Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why We Speak Out Against Teen Challenge : Abusive Cult Conditioning Program Preys on Vulnerability of Youth

It is important to distinguish that amidst all of the reports of  Teen Challenge abuses of children (including  garden hose "water-boarding", physical beatings, hazing, exploitation, intimidation, to name a few from a very long list), negilgence (unsafe living environments for residential students, abandonment of unhealthy students in need of emergency healthcare, denying students needed/doctor prescribed medications, student on student violence, runaway students patternisticly telling law enforcement they were attempting to escape abuse), and other ethics violations, our PROTESTS, ASSERTIONS, and DECLARATIONS are unified by purpose and directive and are NOT in any way vindictive attacks of the organization itself.  Our mission is very clear and quite simple: to prevent any further abuses or negligence to our children, via any plan, program, organization, or religion!  We (SOATC) ask our brothers and sisters of ALL beliefs to join together with us in BOYCOTTING Teen Challenge.  We ask that our companions and comrades (That's YOU!) in this effort:  

COMPLETELY HALT AND STOP ALL DONATIONS(monetary or non-monetary), AND SUPPORT (resources, strike-employment/unionize, whatever it takes <within ethics, reason, and legal limits of course!> 

We call for this boycott of all Teen Challenge support, in order to make our message against such child abuses clear to the world. We have provisionally assembled an outline of our prerequisites for which we will end our call to BOYCOTT the Teen Challenge program.  We call it the "Teen Challenge Recipe for Success"
  And it will be publicly available shortly...

The following article is not only an outline of what motivates us to speak out, but also an explanation of why this boycott is so important along with our protests.  I hope the information here is helpful.  Find more information on our other posts(blogs) which are linked within this article.

Why We Speak Out Against Teen Challenge 
  A Legacy of Abuse in the Name of GOD
by Thomas Kinder

Nahum 1:3 - The LORD [is] slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked : the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

As you sit down for church today you notice things are a bit different than usual.  Up front is a slide projector with a white screen next to the pulpit.  As the pastor gets up to speak, he tells the congregation that today they have some special guests, a group from a touring Teen Challenge program.  The group presents an emotional slideshow telling about the wonderful things they are doing in the deprived areas of the world, and how they have helped many find God, who had once been strung out on drugs.  They tell of the incredible success rates which are unmatched by any secular (<adj. adv.>unrelated to the church or any faith) program of it's kind.   After a testimony or two, usually former addicts who found their way , attributing their success to the 12-18 month Teen Challenge program, and now they even work with the program as staff.  Shortly after the emotional tales and some singing, a collection plate or bucket is passed around the congregation for donations to the Teen Challenge program.  After church, the TC group wanes social in the front lobby making conversation with the more interested members of the congregation.  On the drive home your Grandfather and Grandmother, who had also contributed to the Teen Challenge collection, discuss how proud they are to have been able to donate to such an upstanding organization, noting that "God truly works through that Teen Challenge."  

I wonder exactly what my Grandparents would have been saying if the presentation had gone differently.  What if instead of clean and well dressed choirboy, we saw the sloppy heroin addict, sick from withdrawals, shaking fridgidly in a grey jumpsuit, given nothing to ease his suffering (which he would receive in most medical settings )  BUT it would go against Teen Challenge protocol.  What if HE told his story of his experience at Teen Challenge, the real story of the young man who was held down and water-boarded by staff, with a garden hose until he nearly drowned; all as punishment for "acting out of line".

What if that same congregation heard rather the story of the many young men and women who steadily attempt to escape these programs, to get away from harassing verbal abuse, physical abuse, and negligence, even if it means going to jail?  What if while speaking, the group leader publicly acknowledged that the success rates promoted by the Teen Challenge program were falsified and based on unethically distorted data?  I wonder, if such had been the case, would the church membership STILL be so eager to grab for their wallets as the offering plate came upon their row?

Unfortunately, this is just a small sample of the tragic reality that good Christian patrons are NOT shown and so many Christians and non-Christians alike are simply unaware that such things are taking place, due to the massive control that Teen Challenge has maintained over it's public image and information distributed about the TC program.  In fact, because of the direct marketing to churches in order to gain funding, many outside of the church have never even heard of Teen Challenge or know anything about it.  It was when we first started spreading the word about Teen Challenge abuses and ethics violations, we realized that the only people we were reaching who even knew what Teen Challenge was were church members or those brought up in the church, mostly Assembly of God denomination.

