Sunday, June 24, 2007

Could it happen here? w/update

Would you recognize a cult if you saw one?

How could you find fault with the People's Temple, it was a CHURCH, after all. It couldn't be bad. People who tried to get the word out met with this and other obstacles.

Many people questioning "Teen Challenge" are meeting with similar messages. But, as has been pointed out, there is alot to question here.

Larry Glass and the other City Council members already voted on the issue, so Larry may have been a little too late looking into the place, as detailed in today's Times Standard. Teen Challenge debate reveals a neighborhood in crisis

But, I think he is right - this bears further looking into. Really serious looking into.

There are some real questions about the methods used by the curiously named "Teen Challenge" - and not least among them are the cult aspects of their program.

Not being allowed to talk to family members for months, the breakdown of the individual, threats to convert or else - too many of the key cult warning signs are there, if you believe the testimonials at

A few examples: "...she felt like she was living in a prison camp, rather than a loving nurturing Christian environment. If they saw her looking out the window in her room at how pretty the sky looked that day, they accused her of "thinking about worldly things" and drilled her about what she was thinking as she looked out the window. They accused her of "plotting" to leave or run away. And even the slightest sign of objection to their methods brought on further "punishment" and admonishment."

"Teen Challenge is just like a “cult” operation, training its participants to perform tasks mindlessly without question for the staff authority. I had a bunk mate next to me that was pscytsophrenic and was constantly under pressure to be “prayed over” to be healed so he would not have to take his medication that helped to stop the voices."

"My 24 year old son was just granted a program change from Teen Challenge. I had to hire an attorney, as they do NOT believe in any other rehabs. (NOR do they believe in 12 step programs) Once they got wind that he had requested me to ask probation for a change, they told him "Pack your bags, I'm sending you to prison". How Christian of them, huh?

They primarily teach healing by Jesus Christ, pressure you to speak in tongues, pressure to recruit you to be "trained" by THEIR religious program (TCMI) to be a staff member. It is NOT a drug/alcohol rehab, as all they offer is hyper-religiosity to replace drug addiction. The residents and interns work and make them money. My observation from my son's ordeal is that if you don't succumb to the brain-washing, you will be ostracized and mentally tormented. Those that have a prison/jail sentence looming, (if you "fail" your program) empowers them. It is IMMORAL how they give probation "bad reports" for those that don't sign up for the "speaking in tongues", and these poor souls who suffer from addiction end up in prison. Residents are told that they need to be "broken" some more in jail, and that they will return.

I feel that Christians that donate and support Teen Challenge are not aware of the abuse that goes on. For those who can't sign up for their "truths", the retaliation is scary. Because the courts refer to this program for alternative sentencing, it is an issue that needs to be looked at very closely. I am appalled by the whole organization. I don't believe that some of the "nice" directors at the top of the food chain are completely oblivious to what is happening in there. When they hear untruths being spoken about a resident, instead of investigating the situation, I've seen them back up their staff and chastise the resident that is being abused. If you stick up for yourself, you will be severely punished. I never knew something like this could grow and exist in America. Teen Challenge had my son sign a waiver to give up all of his rights. Also the waiver stated that he could not sue them. Isn't THAT interesting? Now I understand and appreciate organizations that oppose faith-initiative money being handed over to these types of abusive cult"

There's more. And I'd say at the very least, Eureka should make very sure that anyone who comes to someone in a position of authority seeking help to get out (or to get someone out) should be taken very seriously, not brushed off and sent away and NOT returned to the facility. And, don't discount the people who are raising questions.

And that "open door policy" the City Council specified - that needs to include family members.

Times Standard articles on the Teen Challenge issue
Eureka Reporter articles on the Teen Challenge issue
RickRoss on Teen Challenge
Local discussion:
at Fred's...
...and more
at Eric's...
...and heraldo's

A law that suits or a lawsuit?
and a letter from a former participant. Again, don't automatically dismiss people who are trying to tell you something.
Former member talks about 'abusive ministry'
Dear Editor,

The Eureka City Council refused to listen to the warnings from Sue Brandenburg and Wendy Brown about Teen Challenge. Therefore, Eureka residents will just have to find out the hard way what this abusive ministry is all about.

I completed the one-year Teen Challenge program at the Shafter and Riverside locations. Their main focus is on breaking the “student’s” will and making him or her feel so inferior that they cannot imagine life away from Teen Challenge.

