Friday, March 20, 2009

Tony Alamo article is. . .right.

I came out of the theater after watching DUPLICITY, the latest Julia Roberts movie about corporate espionage, and found these colorful newsletters from the Tony Alamo organization on my car.

The entire issue is devoted to child abuse, but from the standpoint only one being accused of child abuse can have. It showcases parent after parent who have had their children taken from them by government officials. Now, the article does not go into any detail about 'why' they were taken.

Were the parents abusive? Don't know.

If you accept the premises of most of the articles, you're under the impression there's a vast government conspiracy to arrest parents simply because they spank their kids.

I doubt that.

There are articles about those abused in government homes and foster care. That also happens, but there is a checks and balances to a government system. You can file a complaint, represent yourself, and find sympathizers willing to help you go up against the system.

It's the government! Nobody like's 'em! It's easy to fight 'em!

Try going against a church, and you get stalled.

People ignore you. There are no checks and balances. You have no right to your 'day' in court.

Tony Alamo does not address the charges against himself, nor does he even write about fellow ministers who have been arrested for molestation. No, in this case, it's all about the government arresting parents for spanking.

It's easy to pick on him, until you come to the following article:

"I LIED, McMartin Preschooler: "I lied" by Kyle Zirpolo, as told by Debbie Nathan."

This article is available as a PDF by clicking:

I regret to say I believe this article.

I lived at the Manhattan Beach border during the McMartin Pre-School hearing.

Kee Macfarlane, from the Children's Institute International, was the woman who conducted the interrogation of the children. Her methods involved hand puppets and utilized highly suspicious methods for getting those wild stories from the kids. Those stories concerned hidden tunnels to Hollywood, satanic ritual abuse, the killing of animals in secret, and a host of other bizarre accusations that bogged down the Los Angeles judicial system for years. Chuck Norris (yes, that Chuck Norris) was accused by one of the children for abuse.

The trial was lost. No verdicts rendered. A waste of time and money.

Did we learn anything from it?

I don't know.

My heart sank the night when I heard that a judge was considering whether to continue one of the civil cases against Trinity Baptist Church because of 'repressed memories'.

Repressed memories was one of the rationales behind the McMartin fiasco. There was a case in California where two daughters testified their father abused them. They won, but the entire case was based on repressed memory.

I have serious doubts about repressed memory. According to the American Psychological Association, it's not currently possible to distinguish between a true repressed memory from a false one without corroborating evidence.

Guess that's why we have court of laws, huh?

One of the reasons for repressed memory concerns being pressured to forget what just happened to you! If you're a child, and you've been abused, and your parents, or other authority figures, tell you, "Just put it behind you, it never happened.", you'll probably do just that!

Forget it never happened.

You try, but you can't. Eventually, you just call it a nightmare and drown yourself in something.


Develop an abusive side so you'll never get abused again.

Religion, always a popular choice for those wanting to forget.

Drugs and alcohol, of course.

You then become an adult. Maybe get in trouble. Are forced to go to a twelve step group where they ask you to talk about your childhood. And, once there, you talk about the abuse that turned you into this abusive personality in the first place.

Bravo for recovery!

As part of a legal case? How are we supposed to know you really had an encounter with the abusive minister?

Take the Bob Gray case, for instance.

The first wave of victims, at least, had letters written by the current pastor apologizing for the abuse of the former pastor.

The depositions reveal some had meetings with deacons.

Others actually had Bob Gray apologize directly to them.

That explains those people, but others don't have this luxury. They never had parents who would dare confront the man accused of abusing them.

How do you prove their case?

Repressed memory?

Repressed memory is a gold mine for ministers accused of molestation.

The only real lesson to be learned can only go out to parents of impressionable children. If your child has been abused, do something about it now! Call the police first, because the board of deacons, and pastor, will have other ideas that involve you shutting up.

Failure to act creates a sad cycle of abuse. It will take your child a long time, possibly into the adult years, to recover from your abuse.

That's right, 'your' abuse.

Failure to defend your child against a molester, in my eyes, only completes his abusive deed.

Your child needs to see you stand up for him, or her.

In public.

Not private.

Neglecting to do that not only puts your relationship with your child at stake, it can also create another 'repressed memory' if you keep telling him (or her) to 'forget it ever happened'.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

WOW! Talk about Irony!

