Rebekah Home for Girls

A controversial Christian boarding school with a history of abuse allegations.

Established in 1968 in Corpus Christi, Texas, by Lester Roloff, the Rebekah Home for Girls was initially created to serve as a reformative institution for young girls facing a variety of life challenges, including drug addiction, homelessness, involvement in prostitution, and legal troubles. The home operated under the auspices of Roloff’s Independent Fundamental Baptist beliefs, emphasizing strict discipline and religious education as means of rehabilitation.

The disciplinary measures at Rebekah Home were severe and have been a central point of controversy. Punishments included physical discipline with a wooden paddle, confinement, enforced silence and isolation, physically demanding exercises, and kneeling with Bibles resting on outstretched palms or with pencils wedged between the knees. An isolation room known as “the lockup” was used for solitary confinement, where girls were subjected to continuous replay of hour-long prayers from the pastor​​.

Legal challenges and public scrutiny began to surface in the early 1970s when the State of Texas sought to regulate the home through licensing requirements, which Roloff resisted on the grounds of religious freedom. This resistance led to a series of court battles, temporary closures of the home, and Roloff’s arrests for non-compliance with state regulations. Despite these challenges, the home continued operations, benefiting at times from legal victories that underscored the tension between church-state separation and child welfare oversight​​.

In 1979, Roloff orchestrated a dramatic standoff known as the “Christian Alamo,” calling upon supporters to form a human chain around the facility to prevent state authorities from removing the residents. This event highlighted the deep divisions between Roloff’s supporters, who viewed the homes as necessary sanctuaries for troubled youth, and critics who saw them as sites of abuse and mistreatment​​.

The Rebekah Home for Girls, along with Roloff’s other institutions, faced numerous accusations of abuse and mistreatment from former residents. These allegations have been documented by survivor stories and investigative reports, painting a troubling picture of life within the home. Despite Roloff’s death in 1982, the legacy of the Rebekah Home for Girls continues to provoke discussion about the oversight of religiously affiliated reformative institutions and the protection of vulnerable youth​​.

The home’s operations and the legal battles surrounding it reflect broader debates on the balance between religious freedoms and the state’s duty to protect children from harm. The Rebekah Home for Girls was finally closed in 2001, but its history remains a cautionary tale of the potential for abuse in unregulated religious institutions​​.

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