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June 10, 2005

The rules of Refuge

Zach is a very courageous 16-year-old guy from Tennessee who recently come out to his parents. He's also a damn good writer who has been blogging about their hateful anti-Christian reaction.

Zach's parents have decided to ship him off to a self-professed "Safe Place" known as Refuge--a Christianist residential program that promises to turn kids straight.

Refuge emailed The Rules to Zach's parents. He found them and posted them to his blog. They must be read to be believed.

I learned about Zach's blog and the Refuge through General J.C. Christian. The General is engaged in a lively correspondence with Reverend Smid, the program's commandant.

Refuge isn't Christian and it isn't therapeutic. One look at the rules reveals what it really is: a private detention center for gay teens.

Update: Pam Spaulding has more details on Refuge and its parent organization, Love in Action International. Hat tip to Rainbow Ark.


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» Zack :' ) from Big Monkey, Helpy Chalk
Zack :'( is a 16 year old blogger who just came out to his parents and has been sent to a Christian re-education camp. [Read More]

» Re-Education Camp from
The links in this post have to be read to be believed. Damn.... [Read More]

» Anti-Gay Brain Washing from BOPnews
Via Majikthise I came across this list, from Refuge - a Christian program which attempts to re-program gays. It's really worth a read, and it's sparked some protests and actions (as it should.) But what's really interesting to me is... [Read More]

» Anti-Gay Brain Washing from Tilting at Windmills
Via Majikthise I came across this list, from Refuge - a Christian program which attempts to re-program gays. It's really worth a read, and it's sparked some protests and actions (as it should.) But what's really interesting to me is... [Read More]


The best rule is the one about discussing any salacious thoughts, dreams, etc. with a counselor. Those counselors need a sexual charge periodically, so the prisoners are supposed to provide them. This is sometimes called cybersex.

From The Rules:

No television viewing, going to movies, or reading/watching/listening to secular media of any kind, anywhere within the client's and the parent's/guardian's control. This includes listening to classical or instrumental music that is not expressly Christian (Beethoven, Bach, etc. are not considered Christian).

Bach's sacred works aren't considered explicitly Christian?

Damn, they might want to have a word with the all the people who are always going around saying there's never been an atheist Great Composer. I might buy ringside seats to that discussion.

Damn -- italics off.

Two things struck me about the rules:

1. They are very, very long, and the proof texts have a way of disguising the purpose of the sections, not illuminating them.

2. "Bach, Beethoven, ETC., are not considered Christian composers." This would be a big surprise to Bach. But he was a Lutheran, so he doesn't count as Christian. Also, which classical composers ARE considered Christian? Palestrina -- nah, he's Catholic. Mozart -- another fish eater. Charles Wesley -- Methodist. Bill Gaither -- AAH! NOW WE'RE TALKING!

Women must shave their underarms, for "hygeine" reasons. But no sleeveless shirts are permitted.

Also, it seems like the Bible quotes have little to do with the rules they precede. Does anybody read those things for context anymore, or are the verses selected from a decoder ring??

The whole no communication of any kind and silent periods...hmmm, mind control torture techniques? sweet, very Christian of them

It's reminiscent of the Quaker reformatories discussed by Foucault.

The War on Drugs -type hysteria has led to the mushrooming of disciplinary schools of this kind. Some are located in foreign countries where licensing and legal regulation are lax, many or most are for-profit, and they use the in-loco-parentis dodge (kids have few rights against their parents, and their parents can assign their authority to an agent) to justify restrictions and disciplines which could not be used in jails and prisons. Every once in a while a kid dies while being disciplined. This school actually looks milder than many.

I don't know about the legal status of the in-loco-patentis dodge, and I wish someone would get to work on it. That's the rationale, though.

The War on Drugs, as we have it, is an ideological witchhunt or crusade disguised as an anti-crime program. In the US you cannot outlaw ideas or attitudes, but you can outlaw activities associated with ideas and attitudes.

By now, however, druggies are almost as likely to be Republicans as anything else. The WOD has been isntitutionalized, and the people who make their living off it will fight for it. (The prison guard union is one of the most influential political forces in California.)