While watching the Dusty Springfield version of 'Son of a Preacher Man', the following advertisement actually came up on the You Tube. I was able to capture it:

Let me get this straight, a song about a preacher's son who seduces a girl. She will probably get sent away to a girl's home for behavioral problems, while the preacher man's son will continue to a prestigious Christian university. It is during this song that 'West Ridge Academy: Values Based Help, Troubled Teens, Residential, Wilderness School' decides to advertise?

This camp apparently suffers from the same scandals that plague places like Victory Christian Academy (see articles below) and New Horizons, according to this wikipedia entry.

Google and You Tube: thy name is irony!

various videos of 'Son of a Preacher Man'

Dusty Springfield aside, I'll have to go with Minnelli. Except Jessica Simpson is the only one whom I really believe actually had an encounter with the actual son of this aforementioned Preacher Man:

Jessica Simpson:

Liza Minnelli:

Josh Stone:

original Dusty:

Tina Turner:

Hey, I'm doing this for your cultural enrichment. Don't everybody thank me at once!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

REFORM AT VICTORY - a survivor's story

"Michele Ulriksen's story is a compelling personal story that also contains a pointed political message. Ms. Ulriksen exposes the damage that can be done by those whose religious mantles cover up abusive ideologies and anti-therapeutic methods. I hope this account will impel parents who want help for 'troubled teens' to learn much more about their options and compel legislators to carefully examine all requests for funding of 'faith based' childrens' services before doling out tax dollars to support them."
- Barry W. Lynn, Author and Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church & State

"The reason we have a fence surrounding the property is to keep boyfriends out who keep trying to rescue their girlfriends." Mike Palmer, the former proprietor of the Victory Christian Academy in Jay, Florida, once told me.

I kept waiting for one of the boyfriends to make an appearance while reading Reform At Victory - a survivor's story, written by Michele Ulriksen, a former resident of the House of Palmer.

Michael Palmer, a former photographer, followed in the footsteps of his hero, Lester Roloff, by opening a chain of girl's homes throughout the world. If you send your daughter to his schools, she will be thrown into a small room. She will be deprived of human contact and subjected to non-stop tapes of Jerry Falwell.

It's the wet dream of every bitter fundamentalist parent. Your vegetarian daughter will be forced to eat meat. If she throws up, she will be accused of pretending. Your daughter will be forced to eat the food again. Never mind the vomit.

If she asks a question about evolution, she will be made to write, over a hundred times, sentences that affirm she will never question the ways of the Lord!

The girls at the Victory Home for Girls, in Michele's book, are routinely chastised as 'whoremongers and drug addicts', even if they never engaged in drugs or sex.

Michael Palmer, or Brother P, does not hit the girls, however. He just pushes them around. Hard.

Real gentlemen, Brother P.

It doesn't take much to get your daughter into this home. She doesn't even need a criminal record. She just needs to dress black (a favorite). Listen to punk. Rock. Goth. But why limit ourselves?

If the behavior is weird, you can send her there!

Getting her there might be a problem. No truly rebellious girl will let a parent drive her to a prison of their choice.

The parent must lie.

If there are parents that do not wish to cross the line and 'lie' to their children, there are always 'escort services'.

Dr. Allison Pinto, Clinical Psychologist at Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, in the afterword to Reform at Victory, paints a chilling picture of children met by strangers hired by their parents to bring them to these lock down facilities.

Yeah, that shows real integrity, doesn't it?

Each of these kids are worth about $1200 a month, although, with the recession, it's hard to tell if the price of rebellious teens is still at a premium.

The facilities are surrounded by a fence.

Sometimes a small fence, like I saw when I stopped by the facilities in Jay, Florida back in 1993.

The Victory home, when it operated in Ramona, CA, had formerly been an FBI facility. It had a ten foot electric fence.

Fences seem to be necessary in Palmer's world. Not to keep the girl's in, he said, but to keep the boyfriend's out!

I kept waiting for one of the boyfriend's to show up while reading Reform at Victory.

Didn't happen.

The only male who showed up was a brother to one of the residents.

He was such an appetizing male, Palmer instructed his sister remove ALL photos of her brother from her bunk walls. That way, the other girls won't have anything to lust after.

