Friday, February 25, 2005

Operation PAR tackles faith-based by W. Fager

Faith-based rehabilitation is a concept that assumes that men of God need no state oversight to administer social programs such as drug rehabilitation. It is a concept first popularized in Texas by then Gov. George W. Bush who is today trying to make it the law of the land. In a clear violation of "separation of church and state" the president presses for awarding federal grant money to church-based social programs.

Many fault the President for assuming that all men of God should be trusted out of hand. Look at Father Bruce Ritter and Covenant House, for example. During his 1984 inaugural address President Ronald Reagan singled out Father Bruce Ritter as one of the nation's "un-sung" heroes for his work at Covenant House, a program to take in homeless children. In 1989 President George H. W. Bush launched his "thousand points of light" initiative from Covenant House. Four months after Bush's award, Father Ritter stepped down from Covenant House amidst allegations he was having sex with the young boys he saved from the streets and that he was fraudulently handling charitable funds.

The President's brother Jeb Bush is pushing the faith-based initiative in Florida. But, like Texas, Florida has had problems with church-based social programs as reported in An intro to ABC Pensacola News Report on faith-based schools by W. Fager. Look at Reverend Doctor Miller Newton. Miller Newton was formerly the national clinical director for Straight, Inc. He hurriedly left Florida in 1982 amidst a flurry of criminal and civil allegations for abusing teenagers. He moved to New Jersey and setup his own Straight-like program he called Kids of Bergen County. From there he setup his own chain of juvenile rehabilitation programs he called Kids Centers of America. In 1989 state health authorities closed down his Kids of Southern California for abusing kids. So Straight moved in and took over his clients. Next year California health authorities closed down Straight of Southern California for abusing kids. Similarly state authorities closed Kids of El Paso and Kids of Salt Lake City. In 1993 three counselors at Kids in New Jersey were convicted of assault. In 1999 another was convicted of assault. Reverend Newton finally closed his flagship facility two years ago after paying out over $11 million to former clients for abuse and to the federal government for Medicare fraud. The New Jersey Law Journal labled Father Newton's treatment regimen "medical quackery." Reverend Newton has moved back to Florida and taken on an alias--Father Cassian. Straight watchers have been very concerned that Jeb Bush will let him organize a faith-based treatment program for youths in Florida, because, by ordination and education, he is a man of God. Father Cassian has not established a social program for youths, but he has joined a subsidiary group of DFAF!

In 1984 Straight, Inc. was ordered by a jury in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia to pay Fred Collins $220,000 for falsely imprisoning him. The jury felt that Mr. Collins had not sufficiently proved that he had been abused while incarcerated at Straight, otherwise the judgment would have surely been for much more. Fred Collins had been an honor roll engineering student at Virginia Tech who had come to Straight to visit his brother there during Spring break. But during prescreening as a requirement to see his brother, a Straight counselor had looked into Fred's eyes, determined that they were red, and ordered him into treatment against his will. The counselor who made the decision to incarcerate Fred Collins was a former Catholic priest named Chris Yarnold. During deposition Mr. Yarnold admitted he did not know what laughing gas was, nor did he know the active ingredient in marijuana [THC]. When asked, in court, if he knew how the hallucinogenic factor in drugs worked, he replied, "No. All I knew was drugs affected people." He declared that he had known Mr. Collins had been smoking marijuana because his eyes had been red at intake. He admitted that contact lenses could make one’s eyes red, but on physical examination of Collins at the trial, he failed to notice that Collins was then wearing contact lenses. Later Yarnold became director of the ill-fated Straight-Sarasota.

Today Chris Yarnold is director of marketing at Betty Sembler's Operation Par. He represents Op PAR on Florida's Faith and Community-Based Treatment Committee. Operation PAR is looking for individuals to serve on its interfaith advisory board.

Mr. Yarnold is standing in the line to get that fat faith-based money along with Joy Margolis. Joy is Straight's former mouthpiece. Now she is a member of Jeb Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Advisory Board. A second link is here.

Also read Child Abuse in Florida's Faith-based Programs by Wes Fager.

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