“Counseling Bill starts to cost the state in lost revenue”

This article by Cari Wade Gervin was originally published by The Nashville Scene (Pith in the Wind) and can be viewed here.

his afternoon, the American Counseling Association canceled its planned 2017 annual conference at the Music City Center over concerns with the recently signed bill that allows counselors to reject clients based on with whom they like to have sex (or based on any other “sincerely held principles” a counselor might hold). And Richard Yep, the CEO of ACA, did not mince words, stating in a press release announcing the cancelation: “Of all the state legislation I have seen passed in my 30 years with ACA, the new Tennessee law based on Senate Bill 1556/House Bill 1840 is by far the worst.”

Sure, it’s just one conference, just 3,000 less people who will visit Nashville next summer. Sure, it’s just $4 million less in estimated tax revenue (and lord knows, those economic estimates of conventions are regularly overstated). But when the governor’s press secretary is issuing weak statements like,”They had said they were considering that, and they won’t experience all that Tennessee has to offer,” well, that’s not really encouraging.

This is not going to be the last conference canceled. This is not going to be the last lost revenue. Haslam may be trying to drum up business from Asia right now, but he should be more worried about all the business the legislature’s homophobia and hate is about to cost the state.

Update, 10:20 p.m.: Jennifer Donnals, the otherwise very pleasant press secretary of Gov. Bill Haslam, with whom’s statement we took issue earlier, sent along a follow-up comment this evening. (Which, because I was out at dinner, took a bit to get to.) She comments:

You’ll remember that just two years ago the ACA followed the same practice and recommendation that this law puts in place. The governor believes that, at the end of the day, counselors should be like any other professionals, such as doctors or lawyers, and have the availability to decide whether they can appropriately serve a client. This law provides that a therapist cannot turn away someone in a life-threatening situation and has to refer the client to another appropriate therapist, providing protection for the client as well as respecting the therapist as a professional.

For what it’s worth — which, to the Tennessee GOP, obviously is nada — there was nothing previously in the law preventing counselors of any faith or political inclination from declining to see patients, for any reason. In fact, therapists across the state decline new patients on a daily basis because the would-be patients don’t have the right insurance, or the therapists’ calendars are already too full, or just because they don’t feel like they’d be the right fit with a particular patient. There are many Christian therapists doing excellent work across the state; they were not the ones pushing for this bill.

I’d also note that while Haslam seems so very concerned about conservative Christian therapists’ rights, he doesn’t seem so concerned with what happens to their patients. Haslam has been a regular, sizable donor to Nashville-based Mercy Ministries (now Mercy Multiplied) over the years.  As this paper has reported in the past and as Slate detailed exhaustively two weeks ago, the organization’s treatment centers do not even require its counselors to be licensed mental health practitioners, and they possibly promote belief in demonic possession as a source of mental illness and addiction, and reputedly utilize the widely discredited recovered-memory therapy.

But as this administration has shown time and again, the poor don’t matter, women don’t matter, and victims don’t matter, even at the cost of a loss of federal funds or tax revenue, even at the cost of saving the governor’s own reputation. Enjoy your last day in Asia, Bill. Jetlag’s gonna be a bitch.

“Patients in search of mental health treatment faced exorcisms and guilt instead”

This article was originally published in New York Times, Women in the World and can be viewed here.

(YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Hayley Baker was suffering from depression, anxiety, an eating disorder, and suicidal thoughts when she entered a Christian-based mental health treatment facility called Mercy Ministries in 2009. Started by a devout Christian named Nancy Alcorn and funded by wealthy evangelical donors around the country including gospel singer CeCe Winans, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, and Los Angeles Rams coach Jeff Fisher, the ministry’s facilities have treated more than 3,000 women. Fourteen of those former patients, including Baker, told Slate that while they were seeking mental health treatment, they were forbidden from taking prescribed medications like Xanax and Adderall, and instead were prayed over, told to surrender to God, asked to read and respond to Christian texts and the founder’s own writings, as well as being yelled at to try and exorcise demons from their bodies. The disillusioned ex-patients now share their stories of support on private email threads under the moniker “Mercy Survivors.”

Christian counseling, as it has become known in the mental health field, has represented a tricky topic for public health policy officials as groups like Mercy Ministries – now known as Mercy Multiplied – have boomed in recent years. The American Association of Christian Counselors had some 15,000 registered members in 1999, and now counts nearly 50,000, according to the report. Many of the faith-based programs are unregulated, and operate shelter-like facilities that aren’t required to have staff certified in mental health training.  Some patients have said the therapies really do work. Out of about 10 percent of Mercy’s patients who answered a survey about their time at a Mercy facility, 94 percent said the ministry transformed their life and restored their hope, while 85 percent said they were well-adjusted to life after the program.