This is sadly ironic, considering that Teen Challenge boasts it's primary goal to be "reaching the lost".  Considering Jesus' own words, "It is not the well, who need a doctor.", it would seem more appropriate to say that Teen Challenge's mission is rather, "reaching the Church's pocketbook".  

This might seem a bold statement to those who have only been exposed to Teen Challenge's filtered self-portrayal in presentations and distributed materials, and many seem to be unaware that this organization's real legacy consists of sex abuse, abuse, even negligent homicide.  Most have not been told that Teen Challenge meets most of the criteria to be legitimately considered a dangerous cult, structured to quiet and control opposition, from within to without the organization, going as far as to prevent minor children from contacting their parents or immediate family as standard protocol.

< We have reports in our archives where this practice has led to death.  For example, the story of the unnecessary death of a bright young man, who was wrongly left in the street without the emergency medical care he needed to survive>

To this day Teen Challenge refuses to accept public responsibility for the crimes of which it stands accused.  These kinds of reports are far too common in abusive residential programs like Teen Challenge.  

Using their position of power and influence of the Christian Church, Teen Challenge often finds unquestioning support from congregations and their spiritual leaders.  Though Assemblies of God claims Teen Challenge as one of their primary ministries, Teen Challenge maintains a non-denominational status so as to cultivate and retain interdenominational support.  Along with "fleecing the flock", the organization has also received millions in federal support funds more every year, which has stirred up a substantial amount of controversy over the organization's "faith-based" status, regarding certain regulatory exceptions and privileges that such categorization entails. 

That leads us to another reason why we feel it is so important to speak out.  For years these abuses have gone unheard and silenced.  Until now the victims of Teen Challenge oppression have had little voice, nothing more than whispers here and there, desolate and unseen by the main stream media/press.   We have come together to create what will soon be the largest archive of information regarding Teen Challenge abuses, negligence, and ethics violations.  We thank you for your support and are always seeking new ways to improve and increase our reach.  If you are interested in supporting our protests with resources or donations, please email challengingteenchallenge@gmail.com.  

We are Christians and non-Christians alike, who hold a simple purpose and common ground.  We seek to educate the world about the abuse and lies behind the facade of a "righteous" Christian movement called Teen Challenge.  We see the Christian Church being lied to and manipulated for their money.  We see continued abuses and negligence perpetually stay unacknowledged, and unchanged.  We see the victims of garden hose "water-boarding", sexual abuse, and negligence unheard and dismissed as "attacks of the enemy (Satan)", when in reality, some of the victims are Christians themselves.  You can find the details and the stories on our blog sites http://teenchallengeusa.blogspot.com, http://teenchallengeinternational.blogspot.com, and http://teenchallengeboycott.blogspot.com, and friend us on facebook at http://facebook.com/teenchallengeboycott  AND be sure to "like"our page at http://www.facebook.com/teenchallengeinternational !   We are always posting new content and collecting information for YOU!  Let Your voice be heard!  If you or a loved one has been a victim of Teen Challenge abuses or negligence, please share so that others may be saved from becoming victims likewise.  Simply email challengingteenchallenge@gmail.com.

  "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -Sinclair Lewis

The false claims and shirking of responsibility that defines the history of Teen Challenge really speaks for itself, but great efforts have been made to hide these stories from the eye of the public.  Teen Challenge has rallied a great amount of support from big names in the Christian-Right, ranging from political leadership to church leadership, nationally and internationally, but again, very few of it's supporters have heard any information about the organization from any outside sources. Unfortunately, the reports and ethical violations that have been occurring have gotten very little press attention, and the little it has gotten, has been quickly dismissed by talking heads or spokespersons, seeking to discredit the victims, or playing the "victim" card themselves, for example in the case of Rich Scherber, who said he simply was shocked (to paraphrase), as they were unable to filter an article prior to publication.  Coincidentally the article happened to be about large financial fraud related to his Minnesota Teen Challenge.  As I respond to Rich's dismay, I address that it is not typically warranted for a journalistic article to be "proofed" by involved parties prior to publication, which would be a drastic violation of journalistic integrity.  The fact that I had to explain such a principle to someone in such a position of leadership, is somewhat disconcerting,  and disappointing. 

