Justin Harris, an Arkansas Republican State Representative, gave his adopted daughters to a man who raped one of them. Also, Harris frequently attempted to perform exorcisms on children in his federally-funded pre-kindergarten. According to a former teacher at the school, “If any of the kids got in too much trouble they would pray on the kids, do a circle around them, and put their hands on their heads in an attempt to rebuke demons.” The teacher was fired shortly after she expressed her disagreement with their practices. Justin and his wife Marsha attempted to drive out demons and gave their two adopted girls to Eric and Stacey Francis because they believed the girls were possessed and could communicate telepathically. Eric Frances is now serving a 40 year prison sentence for the rape of the eldest adopted child, who was only six years old. Justin and Marsha Harris gave an emotional press conference and made statements which many of the other witnesses of the events strongly disagreed with. The family was accused of keeping the older of the two girls “locked in a room with no books or toys, monitored by a video camera and kept separate from her sister, whom Harris and his wife believed could communicate telepathically. Along with other accusations, Harris is accused of lying about his ability to raise the two girls, and used his power as a State legislator to suppress any concerns about his taking in the children. Many are angry because these girls were some of the most traumatized in the system, which Harris knew beforehand. As all of this wasn’t bad enough, Harris wrongfully accepted federal funding for his school. This was not allowed because his school was a religious institution.
David Ferguson, “Arkansas Republican who gave girls to rapist “regularly” performed exorcisms on unruly preschoolers,”Raw Story, March 12, 2015.
Student Researcher: Tyler Provance, Indian River State College
Faculty Researcher: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
One of the main ethical issues in this article is that children had exorcisms performed on them in order to cast out demons at the school of Growing God’s Kingdom. Although praying is legal in school because of the First Amendment, it is morally wrong to pray over children in an effort to “cast out demons,” just because of bad behavior. Why did they not just discipline the children when they acted in a bad manner? They seem to misinterpret common misbehavior for demonic possession. Harris and his wife’ treated these children like objects by subjecting them to such rituals without the children’s or their parents’ knowledge or consent.
Why are people like Justin and Marsha Harris in the position they’re in? Teaching at a school should require the best teachers possible; they should be individuals who know how to handle misbehavior. I would suggest a more extensive background check on teachers in a private school setting as well as their administrators. Additionally, more impromptu visits to all schools should be put into effect to ensure that children are not being mistreated, emotionally or physically. Such abuse is more likely in a private school setting when the faculty and administration feel as if they are not being monitored, and they think that they can get away with doing wrong. Although these impromptu visits would not eliminate all misconduct, it would strongly discourage those entrusted with this vulnerable population from such abusive conduct.
Stories like this need to be covered more thoroughly by the mainstream media and brought to the attention of parents, so that they are aware that their children may not be as safe at school as they may think. Another strong ethical issue raised in this article is the conditions under which the oldest of the two girls lived. She was locked in a room with no books or toys, monitored by a video camera, and separated from her sister. The Harrises seem to have lacked compassion, love, and empathy. Adopted children need to be cared for and loved by their adopting parents. Instead, they isolated the oldest child and it did not seem to bother them. They treated the girls like animals instead of children. They failed to put themselves in her shoes and consider what such an environment would do to a child, especially one with a previous history of being neglected, molested, and abused.
How is someone like Justin Harris able to adopt children who have been through such a traumatic childhood? Because he was a state legislator, he was able to adopt these children despite the concerns of the Department of Human Services. It should be the DHS’s top priority to ensure that children up for adoption go to the best possible candidates. Being a state representative is not, and should not be a stand by which to determine suitability to be a parent. The Harrises caused the children emotional harm and violated their rights. They treated the children as if they were not human beings. To make matters worse, the school that performed the exorcisms was illegally receiving $900,000 dollars annually, some of which was appropriated for the children of undocumented immigrants. Arguably Harris’s political status also allowed him to acquire this funding. .
Gods Growing Kingdom seems to have been full of corruption and malpractice, from performing rituals to cast out demons, rape, and inhumane treatment, to obtaining money illegally. When it comes to vulnerable populations such as children, more care needs to be taken to ensure that those entrusted with their care and education are worthy of it. The mainstream media can and should play a more active role in getting the word out about the need for such increased caution.