Michigan Judge: Pentecostal Rehab or go to Boot Camp

The New Standard (link thanks to The Revealer) reports on Michigan resident Joseph Hanas, who spent six months in prison and boot camp after refusing to complete a drug rehabilitation program. The program was run by the Inner City Christian Outreach Center, and Hanas claims that the Center was more interested in converting him to Pentecostalism from Catholicism than in helping his drug problem.

Further details are available on the website of the ACLU, which is assisting Hanas’ appeal to the Supreme Court. Their press release explains:

Unbeknownst to Hanas when he entered the program, one of the goals of Christian Outreach was to convert him from Catholicism to the Pentecostal faith. According to ACLU legal papers, Hanas was forced to read the bible for seven hours a day and was tested on Pentecostal principles. The staff also told him that Catholicism was a form of witchcraft and they confiscated both his rosary and Holy Communion prayer book…Hanas was told that in order to complete the program successfully he would have to declare he was “saved” and was threatened that if he didn’t do what the pastor told him to do, he would be “washed of the program and go to prison.”

The ACLU legal papers include corroborating statements from Hanas’ aunt and a Roman Catholic deacon:

when Mr. Hanas’ aunt called Christian Outreach to try to make arrangements for his deacon to visit him, the director of Christian Outreach, Pastor Rottier, told the aunt, that Mr. Hanas “gave up his right of freedom of religion when he was placed into this program.” (Id.). The deacon further said that he had spoken with Judge Ransom several times about this issue and that Judge Ransom knows that he “won’t have any other religious clergy in here.” (Id.).

Plus:

Perhaps the greatest irony is that the primary reason Mr. Hanas was sent to Christian Outreach—substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation—was not evident in Christian Outreach’s program. There were no drug counselors or psychologists in this program, only repeated and all-encompassing religious indoctrination.

Hanas asked the trial judge, Genesee Circuit Judge Robert M. Ransom, for transfer to a secular program, to which Ransom (see here for pic) responded by sending him to prison and boot camp. Why? One snippet in the New Standard story not in the ACLU papers notes that Judge Ransom is “also an Inner City Christian leader”, although I was unable to find any other reference for this.

Ransom runs a special Drug Court, so possibly Hanas’ experiences are not unique. However, according to The Flint Journal, Ransom has since had a rethink:

“As a result of all of this hullabaloo, we have decided not to continue to refer people to (Rottiers),” Ransom said. “It’s a local program, and we weren’t satisfied that there was enough accountability by a larger body.”

I could not find any website for the Inner City Christian Outreach Center, and “Pastor Rottier” (identified as “Richard Rottiers” in The Flint Journal) remains obscure.

(Flint Journal link via Christianity Today)

One Response

  1. Yeesh. Thanks for looking into and posting this (heard about it from Pastor Dan on dKos) – this is exactly the kind of thing I’m battling. I call it “devangelization” because that’s the effect it has on people: convincing them that all Christians are insane bigoted zealots. I’ve linked to it on my blog as well.

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