“The Day I Almost Died – by Frank Voegtlin”

Submitted Sept. 4, 2012 at 6:40 pm. http://religionscell.com/blog/?p=194

I was at the end of my ropes. I had been kicked out of school for being rebellious. My primary offense was going to the movies and watching rated PG-13 and rated R movies. But it was more than that. My thoughts did not align with my adoptive father, the IFB pastor. I was on my way out. I just needed to find that way out. I had been beaten black and blue to the point that I didn’t care anymore. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone. My life sucked and so did my dad. F- him.

Then it happened one Saturday, Mr. B. dropped my brother and I off from working all day at the cabinet shop. Dad met us at the front door. The first thing he said was for me to go straight to the basement. I saw him take Mr. B. into the living room to talk.

While I was in the basement my mind ran crazy. What do I do? Should sneak upstairs and run out the back door? Should I sneak out through the garage? No, they’re watching me. I’ll get caught and make this worse. I’ll just wait here and see what happens. And wait and wait. It seemed as if I waited forever.

Then the upstairs door finally opened and he came down. He just looked at me for a minute.

(Paraphrased conversation)

“So where do you plan on going?”
“I don’t know.”
“Liar! Your friend Frank _ ratted you out. Going to the Caribbean huh?”
“If I could get there.”
“Do you think that I’m going to let you ruin MY Ministry like that?”
Ramble, ramble, and ramble this went on for hours with no remorse on my part. I was done. I was not backing down.
“Send me to a public school and let me live my life and I’ll stay.”
“You have no power to tell me what to do, this is not a negotiation.”
Then it happened….Nickel plated, German edition, Walther 38 to my temple.
“Do you know what I am going to do?”
“I am going to kill you. You do not deserve to live. You are destroying my ministry and God is not happy with you.”

A good while of this went on. He kept pushing me around the basement with the gun to my temple only to be interrupted by an occasional phone call.

Then it happened. I really didn’t care anymore. I was done. Just kill me. Then I did it. I turned my head so that the gun was to my forehead and I was looking him in the eyes. I looked him in the eyes and said, “Go ahead and kill me. It would be better than you.” (Dying was better than living with him.)

Stun. He looked at me with glazed eyes, welling with fury and yet did not know what to say. He was shocked. He pulled the gun down and said stand there I’ll be back. And there I stood.

He eventually came back down stairs and told me that he was not going to kill me because he could not explain my body. I was then taken to the church and put in one of the offices and put under lock and key and armed guards until the next morning when ”dad” (Roger Voegtlin) and Pastor H. drove me to my natural mother’s home in Louisville, Kentucky and “ dumped” me there. He then began a campaign with his attorneys to find someone to adopt me and for me to change my name. He wanted nothing to do with me. He completely abandoned me.

Part of me did die that day."

This is Frank Voeghtlin's "father" Roger Voeghtlin on Anderson Cooper which originally aired September 22, 2011. http://youtu.be/hEeoF_t4sfQ


Fairhaven Baptist Transcript


Also ahead, our continuing series, "Ungodly Discipline." There are allegations of child abuse at a fundamentalist Baptist school in Indiana. Some former students are saying they were hit and humiliated by staff members.


SAMUEL BAIN, FORMER STUDENT, FAIRHAVEN BAPTIST ACADEMY: He basically told me to bend over and said, "Pull down your pants." I looked, I kind of hesitated, because to me it doesn't sound right, even to a kid.



COOPER: Tonight, a new part in our continuing series, "Ungodly Discipline." Religion is sometimes used as an excuse to mistreat kids. We started looking into this disturbing phenomenon more than a month ago.

What we found looking into cases like these is that child abuse in the name of religion is not isolated and happens not only in private homes but sometimes in schools, as well.

Gary Tuchman reports tonight on a school in Indiana that's facing accusations that are hard to comprehend.


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Roger Voegtlin is a powerful man, extremely influential in fundamentalist Baptist circles.

ROGER VOEGTLIN, PASTOR, FAIRHAVEN BAPTIST: I believe the Bible is the world of God.

TUCHMAN: His Indiana church is called Fairhaven Baptist, and on the well-manicured grounds, there is also the Fairhaven Baptist Academy for children and Fairhaven College. Pastor Voegtlin has led thousands of children and their families for four decades.

(on camera) You've said children are born depraved. They're born liars. They have to be trained to be good. Do you still believe that?

R. VOEGTLIN: Yes. The Bible says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The Bible also says he who spareth the rod hated his son.

R. VOEGTLIN: My philosophy is three swats. It should sting but not hurt.

TUCHMAN: It's not considered an unusual philosophy among some in the fundamentalist Baptist community. Corporal punishment does remain legal in many of the nation's schools.

But these former students are now speaking out, saying what they endured was beyond, way beyond, anything taught in the Bible.

(on camera) How many of you have had suicidal thoughts? That's every one of you.

