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Response to Matthew J. Clark op-ed re: Faith Based Recovery Camps in Alabama

Thomas Krebs

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By Thomas L. Krebs

Mr. Clark says he is telling the other side of the story about HB440 while seemingly not having a clue about why there was a need to protect children within these so-called “faith based recovery camps”. He claims that HB440 subjects faith-based camps to “possible takeover by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR).” To be sure there are some good spirited, truly faith based recovery camps located in Alabama, but HB440 was designed to prevent the torture of children in “non-Christian” boot camps by sadists who would hide behind the cross. Mr. Clark’s piece is woefully incorrect regarding what HB440 does and why it passed the Alabama Legislature in one single session.

It should be noted that several of these claimed “Christian” boot camps, or “rehabilitation centers” are nothing more than for-profit businesses operating under a claim of non-profit corporate status, without oversight by any church, recognized ordained minister, religious organization or the State of Alabama. For example, while Saving Youth Foundation claimed to be a charitable enterprise exempt from taxation, the parents of children in these camps were charged at least $1,500 a month for its 76 resident children; that’s $114,000 dollars a month, or $1,368,000 a year.

The camp was run by persons convicted of child abuse in other states. Make no mistake about it, some of these camps have nothing to do with any legitimate religious organization or educational institution; they are merely get rich vehicles for their owners and operators. These peripatetic camps move from state to state, abandoning one site when authorities learn of their abuses, only to rear their ugly heads at another site in another state. They scrupulously avoid having children within their camps who live in the same state or in nearby states to prevent their activities from being discovered by unexpected visits from those children’s parents.

The testimony given by the children who were confined in these camps is horrific. One was stripped naked, handcuffed, had shackles put on his feet, hoisted to the ceiling and beaten with belts for nearly an hour. Others were placed in solitary confinement in 6 x 8 foot cells for over a month and only allowed out for five minutes a day to shower and clean themselves. Others were forced to fight other “campers,” when they won these fights against other campers they were required to fight the “adult” administrators of the camps, who oftentimes outweighed them by 160 pounds. They were housed in wooden buildings the windows of which were boarded up and the doors locked so they could not escape. A fire would have killed them all. Mr. Clark claims that this law targets churches. He is wrong! This legislation targets sadists who abuse children while claiming to be church affiliated Christians.

Mr. Clark also misstates the provisions of HB440, which states “any fee or charge or any rule or standard implemented by the Department [DHR] pursuant to this Act shall comply with the Alabama Administrative Procedures Act.” This section of HB440 requires Legislative Council approval which eliminates virtually all of Mr. Clark’s misplaced allegations about interference with religion relating to this Act.

Captain Charles Kennedy (Prichard Police Department, Mobile County) led the investigation of these camps and it was largely through his efforts that these terrible abuses visited on children here in Alabama were brought to light. When my fellow veterans and I first heard of these monsters and their treatment of children we were outraged. We veterans did not take up arms to fight our nation’s enemies just so that so-called “Christian” boot camps could torture children here in our country and in our state. Several retired general officers representing the Army, Navy and Marine Corps heard what Captain Kennedy had to say and all believe, as I do, that we did not shed our blood so that this could happen to our countrymen here in our country, and in our state. These are children; they are Americans, and this happened here in Alabama. They require and deserve our protection. They are our countrymen. HB440 provides that protection.

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Thomas L. Krebs, Maj. USMC ret.

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