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Missouri `Faith-Based' Juvenile Center Accused Of Abusing Teens.

Four men at a "faith-based" center for troubled juveniles in Missouri have been arrested and charged with felony child abuse after they allegedly hit a 16-year-old boy with a board then forced him to sit up all night in a metal chair.

One of the accused men is a staffer at Sharpe Farms and Heartland Community Center in Monticello, Mo. The other three are board members of the facility. Authorities in the area say the abuse occurred in February of 2000 but just now came to light when ex-staff members came forward with the information.

According to the reports, the teen was hit more than 30 times with a board on his back, buttocks and legs. The four accused of the abuse have been released on $20,000 bond.

The incident is not the first time allegations of abuse have rocked the Sharpe Farm. In June, five workers at the center were accused of forcing misbehaving children to stand in a manure pit, the Associated Press reported. Five people were arrested after that incident. (Three of them were re-arrested in the new incident.)

The facility was founded in 1995 by Charles N. Sharpe, a Kansas City insurance executive. It combines work therapy and Christian principles. The center includes a private Christian academy that serves more than 200 students in grades kindergarten through 12th.

Sharpe denied the allegations of abuse at the facility and has vowed to defend his staffers in court.

In Florida, meanwhile, legislators are moving to more tightly regulate church-run day care centers after a 2-year-old girl died at a Christian center in Daytona Beach.

The child, Zaniyah Hinson, died after being left in a locked van for nearly three hours. A teacher at the Abundant Life Academy of Learning told police she forgot to remove the child after returning to the center from a field trip.

State-licensed facilities are required to track children with a check-off list after field trips, but church-run day cares in Florida are essentially unregulated and are left to police themselves. Some lawmakers say more standards could prevent accidental deaths.

"Children's lives are just so important," said state Rep. Evelyn Lynn (R-Ormond Beach). "Anything that we can do to make sure things are safe for them is very important."

Officials at Florida's Department of Children and Families call regulation of church-run day cares long overdue. Department director Richard Barry told the Orlando Sentinel that the regulations would not try to stifle the religious character of the centers but would merely assure that health and safety standards were met.

Many religious groups in Florida oppose the move toward regulation. "We don't like them telling us we have to hire a homosexual," said Pat Mennenga, associate director of the Association of Christian Schools International. "We want to have biblical instruction and hire Christian teachers."
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Publication:Church & State
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Previous Article:N.C. Legislator Touts `White Men And Christianity' In E-Mail.
Next Article:La. Legislators Create Pre-Kindergarten Voucher Plan.

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