I feel the world would be a better place if men would admit they cry, and women admit they masturbate. How would you feel if I told you that for many parents in the United States, sending their teenage child away to Evangelical Christian reform schools in the Dominican Republic, outside of U.S. law, to transform them into healthy Christian adults and heal them from anxiety disorders, sexual abuse trauma, and homosexuality, is their antidote for preserving society? What’s even more appalling – this activity is LEGAL!
In a revealing new documentary, “Kidnapped for Christ,” one of these “reform institutions” is exposed for the frighteningly alarming truth about an issue that the majority of the public doesn’t even know exists within a generation that has no voice.
One year ago, I was visiting Los Angeles and met up with former MTV “Real World” star turned actor/writer/producer/activist Mike C. Manning. A year earlier, I awarded him the Sorry Mom and Dad Rebel with a Cause Award for being a Millennial proactively trailblazing a step in the right direction as an activist and speaker for the Human Rights Campaign. I was invited as his guest to an event for politician John Perez, the first openly gay Speaker of the California State Assembly, held at The Abbey.
“I recently moved,” announced Manning as we caught up over a drink following the event. “I had pictures hanging up with sticky tack, and all of them came off my wall easily when I was packing. For some reason, when I took the award you gave me off my wall, a chunk of the plaster came off with it,” he laughed.
“I’m always causing trouble,” I replied, “even when I’m not there.”
Now, one year later, I’m still causing mischief everywhere I go, and Manning is continuously trailblazing a path for human rights, most recently as executive producer of the compelling documentary “Kidnapped for Christ,” alongside ‘NSYNC’s Lance Bass and Tom DeSanto from the “Transformers” and “X-Men” franchises.
“I became involved to shed light on a serious issue that often goes ignored,” explained Manning on the documentary that is set to premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival in January.
“One of my friends was taken in the middle of the night by strangers. Restrained. Forced to go to a reform school overseas,” he told me of David, the protagonist of the film, who was sent to a “therapeutic Christian reform school” in the Dominican Republic known as Escuela Caribe for being gay, with the intentions of being reformed into a straight, born-again Christian.
The compelling doc also features Beth, a 15-year-old sent to Escuela Caribe for having a debilitating anxiety disorder, and 16-year-old Tai, sent away for acting out as a result of childhood traumas.
“These programs force teens to change, to conform, and sometimes even through violence. Because most of these schools are unregulated, no one is protecting these students,” noted Bass.
As sick as this revelation makes me, I’m stoked to see that Manning is still a rebel, with one hell of a cause!
There are many ways that we can help, just like Manning. The quickest way is to write your representatives in Congress asking them to support H.R. 1981: Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2013, and spend this Christmas spreading the real word of Christ: love and no judgment, despite what any school, or grubby duck caller, may say! #BeARebel