Those who choose to leave are told that “seven times the demons of addiction” will be set upon them and they will burn in hell for all eternity. Sounds like a nice place, doesn’t it?

This is a ministry whose No. 1 purpose is to increase its assets,
because at Teen Challenge, Almighty God runs a distant second to the almighty dollar. If you become sick or injured and cannot make money for the ministry, you are unceremoniously dumped at the bus station, regardless of whether you have any money. The bottom line is that you are there to make money for that ministry. If you can’t, then you’re gone.

I’ll look forward to reading your online edition in the coming months because this should get quite interesting once the residents of Eureka realize just what they’ve allowed to exist in their town. Quite interesting, indeed.

Michael Kincheloe

(Editor’s note: Concerning Kincheloe’s statement about Teen Challenge expelling people who cannot work because of injury or sickness, Redwood Teen Challenge Director Fred Lamberson III said Teen Challenge’s policy is that the organization will allow participants to take a rest and then determine whether the situation is an ongoing medical crisis and, if it is, then will that prevent the individual from continuing to be and work in the program.)
Copyright (C) 2005, The Eureka Reporter. All rights reserved.

More links:
If you know someone who belongs to a group that demonstrates a significant number of these warning signs and you would like more information on how to deal with destructive cults or mind control, go to
Warning signs of a destructive cult
INVESTIGATING TEEN CHALLENGE - Why Does Teen Challenge Need to Be Investigated?

Property buy falls through; Redwood Teen Challenge back to drawing board 7/14/07
Resident: Prove deal is 'dead' 7/17/07
Good arises from anger 7/19/07


  1. speaking of cults,your midget bloger heraldo now says that one must be a team member to post on his blog. Restrictions. You'll have to spank him again.

  2. robin shelley6/24/2007 11:12 PM

    Informative post, Rose. Thanks.

  3. Y'er welcome. Wish I'd been following this sooner.

    As is pointed out in one of the articles, this is a "zoning issue" and not a for or against "Teen Challenge" issue, but it seems to me a little examination is in order.

  4. robin shelley6/24/2007 11:25 PM

    Yep. It would seem so.

  5. Well if you check out Rich Sommerville's editorial on the TeenChallenge decision made,you'll see why its hard for some to speak out against abuse by religious functions.The 2 ladies he was referring to were right in calling them religious hypocrites.Wouldn't one consider Jim Jones to be a religious hypocrite?
    What really gets to me is how they use the broken prison system to their advantage.Fred Lamberson III,the director of our local outfit,served on George Bush's faith based initiative team,(although I think TeenChallenge is exempt from faith based funding,I could be wrong though,as things may have changed)and my guess is that any talk about reforming certain drug laws and the prison system didn't go over well.They rely on the "it's either come with us or go back to prison"threat in indoctrinating its members.
    After the application to join is completed,the member is then given the paperwork to receive food stamps,disability,and other social service needs.The rent for a member is $1400 a month.ALL OF THIS IS GIVEN TO THE CHURCH.If a member refuses to do so,THEY ARE DISMISSED FROM THE PROGRAM.
    Security National and other companies have been hiring these people to do work for them.Brian Morrisey pays them $10 an hour,to work off of their rent,and again ALL OF THIS IS GIVEN TO THE CHURCH.
    I believe that a complaint was sent to the state labor relations board two weeks ago.According to Sue Brandenberg,TeenChallenge does not provide workers comp. insurance,a claim dismissed by Lamberson,and there was another complaint filed with that,I don't have the details behind that,something in regards to forced labor.
    This thing is bad in many ways,lack in representing the neighborhood by the city council,failure to do impact studies,failure to get out public notices,and failure to make the group clearly distinguish its function.
    Let's all just make sure that Lamberson or a colleague of his doesn't get hired to take Lyndsay McWilliams position at the elections department.Fred Lamberson III is already too intermingled with politics for my liking.

  6. robin shelley6/26/2007 9:44 PM

    Thank you for this, Mresquan.

  7. Rose- Thank you for the link to my web blog- "Investigating Teen Challenge"!

    Also, thanks for helping to make the public aware!

  8. You're welcome, Karly. What I have read of the testimony fomr the "survivors" is eerily reminiscent of the stories of the People's Temple members/survivors. Somewhere I have a link to the warning signs of cults. I'll find that and post it. You'll be surprised how many are present here.