ALISON LAVERY, FORMER STUDENT, FAIRHAVEN BAPTIST ACADEMY: We constantly lived in fear of looking the wrong way, doing the wrong thing.

DAVID GONZALEZ, FORMER STUDENT, FAIRHAVEN BAPTIST ACADEMY: We were brainwashed; our parents were brainwashed. And you followed what Roger Voegtlin said.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): These former students say Pastor Voegtlin did some of the hitting, but most of it was done by his staff.

Alison Lavery was in grade school when she says the principal came into her class to paddle her.

LAVERY: He would call you to the front. They'd have pulled a chair out. And bend over, grab the chair. He tells you, "Look at that lunch pail." And he would pull the paddle up. And he was so tall it practically touched the ceiling. And he would swing it really hard and hard enough for you to move forward. He'd move the whole chair forward.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This is in front of the whole class?


TUCHMAN (voice-over): Jeremiah Souza was in seventh grade when he encountered a school administrator.

JEREMIAH SOUZA, FORMER STUDENT, FAIRHAVEN BAPTIST ACADEMY: He spanked me, and the paddle split down the middle. So he started back over, holding the paddle together. So whenever he would hit me, it would pinch the skin on my bottom and bruised and bleeding. TUCHMAN: Samuel Bain also was in grade school when he says he got it from a church maintenance man.

BAIN: He basically told me to bend over, and he said, "Pull down your pants." I looked -- I kind of hesitated, because to me, it doesn't sound right, even to a kid. You know, we were taught not to question people.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Then he did what?

BAIN: He laid into me.

TUCHMAN: They say that not only were they hit when they were here, but it was done with great effort to humiliate them in front of whole class, belt them over a chair. Is that still done today, and do you think that's humiliation?

R. VOEGTLIN: Yes. It is still done today. And I suppose it is humiliation, but again, humiliation is not the big thing.

TUCHMAN: But what I'm saying to you is God doesn't say anything about humiliation in the Bible.


TUCHMAN: He does talk about sparing the rod.


TUCHMAN: That is mentioned in the Bible.


TUCHMAN: So why the humiliation? Why is that necessary?


DARCEL MCCOY, FORMER STUDENT, FAIRHAVEN BAPTIST ACADEMY: I'm a minister. I'm a preacher. I speak to youth. I speak to teenagers.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Darcel McCoy (ph) is a proud Baptist who now lives in Alabama. He says during a student mission trip to Mexico 15 years ago, he was forced by a Fairhaven administrator to keep drinking liquids after he urinated in a shower.

MCCOY: My stomach is literally out to about here, and I'm puking over and over, puking. And one of the -- one of the men come up to me: "Don't you puke again. You better not puke." And I'm just puking everywhere, all over my clothes, all over people's stuff.

They put -- they put one of the older kids, one of the senior boys, they put his stuff at my feet. And said if you puke again this boy's going to beat the snot out of you. And so I'm trying hard not to puke. They made me do that until I peed on myself.

R. VOEGTLIN: I have never heard that story. Darcel was a lot of trouble when he was in school, but I'm not saying that he's totally lying about it. Because I don't know. I wasn't there.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This was something you'll investigate?

R. VOEGTLIN: Yes, I will.

TUCHMAN: It was a long time ago, but probably worth investigating?

R. VOEGTLIN: Yes. Yes, I will.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Jeremiah Souza says he was tormented by faculty members.

SOUZA: I was secretly taking piano lessons, and they found out and pulled me in front of the youth group, called me a fag. Queer.

TUCHMAN: And it got much worse. Souza says he was repeatedly raped by a fellow student. He told no one at the church until many years later.

SOUZA: I was raped for three years straight there. And I was told it was my fault. I went and told the pastor. He asked me if I was tithing and giving money to the church at that time. He said it was because I wasn't giving money that I was violated.

R. VOEGTLIN: Plain lying. That did not happen. If it happened, I'd be the first one to drag the person to the police station.

TUCHMAN: And then there's Lois Crosby. She started Fairhaven more than three decades ago. She says the brutality was too much for her.

LOIS CROSBY, FORMER STUDENT, FAIRHAVEN BAPTIST ACADEMY: I've actually overdosed twice. The second time I overdosed, even the doctors don't know how I'm alive.

TUCHMAN (on camera): All seven of your former students said they've either thought or tried to commit suicide. A, do you think they're lying to me? And B, how does that make you feel?

R. VOEGTLIN: It makes me feel bad, but I really don't believe it has anything to do with us.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): But there are also these two former students.

(on camera) Tell me your name.



TUCHMAN (voice-over): Catherine and Frank Voegtlin, two of Pastor Voegtlin's children, whom he and his wife adopted when they were young. F. VOEGTLIN: I haven't spoken to him in 25 years. He won't speak to me.

TUCHMAN: Frank says his father once got mad when he didn't finish a ten-mile run.

F. VOEGTLIN: He stripped me down. He got his belt to out, and he spanked me until he couldn't move his arm any more. And I was black and blue from my lower back to the bottom of my legs.

