baptist or Catholic or Muslim or any other religion, they can all rot in hell as far as I’m concerned if it even exists. Any religion that tortures people, especially little girls, for not conforming to what their idea of right and wrong is deserves to burn in hell. I can’t imagine that a righteous God would permits such atrocities that all of us girls suffered and endured without punishing those inflicting it.

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    Brian Vanderlip

    Alisa, Thank-you for commenting and sharing your personal history of these abusers. Please know that your willingness to share and speak out will be read by others who feel trapped and harmed and will give them strength to carry on and eventually become free from religion-based harm.

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    Omar Michael Ayyash

    no man should ever lay a hand on a female. It’s not their place and is inappropriate. I read that it was the housemother that hit them with a paddle, but it seems that it was still abuse. Discipline was meant for the parents of their children, not anyone else.

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      Alisa O'Kelly

      I’m don’t remember that it was Mrs Barret. I remember Mr Barret doing the Friday night paddlings. And if I remember correctly, he didn’t seem to mind it much and even smiled. I remember Friday afternoons coming around; feeling defeated; it didn’t matter how much you tried, the demerits added up and were so arbitrary. It mostly mattered who liked you. I was a nerd with braces so I wasn’t liked much. I got good grades that made the other girls look bad in some cases, and their retaliation was to give me demerits, which invariably landed me with Friday evening “spankings.” I would go to my room and put on every pair of underpants I had under my ugly, uncomfortable thick polyester culottes, in preparation. He never pulled any punches. I swear that man did not care at all how much pain he inflicted on those smaller and weaker than him. Yvette Levi; also my sweet nerdy friend, was usually right there with me. Then hours of “bible memo” where you recited, FROM ROTE MEMORY, the entire table of contents of the KJV bible, and then 33+ CHAPTERS. From memory. If you didn’t know it all yet, you read it aloud while the others recited.

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    Brian Vanderlip

    Hi Alisa, Aren’t those Jesus followers such wonderful folks? The leave us with such lovely memories of the Prince of Peace, His gentle followers…

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