Michele is forced to spend one year in this facility. She cannot speak with her parents during the first three months. All letters to her parents must be read by staff so she doesn't spread 'lies'. 'Lies', in this case, means anything negative about the home, even if it's the truth.

She buckles down. Memorizes the verses. Writes the lines, then finds herself behaving exactly like the girls she hated when first thrown into the Get Right room.

It is a routine scenario:

Car drives up. Girl does not want to enter the home. Palmer and staff take her by force. She is thrown into the Get Right room while a 'buddy' waits outside telling her that they only want to help her. She cannot talk to, or make eye contact with, anybody except her 'buddy', until after thirty days.

Michele is now a buddy, but trying to be good so she doesn't find her stay in the home extended.

Her departure date grows near. Palmer encourages the girls NOT to find each other after they leave.

They will only drag each other down. . .or find each other on the internet and try to alert the world to the abuses happening in homes like these.

Michele leaves the home. Her ACE education was inadequate. This high school student only received the equivilant of a sixth grade education!

Her mother passes away a year later. Cancer. All that valuable time wasted.

Palmer's home continued to be investigated by California authorities before it was closed down on Valentine's Day, 1991.

The book ends with Michele putting her life back together, but the saga of Michael Palmer continues.

Carey Dunn, a girl described by a survivor of the Palmer homes, as a 'ray of sunshine' is killed when Palmer forces her to engage in construction work. A stack of dry wall falls on her.

Palmer survives this investigation, but the home is finally closed after a woman from the home finally tells her story on public access television.

He leaves California and sets up shop in Jay, Florida. It is at the Jay, Florida home where Rebecca Ramirez accuses Palmer of raping her.

"He said it was God's will." Rebecca told The Messenger.

Bonnie, the mother of Rebecca, told of a call from Patty Palmer, Michael's wife, that he was on his way to their house and had his guns. When he arrived, Palmer was cleaned up, polite, took the parents to a restaurant, and offered $25,000 (dowry?) to marry the young girl.

The parents turned him down, and Rebecca continues warning people about Palmer's tactics.

"I feel like it's my fault for believing this person." Bonnie told The Messenger. "I'm her mother. I want to protect her from all bad things and here I send her to a place where this happens. It's really, really hard."

The Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies is no longer involved with Palmer, but the facilities they do license are still under scrutiny for neglect and abuse.

Palmer opened another home in Mexico called Genesis by the Sea. It was closed down by Mexican authorities because of abuse and neglect.

Wow! He couldn't even stay open in Mexico, a haven for abusive and questionable health facilities!

The latest saga has Palmer in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where he may, or may not, be considering opening another facility. Michele's book alerted the press to Palmer's tactics.

If this sounds like a crusade against one man, keep in mind there are many 'Michael Palmers' throughout the United States. Men, and couples, and sometimes women, running unaccredited homes, and 'schools', for children with little concern from the state.

Julia Scheeres, in her book Jesus Land writes a chilling account of an evangelical girls and boys home in the Dominican Republic. There is no need to conform to the standards set in the United States for these homes. Children are also subjected to treatment we associate with prisoners of war (isolation, diet deprivation, sermons being played for hours on end) until they snap and co-operate.

This is generational persecution.

This is not rehabilitation.

It is brainwashing.

Most children who are sent to places like New Horizons, and Victory Christian Academy, or the now defunct Genesis by the Sea, have been sent for the 'crime' of being different.

Dressing different. Listening to strange music. Asking questions about the contradictions they see in the lives of their parents, youth leaders, and pastors.

Julia Scheeres has described the home she was incarcerated in as a 'dumping ground for the problem children of wealthy evangelicals'.

Indeed, a deposition from the defunct Bob Gray child molestation trial had one girl sent to a Roloff home because she was pregnant.

Out of sight. Out of mind.

Democrats and Republicans, unfortunately, give lip service to faith based programs like these. If they really knew the devastation that homes like these cause, would they still be as willing to indiscriminately praise such 'institutions'?

Reform at Victory and Jesus Land are two books that should be in the hands of every United States congress man, and woman, pondering the reality of Faith Based ministries for children.

Michael Palmer timeline and connections as presented by

Palmer Home, Jay, Florida.

