"Faith-based initiatives" and faith-based coercion
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Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 10:40:55 PM EST
Increasingly--and more often than not, with the explicit cheerleading and support of dominionist groups--there is an emphasis for reliance on "faith based" initiatives, such as "faith based" rehab programs, "faith based" disaster aid charities, etc.

Unfortunately, this is often turning into a chance for faith-based coercion--often on what is, quite literally, a captive audience.

The following  Detroit News article notes why the idea of replacing secular assistance with "faith-based programs" is one that often leads to religious coercion and spiritual abuse:
In a lawsuit filed on his behalf by the civil rights group, a 23-year-old Catholic man from Genesee County is asking a federal judge to set aside a drug conviction, saying he was punished for not completing a Pentecostal rehabilitation program.

Joseph Hanas was 19 when he pleaded guilty to a marijuana possession charge in February 2001 in Genesee Circuit Court and was placed in a diversion program for young, non-violent offenders.

Upon the recommendation of a probation officer, Judge Robert Ransom sentenced Hanas to the state-sponsored rehabilitation program - the Inner City Christian Outreach Residential Program, run by a Pentecostal church.

Hanas said the program did not offer drug treatment or counseling, nor did it have any organized program other than reading the Bible and attending Pentecostal services.

He said his rosary and prayer book was taken from him and his religion was denounced as "witchcraft." Hanas said he was told his only chance of avoiding prison and a felony record was to convert to the Pentecostal faith.

When he and his family went before the judge later,
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, claims Ransom acknowledged the failings of the center but ruled that Hanas did not satisfactorily complete the program and sentenced him to three months in jail, three months in a boot camp, and placed him on a tether for three months. Ransom also placed Hanas on four years probation, which he continues to serve.

"This man was punished for insisting on the right to practice Catholicism and refusing conversion to the Pentecostal faith," said Kary Moss, director of the Michigan ACLU."

This is actually an increasing problem--prisoners, as a mandatory requirement for early release, are being forced into dominionist-run "faith based" rehab programs and the like.

Increasingly, dominionist groups are pushing for "faith based alternatives" which more often than not are mandatory for early release--one of these groups is Exodus Ministries (not to be confused with the "de-gaying therapy" group Exodus International).

Exodus Ministries International is a group that is essentially an AoG front group (it was founded by an AoG preacher who was also head of the chaplaincy program for Texas' prison system) for "prison ministry" that has been linked to coercive religious tactics, including conversions under duress and preventing Jews and Moslems from practicing their religion (even actively retaliating against complainants); this link notes explicit endorsement by state of Texas.  It is documented using Alpha USA curriculum for purposes of stealth evangelism (Alpha, at least as run in the United States (it was originally designed for Anglicans), has been largely hijacked by dominionists and the majority of support is from dominionists; its links section almost entirely refers to dominionist groups).  Further links to it being an AoG front group are evidenced by the group's association with Youth With A Mission (the latter of which is an extremely coercive "bible based" group recently identified as a front group of the AoG, and one of the "bible-based" groups most consistently associated with coercive tactics and spiritual abuse of its members).

Of note, Harriet Miers had multiple links with Exodus International.

Another group hip deep in dominionist connections is Prison Fellowship Ministries--this group is operated by Charles Colson (yes, as in the Watergate Charles Colson).  Colson has numerous links to dominionist groups including the secretive Council for National Policy, has been been involved with dominionism at its very core, and has even claimed that Hurricane Katrina was a sign from God that we need to step up efforts in the "war on terror".  Colson is also largely responsible for selling dominionism to Catholics.

There are reports that similar instances of religious coercion have occured with Prison Fellowship Ministries--that people are required to join the programs as a condition of early parole, for instance.  Texas' parole system is an example of a parole board that essentially has participation in "faith based" programs, and specifically Prison Fellowship Ministries, as a qualifying condition for parole; per this site there are already some initial reports that people are being made to join as a condition of parole.  Per the following article from Mother Jones, not only is coercion to join the PFI programs increasing but PFI is also targeting children of inmates for stealth evangelism.

One group also doing this that was used by FEMA as a location for Hurricane Katrina refugees is Dream Center of Los Angeles.  Dream Center is actually a front group of the AoG, is heavily promoted by dominionist groups, and is the center of multiple reports of poor treatment that were summarily dismissed by authorities.  According to a report by the BBC, Dream Center may have been profiteering from refugees as well.

Other examples of "faith based initiatives" with the hurricane relief effort used to prosyletise:

(The problem with dominionist groups being involved in hurricane relief--and promoted at the expense of ecumenical and secular charities--is so severe that I actually set up the Big List of Katrina-Related Charities to specifically vet which groups were and were not linked to dominionist concerns.)

I read on of your links about the prison ministry stuff... That really troubled me on so many different levels...

What it reminds me of is that around here when parents get divorced and it's not quite as amicable as the judge would like, the parents and children are required to go through divorce counseling...

Luckily there are many different agencies that offer the required "coursework" to appease the court orders, so a family would not be forced to go to a faith-based provider if they did not want to - but, what if there are places where only faith-based programs are available?  You'd want to be forced to get religious counseling, especially for your children, that isn't of your own faith?



by EmilyWynn8 on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 02:09:40 PM EST

Wasn't it the "non-de-gaying one" which was prominent as one of Harriet Miers's good causes?

by MaryOGrady on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 08:33:51 AM EST
The non-"degaying" one was the one Harriet Miers was associated with, yes, but the non-degaying Exodus Ministries is also associated with some pretty extreme cases of blatant coercion of prisoners--in Texas prisons, for instance, it's often the only rehab program available, in some cases participation has been mandatory, and it's been specifically noted as a pusher of religious coercion (in a complaint to the US Department of Justice from Moslem and Jewish inmates who were forced to participate in an Exodus Ministries program).

I'm going to post a bit of a followup on this to explain more on how many of these "faith based" programs--again, which are sometimes mandatory for prisoners as a condition of release, and in many cases are becoming mandatory even for non-inmates--are often on their face coercive.

by dogemperor on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 09:21:49 AM EST

It's totally crazy that someone could end up in prison because they refuse to give up what they believe in. That shouldn't be happening nowadays, it sounds like something that could have happened several hundred years ago. Scary.
Boyd, Programmer currently working on the herbal menopause project.
by Boyd M on Wed Mar 12, 2008 at 11:01:33 AM EST

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