Amid emerging allegations of child abuse at Fairhaven Baptist Academy in
unincorporated Westchester Township, the Porter County Sheriffs Police said
today that it is has received no such reports.
On Sunday a large group of people staged a protest across the street from
the Fairhaven property on East Oakhill Road, three days after CNN aired an
installment on Thursday of its “Ungodly Discipline” series, in which seven
former students at the Fairhaven Academy—including Pastor Roger Voegtlin’s
two adopted children, now grown—alleged a policy of humiliating corporal
punishment administered by staff to children.
“These former students are speaking out, saying what they endured is beyond,
way beyond, anything taught in the Bible,” CNN reporter Gary Tuchman said in
Self-identified former students Alison Lavery and David Gonzalez opened
their interview by accusing staff of “brainwashing” children. Lavery: “We
constantly lived in fear of looking the wrong way, doing the wrong thing.”
Gonzalez: “We were brainwashed. Our parents were brainwashed. You followed
what Rev. Voegtlin said.”
Tuchman then broached the subject of paddling, and while Voegtlin himself
“did some of the paddling,” according to former students’ reports, “most of
it was done by his staff” and “in front of the whole class,” Tuchman said.
On one occasion, former student Samuel Bain said, a maintenance man at
Fairhaven spanked him. “He lit into me.”
Former student Darcel McCoy, on the other hand, recounted an incident which
occurred 15 years ago in Mexico during a mission trip, when an
“administrator”—to punish him for an infraction—forced him to drink “liquid”
until he vomited. “I’m puking, just over and over,” McCoy told Tuchman.
All seven former students interviewed on air told Tuchman that they have
either attempted suicide at some point or have had suicidal thoughts.
Tuchman opened his interview with Voegtlin by asking him to confirm whether
he was quoted correctly as saying “Children are born depraved” and are “born
Voegtlin responded: “The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the
glory of God.” Voegtlin then said that corporal punishment is an official
policy at Fairhaven Baptist Academy: “My philosophy is three swats. It
should sting but not hurt.”
Tuchman next confronted Voegtlin with the former students’ allegation that
corporal punishment was administered “with great effort to humiliate them.”
Voegtlin: “I suppose it is humiliation. But again humiliation is not the big
Tuchman: “God doesn’t say anything about humiliation in the Bible. Why is
About Darcel McCoy’s account of his punishment during the Mexican mission
trip, Voegtlin said this: “I’ve 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.” Voegtlin added that, having
now heard McCoy’s account, he plans to investigate it.
Tuchman: How does it “make you feel” to hear that seven former students have
attempted or contemplated suicide?
Voegtlin: “It makes me feel bad but I really don’t believe it has anything
to do with us.”
Tuchman concluded his report from Fairhaven by saying that Voegtlin
characterized the former students interviewed by CNN as “malcontents or
embellishing” and that Voegtlin maintained that “almost all Fairhaven
students are happy.”
Back in the studio, host Anderson Cooper asked Tuchman whether local
“authorities are looking into” Fairhaven.
Tuchman: “Under state law Indiana is not allowed to oversee religious
schools, so it’s very hard to have any kind of investigation of religious
schools. So we don’t know if there’s any investigation. We don’t think there
Sgt. Larry LaFlower told the Chesterton Tribune today that, “as of
now,” there have been no reports of child abuse at Fairhaven made to the
Neither Prosecuting Attorney Brian Gensel or his chief deputy, Matt Frost,
was available for comment this morning.
“There certainly are a lot of happy students” at Fairhaven, Tuchman added.
“We can’t characterize the percentage.”
But Tuchman said that the seven former Fairhaven students interviewed on air
are only a fraction of the total number who made themselves available to
speak to CNN about corporal punishment at the Academy.
And Tuchman said that before leaving Fairhaven he was presented with a
souvenir of his visit by staff there: a paddle.