 It is quite easy to find websites online of churches, and special interest groups reporting the self-proclaimed "success rate" of the Teen Challenge program.  Unfortunately at times, religious and faith-based information is not held to the same social or psychological standards of most journalism or educational writings so these churches and religious organizations quote the awe-inspiring success rates that Teen Challenge claims, often without knowing they are spreading false information.  I briefly touched on this already when I mentioned the "unquestioning" support of congregations and their spiritual leaders.

We could probably all agree that this pales in importance however, when we face the hundreds of lives that have been damaged or ruined by the ruthless tactics used to control "students" of this program.  If that sounds like overkill then consider this:  Teen Challenge meets almost every criteria of a "cultic group" as described by Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D., in their checklist formatted,   "Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups - Revised"(COMING SOON!).  While we already have a "cult litmus test", which Teen Challenge fails miserably, this article  is a much more technical exploration of the dangerous elements within any organization that can be categorized as a "cult".  As described in this article by Dr.'s Lalich and Langone, 

Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs, and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused. 

Almost EVERY correspondence we have ever been involved with in regards to the Teen Challenge program confirms to the fullest the control, influence, and exploitation described here.  Part of the changes we are demanding from Teen Challenge include a more positive core basis for their teachings if they wish to continue to represent Christianity.  While most of what is taught at Teen Challenge is a somewhat twisted spin-off of Christianity, there are also many non-biblical concepts which Teen Challenge has incorporated as well.  For example, did you know that Teen Challenge teaches that THEY can "cure" homosexuality?  Of course, I'm sure that's not an FDA approved statement, but it is also very offensive to the many homosexual Christians who have already been judged inappropriately by ignorant people, who aren't afraid to let it show.  In fact, without going into detail, but for those who don't know much about the Bible, NOWHERE that we've been able to find does it say that homosexuality is a sin!  We know as Christians and non-Christians alike, that Jesus taught love and compassion.  He did not teach us to beat or denigrate those who don't believe.  

Many of the victims of Teen Challenge abuses ( not all and I am very thankful for that) that I have spoken to, say that they have a hard time believing that God could be a loving, compassionate God and allow these things to happen to children and women.    Even those who have been brought up in Christian homes, begin to question their faith.  This is a very common state of quandary, experienced by those who have been victims of abuse, especially abuse by those who claim to be doing God's work.  I wonder myself, especially those who have NOT come from Christian homes, how they could ever imagine a loving and caring God, when all they have seen and felt is insecurity, humiliation, and  forceful expedition of "God's Laws", or more accurately Teen Challenge laws.  I really don't have an answer for them.  I try to explain that they have been mistreated by imperfect people, who are sinners just like the rest of us.  How many more have to suffer, because we all God's children, believers or not, lay lifeless on the sidelines unwilling to SPEAK OUT for their protection?!  We all share the same responsibility for our youth and future generations.  If we don't stand up for them NOW who will?  

Coercive / Persuasion

Over 15% of the Teen Challenge residential population is there by court mandate or due to a legal infraction. This is the sector of the Teen Challenge that especially concerns us.  It should be stated that when a "student" is court ordered to attend Teen Challenge he/she is given a choice of either jail or Teen Challenge.  They are also informed of the "biblical" nature of the program, so students cannot claim they didn't know what they were getting into, but in reality they still usually don't.  They do not tell you that once you are in, you WILL be forced to partake in religious ceremonies, rituals, and practices.  We have received and heard countless stories of forced religious practice.  I can't think of a better way to turn someone "off", or away from God than forcing them to worship in any way.  The feeling of violation and degradation they describe would easily merit lawsuits, if TC hadn't already required them to sign away their rights completely.

Do I have to participate in the religious aspects of the program to receive services?

An applicant is carefully informed as to the faith-based nature of the program and that entering a Teen Challenge program is voluntary; however, all aspects of the program are mandatory upon entrance

Those who respectfully decline to participate in even just the religious ceremonies are released from the program with prejudice, citing "uncooperative behavior" and are referred back to the court system in cases where admission was "involuntary", to quote law enforcement documents related to such cases.

The belief taught in the program is that once a "student" has been converted to or cleansed by the Teen Challenge program, the "demon" of drug addiction can no longer "reside" within them.  

