Clubbed by Victory?

UPDATE (9 March 2007): The lawsuit has now been withdrawn. See here.

Nashville-based NewsChannel 5 reports on accusations against a religious club in the local Hillsboro High School and affiliated to Bethel World Outreach Center:

Thursday, two families filed a lawsuit against their daughters’ public high school because of religion. The girls claimed a school club put their lives in danger.

One girl claims that she attempted suicide after being put under severe pressure to speak in tongues, while the second girl

…became so consumed by trying to recruit and save others at the school that she had a total breakdown.

According to a lawsuit just filed against the school and church, the girl has now spent weeks in psychiatric hospitals and has been diagnosed as suffering from something called religious indoctrination.

I’m not sure about that for a diagnosis, but the mothers of the two girls also allege that the group tried to hide its activities from them:

…after the 17-year-old finally did speak in tongues she insists she was repeatedly warned by church members, including her teacher Meghan Therrell, not to tell her parents about it…Bethel’s Youth Minister, Shino Prater, said that’s just not true…But the girl’s mother claims that when she confronted Therrell about it, she didn’t deny it.

The club is known as the Victory Club, and Bethel runs around seventy of them around the USA.

NewsChannel 5 includes words from Bethel Senior Pastor Tim Johnson, who has apparently only been in the position for a short time. Over to the Bethel website:

We are pleased to announce that Tim Johnson has been appointed the Senior Pastor of Bethel’s Brentwood congregation. He has served as the Senior Associate Pastor since his move to Nashville from the Washington, D.C. area in 2000. Rice Broocks will continue with Bethel in the role of Senior Minister, overseeing the various congregations that make up Bethel World Outreach Center.

Rice Broocks yet again! Now, why does this guy keep popping up? As this blog has noted before, Broocks is the leader of the neo-Pentecostal grouping known as Every Nation (formerly Morning Star International); Bethel is the HQ, and the Victory Clubs are just one of the grouping’s many ministries. Only recently, similar accusations of abusive practices were made against another Every Nation outreach, based at the University of North Carolina (see here); and it should be remembered that Broocks was formerly a leader of Maranatha Ministries, a campus organisation that folded in the late 1980s over accusations of “cult-like” and authoritarian behaviour (see here; and various other Maranatha figures are involved with Every Nation).

I’ve posted on this topic several times before, and I’ve received a few critical emails. The problems at Maranatha were due to youthful inexperience; Broocks has learnt from the past; it’s unfair to judge the modern Every Nation grouping by what happened back then. Stephen Mansfield has also recently written a spirited defence of Broocks along much the same lines (which I critiqued here).

(Thanks to Darrell Lucus for the tip-off)