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Montana Christian Ranch the Subject of Anderson Cooper 360 Investigation

For all intents and purposes, H.B. 236 is dead. The bill, sponsored by Missoula Rep. Ellie Hill would have required religious schools and organizations to be licensed (with some exemptions).

HB 236 was voted down 12 to 8 on it’s first hearing, tabled on Feb. 28, and failed to be transmitted to the senate. The reason H.B. 236 is still alive, at least in public thought, is because of an episode of Anderson Cooper 360 investigation (see video above).

As surprising as it may sound, the episode does not revolve around the ayes and nays at the legislature, it hinges on an organization known as Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch in St. Ignatius.

The ranch has been accused of allowing the abuse of children. Accusations such as the choking of students, other forms of physical discipline and even rape have been levied at the institution.

Those at the institution say the physical abuse either didn’t happen, or was misunderstood. For example, instead of “choking” students, administrators at the ranch claim to have used “pressure points” to calm students down, a practice that they say has now been discontinued.

The real question in all of this, is over the rewards outweigh the risks of passing H.B. 236.

At the end of the Anderson Cooper investigation, Rep. Krayton Kerns of Laurel (who voted against the bill) shows his distrust of regulation. The interviewer finds this somewhat surprising and Kerns goes further by saying we should deregulate more institutions.

Those against regulation of Pinehaven argue that not only would regulation not improve the institution, it would curtail religious freedom.

Those on the other side of the aisle would argue that regulation can help protect children from abuse and ensure better systems of education and instruction.

Because the 2013 legislature has sided with Pinehaven, the debate likely won’t pop up again until 2015 when the legislature meets again.  Till then, there’s a lot to think about.




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