Authorities in Burnet County, Texas, have raided a religious camp for troubled boys that was run by a man who’s previously been accused of “ex-gay” torture.
Last week, officials removed eight boys, ages 10 to 17, from the Joshua Home in Bertram, northwest of Austin, following an investigation into allegations of abuse, neglect, labor violations, fraud, licensing violations, and human trafficking.
Investigators believe the operator of the Joshua Home, Baptist minister Gary Wiggins, may have been using the boys illegally for a lawn care service and moving company.
Prior to relocating the Joshua Home to Texas in May, Wiggins operated similar facilities in Alabama and Missouri.
In 2016, authorities in Alabama raided Wiggins’ facility, called the Blessed Hope Boys Academy, after teenagers who had run away complained about being punished with forced exercise, solitary confinement, and the withholding of food.
Last year, Lucas Greenfield told ABC’s 20/20 that his mother sent him to Blessed Hope because he was gay and that Wiggins would beat the boys, saying “I’m going to get the demon out of you and make you straight,” the Dallas Morning News reports.
Wiggins told 20/20‘s undercover investigators that he had an 80 percent success rate turning gay kids straight. He charged parents $21,000 a year to house their children, and said he had permission to physically discipline them.
Charles Kennedy, a retired police captain who assisted with the investigation into the Joshua Home in Texas, told the Burnet Bulletin: “It’s an absolute horror what they do to these children. Gary Wiggins does the same kind of stuff that would violate the Geneva Convention.”
Kennedy added that state agencies are generally “unwilling” to investigate such facilities, especially when the boys are from other states and the organizations are religiously affiliated.
No charges have been filed against Wiggins in Texas. However, Burnet County Sheriff Calvin Boyd said he is confident that charges will be filed eventually.
Unlike 15 other states, Texas has no law prohibiting “ex-gay” therapy, which is opposed by opposed by virtually all of the major medical and mental health organizations.
Watch a report from KXAN-TV below.