On that note, to avoid a sensitive subject, don't ask how many of the Teen Challenge staffers are addicted to coffee, because "that's different."  Perhaps, part of the problem we see is the "demon possessed coffee drinkers" have corrupted the otherwise pure staffing roster.  But in all seriousness, allow me to backtrack to the subject at hand.

Of course not unlike any other cult organization, logic has been discarded for a twisted interpretation of "faith".  Take for example, the previously mentioned Teen Challenge policy disallowing medication  as evidenced by this excerpt from the New York Teen Challenge FAQ.  Their policy reflects most national Teen Challenge's protocol:  

A student may not smoke, use tobacco products, use drugs or alcohol, or use the 
following types of medications: pain medication, sleeping pills and sedatives. Also, 
a student may not use other drugs that are narcotic type drugs while he is in the 
program. If a student is under a physician’s care that feels the student must take 
narcotic type drugs, that student should seek a medical or psychiatric facility for assistance, 
as Teen Challenge is not a medical facility. 

Faith healing practices have been around for thousands of years, and more recently have been exposed as frauds.  Many have died as a result of this self-righteous corruption and misuse of God's word.  Though we fullheartedly believe that GOD ALMIGHTY has the ability to heal and even raise the living from the dead, such healing or miracles are individual tests of faith between God and the individual He is working with, so to speak.  

"Enforced faith", or oppressive discrimination of those who need medication is a sin, by any standard.  God gave a very urgent warning to his children to be on the look out for corruptions of HIS WORD.  

Matthew 24:24 - For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

He is also very clear about the fate of those who mislead and abuse children in HIS NAME.

Matthew 18:6    But whoso shall cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to fall, it were better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

"Do Take a look at this quote from the Teen Challenge FAQ page:

Is Teen Challenge a medical program?

Teen Challenge believes in the faith model and concentrates on focusing attention on God and His will for those that enter the program as well as those who are being assisted in some of the services offered. While recognizing the need for expertise in some areas, Teen Challenge does not subscribe to the medical model of helping an individual involved in drug abuse.

"Who needs medical knowledge...We've got...eh....experts in "some areas, that we can talk to if we need to... " ?  

So we've talked about the abuses, negligence, and other topics that give us reason to Speak Out Against Teen Challenge, which are far too many to list here, but we have far more detailed information in our blogs listed above.  So let's touch on this subject just once more.

Well I've heard that Teen Challenge is the Most Successful Rehab!  Isn't that true?

Only in the sector of religion can an organization make statistical claims without any clinical or scientific data to support it.  When it comes to the "success rates" of Teen Challenge programs lets take a look at how they've manipulated the game to their illusory benefit 

How long is your program?

The typical Teen Challenge experience lasts 12-18 months barring any unforeseen circumstances. Emphasis is placed, not on a time element, but on the evaluated progress of the student as to when completion is made.
According to Teen Challenge's website what credit (for the inaccurately high success rate they report) is not given to the religious aspect of the program, is attributed to the length of the "student's" residency.  Not only that, Teen Challenge really isn't even truly a rehab or recovery program by strict definition as ALL students when admitted have already successfully completed detox.

Can I detox at your centers and if not where can I go?

Most Teen Challenges require that you detox before entering the program. There are detox centers in most communities. The local Teen Challenge should have some recommendations as to where a good detox program would be in your area.

  This is the most telling element of the Teen Challenge claim to success.  If a "student" is already detoxed then by definition, they are already "off drugs" and the hard part has already been done for them.  This is another reason why the program disallows the use of "narcotic" medicines in their program.  The drugs that they refer to almost surely categorize opiates and perhaps even Benzodiazepines.  If someone is in great pain, or suffering from anxiety issues then they may be prescribed these medications, but TC doesn't want the liability of "addictive" substances messing p their ability to say that they get kids "off drugs completely", although even that isn't true.  Then after 12-18 months of conditioning and control, the "student" has then adjusted to life away from the friends and environment that had influenced their decision to use drugs or alcohol.  Great!  It works!....BUT so could a vacation to China, with a comparable cost and results likewise, without the abuses and side-effects of primitive conditioning (bruises, damaged self-esteem, lost lives, lost innocence)

There are other reasons why Teen Challenge claims of success rates fully lack credibility.  Take a look at this item from a 2001 New York Times.

