Prisoners, Government Employees, Provide Captive Audiences for Christian Authoritarian

Vincent at Religion Related Injuries has noted the announcement of a faith-based prison in Florida, opened with a gushing endorsement from Jeb Bush:

I can’t think of a better place to reflect on the awesome love of our Lord Jesus than to be here at Lawtey Correctional. God bless you.

The news report adds that

Yesterday, Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America, the largest operator of privately run prisons in the United States, announced that it has teamed up with the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a Chicago-based church group, to bring full-time religious programs to eight prisons next year. There are plans to expand into all of CCA’s 64 institutions.

What’s more:

Two years ago, Mr. Bush fired the head of the [Department of Children and Families] and appointed Jerry Regier, an Oklahoma conservative activist with a master’s degree in Bible studies who headed the Christian Family Research Council…[Regier] has…introduced a program called Character First!, in which government employees are coached in 49 key biblical qualities including deference, virtue, loyalty and meekness. It is modelled after a popular evangelical Christian program called the 49 Commands of Christ.

As ever, the journo does not ask the most obvious questions: who or what is the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP)? And who’s behind Character First!?

Well, the answer is that both are derived from a controversial and authoritarian figure named Bill Gothard. He founded the IBLP and The Charter School of Excellance, which produces the secular Character First! textbooks. In 1999 these textbooks came very close to becoming standard in all elementary schools in Florida until the link to Gothard was noted by a local newspaper, The New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Quoting a second report from that paper:

Character First! was stripped from the [state legislature] bill after a New Times article revealed that it was designed by authoritarian Christian minister Bill Gothard and includes obedience drills — complete with group salutes and ”hup, two, threes” — demanding that children ”follow orders instantly.”

…Gothard, known to be a media recluse, has refused to speak with New Times, but his teachings can be found in seminars held around the world. He espouses ”universal, non-optional” principles and a ”chain of command,” which holds that authority figures represent God, and therefore wives must obey husbands, workers their employers, and citizens their politicians. He boasts of 2.5 million ”alumni,” who are given rules on everything — what clothes to wear, what music to listen to, how to manage money.

This sounds like the Shepherding Movement, and Gothard is a Charismatic, but although at least one source (here) links him to Reconstructionism, it seems that the late Reconstructionist leader Rousas Rushdoony disagreed with him on a number of issues. One critical assessment of his teachings (by, I think, a Calvinist by the look of it – more academic info is hard to come by) provides an outline to his thought with references to his works and statements. Including his war against Cabbage Patch Dolls…

Prisons, schools, books for government employees…I think this guy needs to become much more well-known between now and November. Very much so.

UPDATE (20 March): Blogger Jesus’ General has more on this in his 18 March entry. He links to an earlier New Times report and quotes this stirring number from Character First!:

Obedience is listening attentively,
Obedience will take instructions joyfully,
Obedience heeds wishes of authorities,
Obedience will follow orders instantly.
For when I am busy at my work or play,
And someone calls my name, I’ll answer right away!
I’ll be ready with a smile to go the extra mile
As soon as I can say “Yes, sir!” “Yes ma’am!”
Hup, two, three!

UPDATE 2 (22 March): More today.

3 Responses

  1. I’ve been doing some reading on Gothard and his Institutes and Academies. I’m very concerned, now. The misogynism is especially bothersome, especially if it’s to be taken into prisons. I live in Nashville, so I might be able to dig a little more into what CCA is planning. Thanks for posting this.

  2. I can’t think of a more twisted use of Christianity.

    Jeb Bush is not human.

  3. […] the outfit that is soon going to be providing faith-based prison resources across the USA (see my previous entry on this), it gives a flavour of the kind of thing to expect: the state [of Florida] has drastically […]

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