    In my observation, at the very least his group warrants further scrutiny, and residents concerns should not be brushed off lightly as NIMBYism.

  9. Hmmm, I wonder what their record is on gays? Do they cure that too? The city council might want to take a second look before we outdo that Jesus Camp in North Dakota.

  10. From what I see the objections have little to nothing to do with religion. From the neighbors perspective, this has to do with bringing large numbers of unknown drug addicts into their area, and the unknown number of, say Megan's List people who put their kids at risk, and the risk of increased drug activity. It's not really fair to denounce those concerns as NIMBYism.

    From some of the ex-participants in "Teen Challenge" it has to do with the draconian methods, the degradation of self, and other cult-like tactics, using religion to some degree as a money maker (something People's Temple also did to a huge extent.)

  11. people who beleive in ghosts should follow the same rules as you and i....this cult is obviously being given special treatment because of religious the city council meetings, council members were swayed by their pastors in order to vote in favor of allowing Teen Challnge, regardless of zoning and licensing problems...we need to hold our representives accountable..

  12. Karly Cordaloni

    Censors comments and deletes any that are favorable to the TC organization. This is a proven fact.

  13. Bonifay, FL (West FL Teen Challenge Boys Ranch) regularly has volunteers, typically retirees who come and help out around the place living in RVs on site.

    Here's a first hand account.

  14. My son has been enrolled at Teen Challenge Bonifay since June 2006. It has been a rewarding and life changing experience for him. He had a two-week Christmas visit and a two-week "re-entry" visit back home with family. His reactions to situations and demeaner are entirely different than when he first enrolled and he is returning to the son we knew and loved as a child.

    The ranch is regularly monitored by county agencies and suprise inspections are frequently carried out without incident. This is a military style camp with firm strict rules, but my son has flourished with the consistency and discipline with love.

    I could not see sending my son to a facility that would use drugs to control him nor could I see the benefit of a psychobable facility to rationalize his behaviour.

    This is just what he needed to get his head screwed on straight. There is a proper amount of discipline blended with classroom, bible study and mentorship. As students progress through the program and show improvement they are given the opportunity to lead and mentor the newer students.

    Its not a facility with ex-military drill instructors harrassing the boys 24/7. Its Christian men held to high standards of integrity and peers of the boys who have demonstrated a level of trust and accountability. There are also a number of ladies in teaching and facilitating roles.

    Further, the students are kept busy with regular chores and exercise. This is a working farm and they do supply some of their own food items. Its a good way to give a young man some responsibility and have him gain self-worth through accomplishment.

    There is also free time for swimming or fishing in the lake, playing board games, chess, table tennis, weight lifting, horse riding, reading, etc. My son is teaching himself to play the accoustic guitar.

    The students are rewarded for acheiving school goals with field trips. My son has gone deep-sea fishing on a coulple of occasions, for example. During the yearly rodeo, in town, a large number of the boys are allowed to attend. There are opportunities for community service and missions trips both in the states and outside the U.S.A. as well.

    Yes, the phone calls are monitored via speaker-phone. I haven't seen the need to discuss anything that couldn't be overheard by a dorm full of boys and I've never been cut off.

    My son is in the best shape emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually that he has ever been.

    All in all, its a great program.

  15. My son is also a graduate student from the Bonifay Teen Challenge this 2007 year, and I can tell you this personally. Not only did it save my son's life, it restored him to his father and I, as well as help restoring our family as a whole.

    Teen Challenge did not change my son, God gave Teen Challenge to us as a tool to use.

    I agree, my son is also in the best shape emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually that he has ever been.

    As far as phone calls go, I have never had them not return my call or hang up on me. However, we never discussed anything that the pastors or staff could not hear.

    My son knows that we 100 percent support Teen Challenge in their rules. That makes a big difference in how the program will succeed with a child.

    I knew from the moment I stepped on the property to Teen Challenge, before we brought our son, that it was a Holy Spirit filled campus. There was not one ounce of a "mom alert" that said don't send your child. The same feeling I had taking him there is the same feeling I had when he graduated. I know he is going to succeed.

    He is a teen, don't get me wrong, but we know have the tools needed and support that we need that was not there before.

    Our prayers were definately answered.

  16. For those trying to make a decision about sending a loved one to Teen Challenge, voluntarily entering the program, or entering under court order.

    Resource clearing house and place for testimonials both favorable and not.

