Religion

Group Performed Ritual On Sex-Trafficking Victim

| by Michael Allen

An investigation by the State of California found that the Courage House, a Christian-based group home near Sacramento, performed an unusual ceremony on a teenage sex-trafficking victim.

The state said workers at the group home put oil on the girl's head, quoted the Bible and informed the teen victim that she would have to denounce the devil or become a Christian to stay at the home, which voluntarily closed down two weeks later in June, notes The Sacramento Bee.

The Courage House's founder Jenny Williamson told the newspaper in August about the teen: "She worshipped Satan, and she practiced animal and human sacrifice."

Williamson also claimed that the teen girl was a danger to herself and other people, and suffered from multiple personalities.

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Williamson told state regulators in June that the girl informed some employees that she had "participated in human sacrifice when she was an alter personality."

According to Williamson, the adult staff were frightened when the child told them that "this week was a blood sacrifice week."

A California Department of Social Services official concluded that the girl "made a general statement that she enjoyed drawing some of the images" that reflect satanism (not a crime), but had not threatened to do any sacrifices.

The state gave the Courage House a "Type A" citation, which signifies that the group home poses an immediate impact on the health, safety or personal rights of the minors staying there.

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The Courage House appealed the citation twice, but lost both times.

In regards to the unusual Christian ceremony, the Courage House insisted that "the resident was adamant that she wanted to pray to become a Christian," and suffered from amnesia, which prevented her from recalling events accurately.

The Courage House is run by the Christian organization Courage Worldwide, which was receiving $9,100 a month per child when the group home closed in June. The organization kept fundraising, and did not inform its donors that the home had closed its doors until August.

"It was just a perfect storm where we realized we had to pause at Courage House to bring in new staff, to train them better," Stephanie Midthun, the Community Relations Director of Courage Worldwide, told KTXL in August.

The Courage House was also reportedly cited for taking cell phones and computers away from the girls.

"Since 2011, in our program statement, it says no cell phones, because the cell phone is a weapon for a trafficker," Williamson told the news station.

"[State officials] are saying [the girls] have these rights, but those rights are not safe for our home," Midthun stated. "So that is the conflict, and that is what we are going to fight and because it's for the safety of our kids."

KTXL noted that records from the Department of Social Services showed that the Courage House had been cited numerous times, and made several assertions: some of the girls felt intimidated by home workers, the group home used the girls' medical information for training without asking the girls' permission, and pictures of the residents were posted on social media sites run by Courage Worldwide (the state said the pictures had to come down in January).

The Sacramento Bee reported that the Courage House was also accused of violating the girls' religious freedom by pushing Christianity on them.

"State funds do not mean you cannot be a Christian home – state funds and license mean you cannot force a child to practice any religious ritual, and Courage House does not," Gil Stieglitz, a board member for Courage Worldwide, told the newspaper in an email.

Email correspondence obtained by an unidentified source reportedly showed Midthun telling the staff in a 2012 email: "October is a hideous month where the evil one is worshipped daily by his followers and those on our team (and some of our girls in Africa and Nor Cal) that have come out of SRA or witchcraft (satanic ritual abuse) are experience (sic) relentless demonic attacks."

Williamson herself reportedly wrote this email in 2011 to the staff: "We are at war! We are under great attack and need your prayers ... If you have a personal relationship with the girls – any time this week – morning, noon, afternoon evening please go out to Courage House to pray and prophecy over them, please, please do so!"

Despite the explicit emails about taking religious action with the girls, Courage Worldwide officials told The Sacramento Bee: "We are in full agreement with the state to provide access to religious services when the girls request it, if provided sufficient notice in advance so that we can properly staff for such requests."

Courage Worldwide has continued its fundraising efforts; the most recent being a plea on Dec. 9. for supporters to give a one-time gift, commit to monthly contributions or make a personal promise of "praying for more children to be rescued out of sex trafficking."

Interestingly, the Courage Worldwide website does not feature any full pictures of Courage House, but rather artists' renderings in still images and video.

Sources: The Sacramento Bee,  KTXLCourage Worldwide / Photo Credit: Courage Worldwide

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