 It is the opinion of some social scientists that the 86 percent success rate of Teen Challenge is misleading, as it does not count the people who dropped out during the program, and that, like many voluntary NGO's, Teen Challenge picks its clients. The item quotes the Rev. John D. Castellani, then president of Teen Challenge International U.S.A., as saying that most of the addicts have already been through detoxification programs, before they are admitted. In the program's first four-month phase, Mr. Castellani said, 25 to 30 percent drop out, and in the next eight months, 10 percent more leave. In their testimony before the United States House Committee on Ways and Means, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, have similarly testified that the much quoted success rates "dramatically distort the truth", due to the lack of reference to the high drop out rate.

 "Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Human Resources and Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures of the House Committee on Ways and Means". House Committee on Ways and Means. 2001-06-14. Retrieved 2009-01-10.

So what do you call it when you say something untrue?  A lie?  A deadly sin.  But what if you are spreading those lies across the world, deceiving parents, children, and those who are TRYING to do the right thing?  What does the Christian Bible say about those that lie and facilitate the abuses of children?  I would refer you to the above verse from Matthew 18:6.  A hint; it involves a millstone, a neck, rope, and the ocean.

If you ask a Christian in most Protestant denominations about Teen Challenge, they will probably tell you that they've heard great things about this organization and it's high rate of success.  Now you know why and how to respond.  If it doesn't come up in conversation, bring it up, because it is all of our responsibility to Speak Out for the victims, their families, and those who have been deceived by this organization in so many ways. 

This post does not go into great detail of these abuses and reports of ethics violations.  You can find these stories in our other blogs at http://teenchallengeusa.blogspot.com or http://teenchallengeinternational.blogspot.com, and as mentioned previously, http://teenchallengeboycott.blogspot.com These are not our stories, but those of the many who have been negatively impacted by the sins committed by these programs.  In the same way that James Randi seeks to expose fraudulent illusionists, who take advantage of the emotionally vulnerable and heartbroken(mediums/seance), we would like to think that we share the same role in the faith sector.  Too many fraudulent organizations have preyed upon the weak and needy in the name of faith, and it is time to stand against them at any cost.  

Please share the truth with those you know.  Our youth should not suffer from our mistakes, and complacence toward such sinful mistreatment.

BOYCOTT TEEN CHALLENGE 2014 - Acknowledgement and Change Movement

hosted by "Speak Out Against Teen Challenge"

Everybody, please JOIN USUS in our boycott to make much needed changes in the Teen Challenge program and prevent any further victims of any abuses or negligence.

As part of the SOATC 2014 Boycott, please DO NOT support Teen Challenge, monetarily, or non-monetarily, until they publicly acknowledge and accept responsiblity for the long (and ever growing) list of abuses, negligences, and ethics violations.  We will boycott until they also make appropriate changes to their current level of transparency and allowed communication of minor children with their immediate family, or guardians, we also demand that Teen Challenge submit to complete Third-party monitoring and regulation, in order to guarantee beyond any doubt that as Teen Challenge continues operation that no more children will be abused or neglected.

We encourage you to use the money you "would have " donated to Teen Challenge to another well respected and charitible foundation or non-profit who care for the victims of abuse.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of Teen Challenge abuse or negligence please share your story with us at "Speak Out Against Teen Challenge".  Simply email challengingteenchallenge@gmail.com

In the name of all that Good and Holy,
Thomas and Trinity Kinder

Facebook Username:  TeenChallenge Boycottusa
Facebook Page:  www.facebook.com/teenchallengeinternational


  1. You are rediculous.... I am a drug free graduate of Teen Challenge Ventura it was the best thing that ever happened to my life I have been drug-free all these years since graduating they were the nicest people you have ever met in your life strict yes abusive heck no maybe if you actually attended it you know something in that little small mind of yours it is not a cult it has the biggest success rate for addicts that you have ever seen and they do it without the help of other drugs to compensate whoever started this page probably started it because they're losing money from people going there and not buying their drugs to wean them off of the other drugs
    So y'all can bite me in your attempt to get people to hate Teen Challenge

  2. The TEEN CHALLENGE CULT demons had my Jennifer in Midland, when she came out she was brainwashed beyond repair, now they have taken her to TEEN CHALLENGE in elpaso ,for more brainwashing, 3 days ago, I may have to handle this with force, before they hurt her again

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