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Former residents of Agapé Boarding School opened up to The Daily Beast about claims of systematic abuse as they demand the state immediately shut down the Baptist facility.
In southwest Missouri, a Baptist compound for troubled teen boys promises redemption on its bucolic 200-acre campus. Behind the facility’s arched gate, children will find a swimming pool, sports fields, and ranch for horses and exotic animals. Agapé Boarding School “is truly a place where miracles happen,” one piano-filled commercial boasts.
“At Agapé, we lovingly, patiently, and biblically teach your child the importance of submission to authority and the joys of being an obedient law-abiding citizen,” a soft-spoken voiceover actor says while images of smiling teenagers flash across the screen. “Mom and Dad, we want to support you in your effort to rescue your son from himself.”
But former students interviewed by The Daily Beast say the school was far from heavenly. Instead, they encountered a climate more like Lord of the Flies, where staff were given free rein to restrain and beat students, and where some kids were emotionally and sexually abused. They claim Agapé has functioned like a “cult” and “Christian torture compound” for decades, allowing adults to manhandle teenagers and withhold food, water, and proper clothing—apparently without most parents ever knowing.
According to these alumni, the school banned children from speaking to each other without adults present, censored their letters home, destroyed photographs showing anything other than happy faces, and admonished kids that if they ran away, locals with guns would hunt them down. As part of a “buddy” system, older students had authority to mete out seemingly arbitrary punishments to new students assigned to them.
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