As a punishment, I had to wear a dress in day camp for the entire day to show everybody what a sissy I was.

TUCHMAN (on camera): You ran cross country. You came in second place in the race, and he said what?

VOEGTLIN-SELTER: He told me that I was never, ever to lose a race. Ever. And took me downstairs, lifted my skirt up and beat me with a belt.

R. VOEGTLIN: We are did nothing but to try and help Frank and his sister. We hadn't planned to adopt anybody.

TUCHMAN: But you did, and I'm wondering is that true what they're saying about you?

R. VOEGTLIN: No, no. We spanked -- we spanked Frank, but as far as you said, sending him to school in a dress? No.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Pastor Voegtlin feels his children and these former Fairhaven children are malcontents who are embellishing. He says almost all Fairhaven students are happy. But these former students say Pastor Voegtlin leads a church that has ruined many lives.

GONZALEZ: I don't know what love is. I don't know how to love somebody.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Before we left, people who work at the church gave us a souvenir, a souvenir they say they're proud to hand out to all visitors. It's one of the paddles these use to strike the children. It comes complete with words from the Bible. It says "Fairhaven Paddle." And then this book verse from the book of Proverbs: "He that loveth his son chasteneth him betimes."

Do you ever have any doubt in your mind that you're not faithfully and accurately following the spirit of God's word in the Bible?



COOPER: Gary Tuchman joins us.

Now, Gary, it's really fascinating to hear both the pastor's perspective and how -- I mean, polar opposite of these kids and his own kids, the two kids who he had adopted. Are authorities investigating any of these allegations?

TUCHMAN: Under state law, Anderson, Indiana is not allowed to oversee religious schools. It's very hard to have any kind of investigations of religious schools. So we don't know if there's any investigation, don't think there is.

We can tell you in the 1970s, the pastor and the headmaster at the school were both arrested. They both went to court. The headmaster was charged with aggravated assault and battery of a child. The -- Pastor Voegtlin was charged with conspiracy. The conspiracy charge against the pastor was dropped. The jury found the headmaster not guilty of aggravated assault.

But the jurors later said when they were interviewed they had would have found him guilty of a lesser charge of child abuse.

Nevertheless, the church considered that a victory.

COOPER: The pastor says that almost all the students are happy. Do -- do we know? Is there any truth to that?

TUCHMAN: Well, there are certainly a lot of happy students. We can't characterize the percentage. There's also a lot of loyal students and ex-students. We've been the targets of a targeted e-mail campaign not to run this story.

But we can tell you, he inferred to us these ten people are the only unhappy ones. We know of scores of people we've gotten in touch with who are very unhappy, who were terrorized at school. We didn't have time to put most of them on TV. Other ones are afraid to talk on television. But I can tell you, Anderson, if we included every story from every former student we talked with, it would take the entire night on CNN to tell all those stories.

COOPER: And it's fascinating he hasn't talked to the two kids who he had adopted.

TUCHMAN: That's a horrifying story for everybody, to be honest with you. I mean, by all means, we think you love those children, the children loved him, but they haven't talked in a quarter century.

COOPER: Gary Tuchman, fascinating report. Appreciate it.

So much for Pro-Life and peace-of-mind

Some excerpts and experiences affect me more than others, simply because certain specific aspects of the mental/emotional anguish that goes with threats made in the abusive adoptive home are more real to me because that was my own adoption-experience.

Then it happened. I really didn’t care anymore. I was done. Just kill me. Then I did it. I turned my head so that the gun was to my forehead and I was looking him in the eyes. I looked him in the eyes and said, “Go ahead and kill me. It would be better than you.” (Dying was better than living with him.)

There was a time when my Adad and Amom complained that I no longer sang like I did when I was little.

I stopped singing when the abuse began.

I stopped wanting to live when every day was just more of the same.

I stopped caring, or wanting things for myself.  Eventually I started acting-out.  When I was older, my Amother would confess to only a few, "Kerry drinks like she does because her birth-mother used to".  No where in my records does it say my Bmother had issues or problems with alcohol.  I started drinking when I was 10 because it helped numb the hate and pain I was feeling because of the abuse I was enduring.


Over the years, I have heard many b.mothers cry to me because they learned their adopted-out child committed suicide.  Some often worried or thought the suicide was due to genetics (mental illness/depression).  It's been my own experience that abuse itself can make a child depressed enough to want to die.

B.mothers are often told their children will not suffer if put in a "good" adoptive home.  In fact, they are often told adoption can give her, (the mother who wants what's best for her child), a peace of mind, knowing that the well-being and future of her child will be in the hands of loving adoptive parents.  Sometimes it is the more fundamental "God-fearing" religious adoptive parent that turns-out to be the scariest and most abusive child-handler when it comes to child discipline and punishment

It's not easy comforting a B.mother who was told her choice to give to another couple (through adoption) was the right, moral thing to do, especially if she learns, years later, that life ended because of brutal abuse. 

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