Well, Bach was responsible for Jesu, Man of Joy's Desiring and St. Matthew's Passion.

But seriously, that's disgusting. Homosexuality isn't breaking up the poor kid's family. Bigotry is.

"6. No television viewing, going to movies, or reading/watching/listening to secular media of any kind, anywhere within the client¹s and the parent¹s/guardian¹s control. This includes listening to classical or instrumental music that is not expressly Christian (Beethoven, Bach, etc. are not considered Christian). The only exception to the media policy is the weekly movie."

Chew on that: the music of Bach is not Christian.

These people deserve to live inside their own minds. But it terrifies me to think that they want others to join them there.

Nearly 20 years ago my parents took my 14 year-old brother out of school and dumped him in a program with a set of rules eerily like those of "Refuge." The program was called "Straight" and its purpose was to cure kids of their drug dependency. (my brother smoked pot, you see.) I subsequently discovered through a friend who worked for a special interest group that shall remain nameless that this nameless group had been watching the "Straight" folks as part of their monitoring of cults across the globe. Anyway, my friend sent me a thick dossier on "Straight" dating back to the early 70s when it was known as "The Seed." "Straight" had little franchises around the country, all of which ended up getting shut down for being cults and not drug-treatment programs at all (California was the first to shut them down). My suspicion from reading "Refuge's" rules is that this program is either the literal continuation of those earlier programs or that someone has mimicked the model fairly exactly.

My bet is the parents of this kid have to pay (as my parents did) a ridiculous "tuition" (I believe it was $15000 twenty years ago) so that their children can be indefinitely held (out of school) and be emtionally and psychologically abused by untrained non-professionals. (p.s. ALL of the stuff in the Refuge rules -- the Moral Inventories, the "raps," the constant monitoring, the "I love yous", the vows of silence with outsiders including family members not cleared by the program, etc. -- is exactly from "Straight"; I'm fairly disgusted by seeing this crap now being foisted on a new generation of kids; it's bringing back horrible memories.)

Bach's sacred works aren't considered explicitly Christian?

My guess would be that they're looking for stuff that has words to it. Lol.

I wonder if this has anything to do with WWASP, the creators of Tranquility Bay.

My guess would be that they're looking for stuff that has words to it.

But all of Bach's sacred works do have words -- for instance, all those sacred cantatas.

[Of course, he did write a handful of secular cantatas, too, like the Coffee Cantata (about a father who browbeats his daughter into giving up coffee).]

Don't most states have laws requiring kids go to school until they're at least 16 (at which point in time,they are allowed to decide to drop out if they wish)? This programs allow kids that are homeschooled to continue their education, but require that kids who go to school outside the home be prevented from doing so. This kid does not have an illness (despite their assertions that homosexuality is a mental illness) that would legitimately preclude him from attending school - can they really get away with that? I can just see his college application having to explain that he missed so much school becuase his parents felt it more important to try to get him brainwashed than allowing him to continue his education.

How many kids are treated for suicidal ideation after a program like this (I'd be willing to guess that those who become suicidal during the program end up succeeding or in temporary committments after suicide attempts since their way of dealing with it would be to read the bible and tell them their homosexuality is what's screwing them up). No doubt about it, this is child abuse, whether the families believe that or not.

I hope this troubled, young man can his True Direction™

It is absolutely child-abuse, and -- as far as my brother's experience in the drug-version 20 years ago -- yes it was illegal to keep them out of school and yes they did it. My brother missed -- as in, completely -- the second half of his freshman year and all of his sophomore year -- before being placed part-time in a school two hours away from his original one (since the original one was "contaminated" with past bad influences -- what "Refuse" or whatever it's called would call False Images) -- before finally being able to go back to his original school for his senior year. I'm sure these programs hide behind some kind of medical excuse that nobody is really all that eager to look into, except that, in the case of "Straight," people did eventually look into it and the programs were shut down.