But for Baker and others, the unregulated Christian counseling centers were dangerous to their fragile mental health. Her anxiety and depression returned after her stay, and she continues to struggle with daily tasks like holding down a job. She and the other “Mercy Survivors” now to hope that they can warn others about their experiences with Christian counseling.

Read the full story at Slate.

 

 

 

 

A letter to the editor of “Christian Today”

On 1 July 2013, Christian Today published an article by Anita Bruce-Mills allowing Hannah Thompson, a Mercy Ministries “support worker”, to promote the inherent worth of young women.

This is an open letter sent to them on behalf of many in the Mercy Survivors network – both former residents and affected families.

If you would like to join us in writing to them, click here.

9 July 2013

Valuing young women by promoting an abusive ministry

Dear Editor,

This is an open letter regarding the article “No matter what you have done, you are precious in the sight of God” by Anita Bruce-Mills, published 1 July 2013.  This letter is published on the Mercy Survivors website, mercysurvivors.com.

I find it ironic and socially irresponsible that you would publish an article allowing a representative of Mercy Ministries, of all organisations, to promote the inherent value of young women, when this organisation is in fact responsible for reprehensible abuses and unethical (mis)treatment which devalues the young women in their care.

There are dozens of media articles published over many years exposing Mercy Ministries as an abusive, cult-like organisation.  These articles have been published in EVERY country in which Mercy Ministries operates.  Was it that you were remarkably unaware of this, or was it that you chose to overlook the truth?

No matter the Mercy-speak or the scriptures their representatives spout, the fruit of Mercy Ministries does not match their words.  If you are doubtful of this, then perhaps you would like to be put in touch with the dozens of young women and shattered families in the Mercy Survivors network who can testify to the facts.

When will a reputable Christian publication take a stand against this corrupt ministry?  As a well-respected Christian sources of news, I expected more.

Kind regards,

Mercy Survivors
mercysurvivors.com

MTV Voices

MTV Voices: “I almost lost my life to a cult”

[logo] MTV Voices UK

MTV Voices recently published the story of Mercy Survivor Chelsea (under psuedonym *Pam) of her time at Mercy Ministries.  The original story can be viewed here, and Chelsea’s personal blog can be viewed here.

They took my health, friends and freedom, but I still couldn’t see what was happening.

wicker-man

Hi, I’m Pam*, and a couple of years ago, I moved into a cult. The cult I joined is not legally allowed to use the word ‘treatment’ in any of their wording, because what they provide is not treatment at all. They say they want to help women find freedom and empowerment, but it is literally exorcisms, prayer and underneath it all, mind control. They say it’s a place to go to for ‘proven methods’, but I think they quite literally start brainwashing girls the second they take a peek at their website.

And that’s where it started for me. I had been sick for sometime with an eating disorder and PTSD. I was mesmerised by this Ministry’s made up success rate – and those success stories that promised so much. They told me I could get off my medication, I could be normal. I wouldn’t have to be sick anymore. Slowly over the course of about a year, I began to slowly and surely give everything over to them. They would send me tapes to listen to and I would phone them with check-ins. I dropped out of college, put my life on hold, but during that time I had probably been in a dozen hospitals, just getting more and more sick. They began to tell me that if I entered any more hospitals I wouldn’t be accepted into the program. Not accepted? That was barbaric. But by this time I thought that they were my one and only hope.

Continue reading “MTV Voices: “I almost lost my life to a cult””

The plot thickens: The Tennessean, paid wikipedia edits and Mercy Ministries PR agenda

If you are not already familiar with Mercy Ministries’ pattern of censorship nor the recent developments regarding a controversial article in The Tennessean, you may wish to familiarise yourself.  For your assistance, Mercy Ministries’ history of censorship is explored at length here, and the ever-elusive article in question is discussed here.

After emailing The Tennessean querying why they published an article written by a senior staff member of Mercy Ministries promoting their organisation as news, and why they then discreetly obliterated every trace of it from the internet as well as all professional news data sources, it seems they do not wish to be forthcoming.  Instead, they demanded that I “furnish” them my name before entering into any further correspondence with me.  For a moment, I was tempted to furnish them with “Tall Boy”.  However, upon strong advice from two journalists who advised me that their request was highly suspicious and unorthodox, especially given that they are the ones who have behaved in such a suspicious manner, I opted to decline.

Which leaves us to review and speculate upon the evidence available.

Below is a timeline of the events to date: –

Continue reading “The plot thickens: The Tennessean, paid wikipedia edits and Mercy Ministries PR agenda”

Christy Singleton bodies article (cropped)

Mercy Ministries and THAT article

If you’ve been following the Mercy scandals that have now spanned five years, you may be aware that Mercy Ministries have undergone an extremely well-funded PR campaign this year following the publications of a series of investigative reporting published by the Lincoln News Messenger (here, here, here and here) as well as a hard-hitting article taken from statements of former Mercy Ministries residents over at RH Reality Check.