Clip of headline where Palmer denies any connection to Jay, Florida property.

My middle finger points to the Get Right room. This is a scale model of the compound from when it was an FBI facility.

Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres

This review was previously published on April 5, 2008.

When I returned to Lake City, I visited the former music minister. This was back in early '83.

He no longer attended the church we used to share.

Actually, he was 'between churches'.

"The last church asked us to leave because we brought a black child on the bus."

When he told me this, I thought I saw a new side to this man.

Our former church had severe racial ideas, so I took this to mean he now supported newly acquired progressive values.

How wrong I was!

"If we can't bring black children to church, where are they gonna go? A liberal church that tells 'em nothing's wrong with black and white's dating? Whose goin' tell them they can't date each other? Whose gonna tell them they are a cursed race? But still blessed?"

My former music director wasn't the only person who did the right thing for the wrong reason.

Jesus Land, published in 2005, and gaining popularity around the world, is a book about such people.

When I first saw the book at Border's, I thought it was a warm hearted memoir of growing up as an evangelical Christian. I stayed away for that reason. The last thing I desired was nostalgia for Sandi Patti or Pat Boone. Or worse, smarmy ex-fundamentalists throwing sarcastic barbs at the faults of their former handlers, but refusing to acknowledge any weaknesses in themselves.

That was a mistake.

'Ex-Fundamentalist' is not the proper term for Julia.

She appears to have avoided the koolaide.

Her B.S. detector serves her well while growing up with an abusive father, who is a doctor and sometimes medical missionary, and a stern mother. Mother and father adopted children, including two African Americans named David and Jerome.

If this sounds like a Christian family void of racial prejudice, that is the illusion the family meant to project.

Jerome is beaten by the father.

Literally: a rod.

The skin breaks and blood is shed. He stops being 'father' and becomes a slave driver.

The brother takes it out on Julia.

He forces himself on her after each beating.

She does not say anything. If she does, the father will beat him again.

The cycle will continue.

Behavioral problems ensue (surprise! surprise!) with David after Jerome is beaten.

David is shipped to Escuela Caribe, a boys and girls home operated by New Horizons ministry, in the Dominican Republic.

Julia finds herself in some legal problems of her own. Her mother calls the police on her and forces her to spend a night in jail.

You know, might do her some good!

She is now given a choice:

a) Become an emancipated minor.

b) New Horizon's Escuela Caribe.

She chooses Escuela Caribe to be closer to David.

Julia misses her brother. In spite of the one unkind comment, they were close and dreamed of rooming together in Florida.

She is shown an advertisement for New Horizons in the fundamentalist glossy, Christianity Today.

The tropics? Beach every night?

The abuse she encounters at New Horizons is harrowing. Tropical diseases, watching her brother get punched in the gut by staff, betrayal by 'friends', and a culture that rewards snitching, awaits her. Teens are beaten. Treated like prisoners. One is impregnated by a staff member.

When the pregnant girl, and pastor who made her so, is sent home, Julia creates the fantasy only a teenage girl, imprisoned with hormones blazing, can have. To paraphrase: Seduce a staff member! Get laid and go home!

Julia does not give in to this idea. It would take her away from David, and that's why she's here in the first place.

It certainly would not have been impossible. The founder of New Horizons, in a scene rivaling any 70's era women's prison flick, threatens Julia.

He tells of a 'fornicating' girl he stripped naked and beat black and blue.

The implication: Julia better tow the line or it's bondage time.

Contemporary Christian Music provides the soundtrack to this tragedy. Punishment meted out while Sandi Patti and Pat Boone serenade.

"He who endures to the end shall be saved.", says the scripture.

Julia endures.

There is no maternal/paternal love in this book. Julia is the biological daughter of her mother, but there has never been any closeness. Same with her father.

David and Julia are not of the same blood, yet share a bond that goes deeper than blood.

This is not simply an expose. It is a story of survival.

Jesus Land is no mere memoir. It is a classic. It takes it's rightful place in the expanding genre of memoirs inspired by growing up in fundamentalist christianity. Jesus Land belongs on your self, right beside Barbara Harrison's Visions of Glory, and Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.

Julia Scheeres, a journalist, graduated from Calvin College and currently reviews books for the New York Times.