Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Prairie Bible Institute Abuse Scandal

Now a year after the Three Hills and Alberta RCMP concluded their investigation  I am re-posting a historical summary  I did at the time (see below).  Since the RCMP investigation never had much to investigate and now appears unlikely to ever proceed, this blog will be closed.  A big thank-you to all the
readers who made this the Number # 1 searched for blog on the topic (according to it's consistently high listing in google searches).  A sad & tragic topic but hopefully everyone was able to learn.  As the Bible & Prairie have always taught, sin happens everywhere.  PBI has really gone the transparent and hard route by seeking & supporting the full strength of law enforcement (RCMP) to fully investigate the allegations.  A brave leadership decision.  Also they compassionately reached out to the alleged victims and heard their voices & stories through the independence of the Center Street Church.   Well done, you have demonstrated for other institutions how to approach similar allegations.  The activists?  They too were heard and found wanting.  While individual cases may or may not be true the activists never made a coherent case for how PBI caused the alleged abuse.  Pointing out that PBI taught children to be obedient to their parents is not adequate, after all that puts the the blame on the Bible,  which of course some of the activists are happy to do. They will likely continue making allegations without evidence but long ago destroyed their credibility and unfortunately did their cause more harm than good. 

From June 24, 2012 (updated)
After months of waiting for some actual evidence it looks like the "Scandal" has reached a conclusion from the standpoint of the proper authorities.  The RCMP recently announced that they had investigated the allegations/complaints made to them and found no evidence worthy of charges or any continued investigation.  The Calgary Herald has a good article on it here:

This is hardly news to any reasonable people who examined the types of allegations that were made in the fall/winter of 2011.  From the start it was obvious to most that the activists making the allegations were long on accusation but short on evidence.  They also had a peculiar underlying "logic" to their claims, namely that similar alleged crimes in the same location must be the responsibility of the the location, in this case PBI.  Of course most people understand that crime happens in every location that you find people.  Get enough people in one spot for long enough and you will find pretty much any crime known to man in that spot.  In this Case PBI has had a 90 year history and tens of thousands of people flowing thru it's campus during that time.  No doubt some criminal behavior has taken place there over the years.  The current Prairie leader (Mark Maxwell) acknowledged this fact from day one and expressed his sincere regret for any past pain that individuals experienced while in some way associated with Prairie.  Well done Mark and this blog agrees completely with that sentiment.  Some individuals will have suffered real, horrific abuse during their association to PBI.  We offer them profound sympathy and  prayers for justice and healing.

The media picked up the story with initial enthusiasm back in November when the story broke.  After a few days though it quickly became evident that that the activists were not backing up their claims.  Not only could they not tie together their reasoning of how PBI was responsible, they could also not even point to any relevant conviction against an individual.  The self proclaimed spokesperson, Linda Fossen, went forward to the RCMP with her own account of being abused by her father while he was simply a student at PBI.  By her account the alleged abuse began prior to her family arriving at Prairie and then continued while they lived in Three Hills.  This leaves one a bit foggy on how PBI supposedly caused the abuse prior to her family living there or was responsible that it continued.  Her allegation against PBI suffered further credibility damage when a major newspaper interviewed her other family members here:

Within a week the media had lost interest in the story relegating it to the scrap heap of being bickered about on internet blogs and Facebook.

Part of the problem was a lack of clarity regarding just what the activists were including in their allegations.  Fossen claimed to represent over 70 cases which included sexual, physical and spiritual abuse  however confirm-able, factual details of these 70 cases were never provided to the RCMP or Prairie.  Neither was any breakdown on how many cases fell into which category or what exactly constituted the criteria for a case to be deemed physical or spiritual abuse.  On their Facebook page some of the activists related how corporal punishment in any form was abusive while others resented that they felt pressured as children to believe religious teachings which they no longer hold to as adults and considered that spiritual abuse.  Needless to say that with such loose criteria the real shock is they did not have thousands of cases rather than 70.