The families of course don't believe it's child abuse. The programs exploit the parents' shame of their child -- whether it be pot-smoking or being gay -- and the parents are willing to do anything to fix this problem and make it go away.

Although I don't think is was mentioned in the guy's blog on Refuge, I would be willing to bet that nobody in the program has any kind of actual training at all to deal with the supposed "problem." In my brother's case, not only were there no doctors, social workers or psychologists involved in any way (in fact, they disdain all of those groups as "enabling the problem"), but the "counselors" were actually in most cases "graduates" of the program. It's a vile, evil business.

By the way, in my brother's case -- unlike this kid's -- there was no advanced warning. They went down to the video arcade where he was hanging out with his friends, picked him up and drove him two hours away to this place, where they dumped him for TWO YEARS. It was two years before he was ever to see his own home or his friends again. And another year before he realized that his friends weren't the mortal enemies he had been brainwashed to believe they were.

Other than the scary, scary rules about “don’t talk about fight club refuge” these rules wouldn’t horrible if they were being used to try and solve an actual problem. Of course, since being gay isn’t an actual problem...

Hm. Pitty, I see striketags don’t work on this blog...

Yes, when my parents locked my brother up, I suggested to them that I check them into a fat farm with the same rules. Didn't go over well.

I think you're wrong about the rules. The rules themselves are design to empty a mind of its will and a person of his personality. Period. The fact that the same rules are applied to being on drugs or being gay (and, p.s. many of the same behaviors recognized as being "evidence" of being on drugs or gay -- liking certain music, wearing certain clothes, using certain words) shows that the actual problem they are solving is not the stated one, it's the problem of autonomous beings with independent wills that's being addressed.

I'll say right out that I have no independent evidence of Zach's existence or the details of his story and that I can't independently confirm that the rules of Refuge are genuine.

That said, I am confident that Zach and the rules are real. Both Zach's blog and the rules are compelling. I have no reason to doubt either. Moreover stories are consistent with the details of other first- and second-hand stories about bootcamps and anti-gay "programs" that I've heard and read.

If someone wants to supply evidence that Zach's story or the rules are fabrications, please send it to me and I'll assess it. However, I'm pretty confident in my editorial judgment on this one.

You know T.E., this makes me a little suspicious:

T. E. Scheurich, 22, London, gay | June 11, 2005 10:34 PM
T. E. Scheurich, 16, London, gay | June 11, 2005 10:45 PM

Can you verify your identity? THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.

Well, they have a website, and claim to be located in TEnnessee, just like Zack says.

There's also stuff like this:
"A Letter to Parents
by Diana Hoaglan

Dear Parent,

Has your peaceful, suburban life been shattered? Have you suspected or learned that your child is involved with drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, or homosexuality? If so, then I can relate to your fear and panic.

Four years ago, my days were filled with despair, depression, and a lot of tears. I felt all alone. I was also very embarassed. How, as a Christian Mom, could I possibly share this with other Christians? This doesn't happen in good Christian homes, does it? My pride kept me from sharing with others. I didn't want to appear weak. I didn't want others to know of our dysfunction. I also didn't know how to respond to my child's news of his addiction. I was overwhelmed with feelings of confusion and bewilderment. How could I fix my son?"

I think it's for real, for what it's worth.

Oh, I forgot to mention this. Notice how they prey on and reinforce the parent's 'shame' and 'embarassment' at their child's 'addiction'.

In the "straight" version of this program (see earlier comments above), parents got kickbacks for recruiting other parents into the program. That is, my parents first heard that my brother was smoking pot from another parent who called them and ratted him out. This parent had already locked her own kid away. She pitched the program to my parents, who bought into it, and locked their own kid away. And then they were encouraged to recruit others, with financial incentives for doing so.

This is beyond disgusting but not surprising that such a place would exist under a conservative Christian label. Gee how many more of these uber-conservative Christian compounds will pop in the near future? How about one for pre-menopausal women, that brainwashes (and shames) them into being happy birthing-chattel and Stepfordwives? Oh what will those wacky Christianists think of next for the rest of us heretics?

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