  17. I would like to point out that the above four posts by 'anonymous' and the post by "Not of This World' are all being posted by the same exact same person. How do I know this? Because I have seen the exact same posts in the exact same order on my own web blog!

    Evidently this person became quite upset with me because I removed their posts. He/She has sent me several e-mails complaining because I removed those posts! They have also tried to re-post them on my web blog so now I am moderating my comments. Those posts are still sitting in the "Waiting to be Moderated" section of my web blog.

    Anyway- I don't know what this person's problem is but I do know that he/she has become quite obsessed because my site counter shows that he/she has been going to my web blog several times a day now.

  18. It feels like a somewhat organized thing.

    Look, there's no question that "Teen Challenge" does work for some people. So did People's Temple for that matter.

    And there's no question that in some cases, the "tough love" approach is needed, and that, in order for someone to kick a drug habit, they may have to shed their old friends, maybe even their family. Because returning to the same old scene will inevitably bring them right back into the drug habit.

    But any program is only as good as those in charge, and once something is franchised out, you have no real guarantees. One leader may be excellent, moral, just, everything you could hope for. Another may be twisted, and it be hidden from view.

    When I read the testimony on Karly's site, I hear the same voices, the same concerns that are in the People's Temple survivor's accounts. Are they necessarily the same? No. BUT - there is enough degradation of self there to cause concern.

    And, that said, the program they are talking aobut here in Eureka, while called "Teen Challenge" is not teenagers at all. They're grown men, and it is fair for the neighbors to be concerned.

    They do not know the history of the men - do not know if they are listed on Megan's list, do not know if they have a history of violent crime, rape, child molestation, or burglary. bringing those people into a neighborhood is a recipe for disaster at worst. But even at best, the unease, and unrest and worry that it causes residents is unfair and unecessary.

    And with the new laws allowing DAs like gallegos to slough violent offenders off into drug rehab, those concerns are doubly - triply - warranted.

    So, my answer to 6:51/10:28 is - I'm glad your son had a good experience. Others haven't.

    It's worth discussing.

    And all the glowing accolades in the world don't mean a whole helluva lot. Jim Jones had support and praise from the highest echelons of government. He had the wool pulled firmly over everyone's eyes - and he used good causes and good works as sheep's clothing while he fleeced the flock.

  19. And, Karly, thank you, by the way. I encourage you to allow the comments on your blog, and have the discussion. It's worth having.

  20. To "Not Of This World" - I followed your link to the new blog, and posted a comment there. Good luck.

  21. Teen Challenge is a life saver for so many. The myths that are being used is blogs like this are just that - myths. Karly and Michael are uniformed and full of half-truths. The positive testimonies on this page are from many different people who know Teen Challenge has worked for them, their daughter, son, or other loved one.

  22. Thanks for your input, douglas. Be careful, though. Karly's note that that was one and the same person posting to her site is something she may be able to verify, if she has a counter on her site.

    There is no doubt that Teen Challenge has worked for many.

    The question in our area is whether or not it is ok to put a "Teen" Challenge (read that adult male facility) in a residential neighborhood. At least that is one of the questions. Another is whether Teen Challenge is violating labor laws, and whether there should be some oversight over the program.

    Still another that arose is whether or not Teen Challenge meets the definition of a cult. Myths or not - it is a discussion worth having. Maybe we'll conclude at the end that you are right.

  23. I've just now had an experience with Teen Challenge much like some I've read and it's 2008! I'm strating a web site to post my story. I'm shocked at what I am finding. I should have researched more before sending my son. Debbie

  24. Sorry .. her's my site and Story:

  25. Here, I made your link live -
    Debbie, this is actually a very common account of what happens as you have learned - they do indeed use these guys to make money.

    Some argue that it's tough love, that the working makes them feel empowered and aids in healing - and they argue that they have to cut ties with friends and family members who may or may not have been co's.

    When I hear about it - there is way too much similarity to what went on at the People's Temple/Jonestown for my comfort.

    I don't know if it will help but here are a few sites with advice for identifying and dealing with cults (though it sounds like you and your son are now safely out of it)...

    Cult Watch
    The Rick Ross Institute
    Freedom of Mind Center
    Cults on Campus
    Cult Awareness and Information Center

    I don't know which are the good programs to go to for drug addiction, but maybe others will weigh in... I'd be happy to include any good links.


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