Our Opinion: Close the child-abuse loophole

News Tribune [Jefferson City MO]

March 31, 2021

Unfortunately, a few unscrupulous boarding school operators have exploited a loophole in the law to further their sick desire to abuse children.

Missouri and South Carolina are the only two states in the nation that do not require licensing or regulation of faith-based boarding schools. As a result, sexual abuse and other types of abuse have occurred.

Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Jefferson City, is looking to close this loophole, and he’s finding support among his House colleagues.

As we recently reported, Veit is sponsoring House Bill 557 to require “child residential homes” to notify the Missouri Department of Social Services of their existence and compliance with regulations intended to protect the safety of children in the residence.

The House unanimously passed the bill. Now, we ask the Senate to also support this important bill.

Our recent story on the bill shows one example of the need: This month the Missouri attorney general filed 79 felony charges and one misdemeanor against Boyd Householder, an owner of the now-defunct Circle of Hope Girls Ranch and Boarding School.

The charges include six counts of second-degree statutory rape, seven counts of second-degree statutory sodomy, six counts of sexual contact with a student, a count of second-degree child molestation, 56 counts of abuse or neglect of a child. Housholder co-owned the business with his wife, Stephanie, who faces 22 charges.

Veit said a special legislative committee this summer heard testimony about children being raped, going without medical care and having medications withheld.

“The bill protects their religious freedoms but protects us from a few bad apples,” Veit said in our recent story. “Catholic and Baptist churches have given their endorsement.”

We, too, give the bill our endorsement. It will go a long way to protect children, while also protecting the reputations of true religious organizations.