Google searches on “Nancy Alcorn” are flooded with an array of “nancyalcorn” domain names, all of which are owned by her and duplicate the content of her personal blog.  Mercy Ministries have also followed suit with new domain names continuing to pop up, however they fail to yield as well in the world of Google popularity.

In the way of censorship (previously discussed at length here), Mercy Ministries again fail to surprise, having removed even more of the more damning evidence from their website.  (Screenshots and commentary will be published in another piece along with more Wikipedia updates).

So, what’s the latest in Mercy’s PR campaign?

Opinion-editorials written by Christy Singleton, Executive Director of Mercy Ministries.

On 2 October 2012, the following article appeared in The Tennessean:

Unfortunately, the original article cannot be viewed at its original source, as it has been suspiciously removed.  Furthermore, it appears that The Tennessean has gone to extreme lengths to remove all traces of this article from all professional news data sources, despite much older articles remaining viewable via their online archives.

Although we cannot be certain, this may well have been at the instruction of Mercy Ministries, who have quite a history of censorship efforts (again, discussed at length here).

Could this act of desperation have had something to do with the extremely suspicious timing of the paid Wikipedia edits made to the Mercy Ministries article just hours within publication of this article being exposed?

Or, perhaps it was to do with this Facebook post from the “Shut Down Mercy Ministries” page outlining why this Mercy Ministries infomercial shows a low standard of journalism on the part of The Tennessean:

Nonetheless, below is a handsome portion of the article that we were able to acquire in the interim, with the remaining text to be added once we source a full copy in the coming days.

“Today, 5-year-old girls are being treated for eating disorders. The newest growth segment in the lingerie market is for prepubescent girls. Researches view dieting and body image issues as the norm among pre-adolescent girls, and 22 percent of teen girls say they have seen or posted nude images of themselves to a guy they like.

What is going on? There is a strong false message that our young girls are hearing. And unfortunately, girls in our own neighborhoods and city are not immune. I know. Every day, I see girls of all socioeconomic backgrounds and faiths walk through the doors of Mercy Ministries’ Nashville home as the broken products of a culture that teaches them they are only worth as much as their bodies — and their bodies will never be good enough.”

“The early and over-sexualization of our girls is creating young women who have shattered self-images and a disproportionate over-emphasis on their sexuality – even when they are too young to know what sex is. We must take responsibility now for changing this toxic message.

But how? The answer does not lie in legislation that regulates the toys, clothing, TV shows, music and messages marketed to them. Nor does it lie in sheltering them to the point that they may as well be locked in a closet. The answer lies in beginning a dialogue with our girls to help them learn their true worth and the appropriate context for God’s good gift of sexuality.”

The text that followed from this point was a mere replication of the promotional puffery from Mercy Ministries’ very own website, copied almost (if not completely) word-for-word.

Given The Tennessean’s extreme efforts to have this article recalled, I felt it appropriate and necessary to seek an explanation from them as to why this has occurred.  Today, I sent the following letter to the editor of The Tennessean seeking their comment:

Dear Editor,

I currently manage Mercy Survivors, a survivors network for former residents of Mercy Ministries.

It has come to my attention that the following article has been deleted from your website, as well as all traces of it removed from all major news databases:

“Girls need the right message about their bodies”
2 October 2012
Op-ed by Christy Singleton, Executive Director, Mercy Ministries of America

I seek your comment as to:

1. Why this article has been recalled; and
2. Why you, as a newspaper, published an article about Mercy Ministries, penned by a senior staff member of Mercy Ministries, which served as little more than spin promoting their organisation.

I look forward to your response in due course.

Kind regards,

Mercy Survivors

Should a response be received, it will be published in due course.

Mercy Ministries discussed in Raphael Aron’s “Cults, Terror and Mind Control”

Cults, Terror and Mind Control by Raphael AronIn April 2012, we published a piece exploring the question “Is Mercy Ministries a cult?”  In that piece, we drew the reader’s attention to comments made in the media by Dr Raphael Aron, director of Cult Counselling Australia [1] [2].

We now have a copy of Mr Aron’s book “Cults, Terror and Mind Control”[3], which discusses Mercy Ministries in the context of the particular vulnerability of the mentally ill people coerced by cult environments, and issues of coercion and unethical practice raised by Rosanna Capolingua of the Australian Medical Association.  Whilst she addresses issues with Mercy Ministries Australia, the issues she addresses such as supervised doctors visits exist across all Mercy Ministries homes around the world.

This book is available for purchase on Amazon. Continue reading “Mercy Ministries discussed in Raphael Aron’s “Cults, Terror and Mind Control””

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