Hello my fellow Atheists,

I have been blogging on Mercy Ministries, a treatment centre for women that originated in Tennessee and has over the last 25 years spread to other American states and internationally to Canada, Australia,England, New Zealand and Peru.

Essentially their treatment is based on the Restoring the Foundations model which is biblically based and advocates the concepts of spritiual warfare and demonic possession.

They advocate adoption as the only choice that a woman can have in regard to unwanted pregnancy, they covertly run ex-gay programs and they use exorcism to treat mental illness.

They were caught out in Australia and since the stories have hit the papers and more women have complained, they have lost sponsorship (apart from Gloria Jeans, an evangelical business) and had to close one of their homes.

Nancy Alcorn the founder has even flown to Australia to "sort" things out.

The abuse is not limited to Australia, I have had small numbers of women from the States complain and moves are under way to contact any other victims in the states who are feeling isolated, too scared to come forward.

So I am posting here in an attempt to raise the profile of this issue, because if 10 % of the client base in Australia has complained it stands to reason there might be similar numbers in the States.

If you are interested in the issue check out my blog, search under mercy or x-mercy for stories of the victims, be prepared for a read though, because their are 80+ posts on the topic.

Oh and if any of the women on this board have experience with Mercy Ministries I can put you in contact with the US Victims co-ordinator.

Cheers

Sean

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MMoA and Government Funded Healthcare

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As Nancy Alcorn herself often points out, part of the appeal of Mercy Ministries is that it offers a free-of-charge treatment option to those who could otherwise not afford long-term psychiatric health care. Supposedly any girl or woman may enter the program, which is a great relief to those who have exhausted all of their financial resources or had none to begin with. In fact, some of us working to stop the abusive tactics of the Mercy Ministries treatment regimen claim they would not have entered the program if there had been free government-funded secular treatment options. While I can't speak to every individual's experience, I do believe that for the vast majority that is not the case. Yes, some residents have chosen to go to Mercy Ministries based solely on the lack of affordable health care, but I believe its true appeal lies in Nancy Alcorn's promise of absolute success based on Biblical principals. Just as people around the world pay massive amounts of money for bogus alternative medical treatments which are not grounded by sound medical and scientific principles, so would they flock to MMoA--regardless of cost--because it promises success if you will only believe hard enough. Those who are fighting to stop Mercy Ministries on an international level must realize that while Alcorn did create a program that was free of charge, neither providing free secular treatment programs nor requiring Nancy Alcorn to hire professionals will stop the abuse that residents suffer at Mercy Ministries.

During my stay in the program many of the residents came from upper middle class families who had plenty of money to send their daughters to secular treatment programs, but were instead seeking miraculous spiritual recovery. I was fortunate enough to have insurance, and had spent time in secular treatment facilities, but as a Christian I thought that MMoA would offer the faith-based component that would make the difference in my recovery. It's important to remember that Mercy Ministries was conceived in the United States when Nancy Alcorn decided to create a faith-based program that would not be hindered by laws concerning the separation of church and state. In fact, Mercy Ministries is now expanding to Canada, a country which does provide national heath care for its citizens. As long as Alcorn succeeds in promoting her program as a place where residents can receive miraculous religious recovery, troubled girls and women will flock to it in favor of secular health care services that offer less glamorous, more realistic expectations.

I agree that Mercy Ministries is negligent and should be held accountable for making false claims of professional mental health treatment, but as long as staff continue to follow the RTF treatment model, the abuse at Mercy Ministries will not be solved on the basis that counselors hold the appropriate degrees or qualifications. Mental health professionals who hold the belief that medical and mental illnesses are caused by demonic oppression to be cured by casting out demons should not be treating patients even if they have the proper degrees. Intelligence and education are requisite, but they do not ensure ethical treatment, or even guarantee the ability of an otherwise caring individual to reason when it comes to their religious belief system. Most of the staff I encountered during my time at MMoA were intelligent and articulate, but when it comes to cult dynamics, it is the emotionally troubled and traumatized who are susceptible to mind control tactics, including skilled and otherwise intelligent professionals. Even those with tertiary degrees can become victims of a cult such as MMoA.

I'm sure that MMoA will have no trouble finding legally qualified individuals who are convinced of the effectiveness of MMoA's treatment practices. And it's my guess that Nancy Alcorn is quietly hiring professionals who meet at least the minimum legal requirements for treating the program residents before she makes a public statement on the Australian controversy. Because MMoA keeps the names of its staff a secret, professional counselors may have been working there for some years--although this was not my experience. Regardless, those counselors are still abusing the residents. To be sure, Nancy Alcorn already has or will find professionals who believe her rhetoric just as I did.

Unfortunately, MMoA is a cult of personality and as such cannot be repaired by providing government-funded health benefits or by forcing Nancy Alcorn to staff her program with qualified individuals who still administer its current treatment model. RTF focuses solely on a supernatural concept of spirituality and relies on the placebo effect to convince its residents they have been miraculously cured by exorcism. Coupled with peer pressure and mind control techniques--which trained psychologists would be able to expertly employ--Mercy Ministries' problems lie within its foundational principles and the corrupt intentions of its founder. Unless Alcorn can prove the efficacy of her treatment program methods by scientific standards, the program as it stands should not continue to operate.

So, I urge those who argue that the abuse at MM may have been prevented by implementing a national health care policy--in either Australia or the United States--to reconsider their focus and instead look to the root of the problem: Nancy Alcorn's special brand of snake oil. She's been pedaling it for 25 years now and has managed to convince most of the Christian community that she is offering legitimate mental health care. While I cannot offer a full solution to the failings of secular mental health care, or testify to what degree spiritual healing plays in each individual's recovery process, I do believe we have an ethical responsibility to reveal the negligent treatment and abuse occurring at MM locations on an international level.
New story out - Nancy Alcorn is gay and the Mercy bubble is about to break

http://www.nashvillescene.com/2008-10-02/news/jesus-rx

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