A few anonymous "Jane Doe" cases were revealed but these suffered from either a lack of evidence or a weak premise. One such case involved "repressed memories" from when the victim was 2 years of age which were not "recovered" until many decades later.  Another case involved a victim known as "Holly" which later turned out to be fictional character used poetically by a someone who simply wrote it as sympathetic support for those struggling with the issue.  He based "Holly" on a composite of  people he knew with most of the information derived from a young woman with no link to PBI.  His story was powerful and it soon became a rallying cry amongst the activists.  They often proclaimed they were "doing this for Holly".  The author of the story later clarified that "Holly" did not exist and the character was based on someone not associated with PBI however the activists never publicly apologized or withdrew their use of the character.  Another example was that of  "Angelyn"  who claimed that as an adult, 2nd year college student, she once had to resist an attempt by a married man to give her a kiss in a home setting.  If her account is true it would be an immoral act but hardly an example of child abuse in an institutional setting.  She explained that after her resistance the attempt to kiss her was not continued.  The activists finally resorted to appealing to examples of rumors where not even the identity of the victim was known by anyone.  Instead these stories without victims were presented as fact.  This type of behavior really undermined the credibility of the activists and destroyed the initial goodwill many granted them at the start.

Unfortunately the activists never really went beyond rhetoric and accusations, all while attempting to dictate a process of how PBI could be found guilty.  Which was curious since they had already declared it guilty at every opportunity.  Prairie preferred for the RCMP to investigate as they had the legal authority and power to do so while leaving no rocks unturned.  The problem was the RCMP also have investigative standards and will not just willy nilly start proclaiming people guilty till proven innocent.  The activists in turn wanted an obscure christian abuse ministry from another country named G.R.A.C.E. to investigate even though they would have no legal authority or power to do much of anything.  It then became known that some of the activists had direct ties to G.R.A.C.E.  Fears of that process resulting in a kangaroo court were furthered when it was discovered that the founder of that organization, Boz Tchividjian, was also an administrator on the very Facebook page which was making all the accusations and leading the cry for G.R.A.C.E to be hired.  Many considered this to be a disturbing conflict of interest.  When brought to light this fact was at first denied by his co-administrator (Fossen) and he quickly vanished from the admin team of the FB page.  The information had been recorded by multiple sources prior to his removal however and he later  acknowledged he had in fact been one of the administrators. (Update Feb 2012: Additional concerns with G.R.A.C.E. continue to mount.  see here:
and here 
Curiously for a christian "ministry" organization, G.R.A.C.E. charges a large (6 figure) fee for it's participation rather than helping the activists for free.   Of course nothing prevents G.R.A.C.E.  from offering their services for free, they just don't.  The activists/G.R.A.C.E. expect & demand PBI to cover this cost.  An interesting business model, help generate public pressure on an organization in league with a bunch of activists while those very activists demand that paying you a boatload of money to "investigate" is the only option they are prepared to accept.  Perhaps the authorities should be investigating that.

Further odd behavior and statements followed often exploding into brief online verbal battles over perceived insults or whether a pie throwing contest at PBI is meant as a slap in the face towards them. In the end the activists were left shouting about the 70, then 80, then 90 people who they claimed to represent but they could never produce more than about 10 victims/allegations which the RCMP investigated but saw little reason to pursue.  Overstatement, personal attacks and harassment of those asking for evidence instead became the go to strategy of the leading activists.  They destroyed their own cause by pounding the table as  the old adage goes...

“When the evidence is on your side, pound the evidence. When the evidence is not on your side, pound the table.”

If instead they had focused on providing solid evidence for their presumptions and accusations they may have been more convincing.  Everyone but the most naive expects to see various types of abuse cases loosely connected with any large organization. It is the nature of statistics and the "six degrees of separation" effect.  Any particular victim or perpetrator will have countless associations so it becomes inevitable that various cases will be associated with PBI or  any large christian or secular organization.  Additionally all modest sized communities will have cases of abuse take place within their boundaries at some point but there is a reason we don't start arresting the town's administration.   It is the perpetrator who commits the crime, not the location where they live, where they go to school or whoever they happen to work for.

All over North America, tragic cases of abuse pop up in the media on a regular basis.  On occasion we even see cases where an abuse of trust has occurred between a young student and adult teacher.  While most school divisions eventually face this situation and attempt to deal with the ramifications for all concerned, it was not the school board that carried out the abuse.  Punish the Teacher who abused the trust.  To be fair it should be noted that the RCMP did not confirm any such cases at Prairie.  In it's modern state Prairie is now solely a post secondary institution so none are expected in the future either.   Today Prairie continues it's mission to train young people to make a difference for Christ.  Like most modern christian ministries they have also adopted an extensive abuse policy.  Will people everywhere continue to sin? Will abuse occur ever again in a family with some association to PBI? Of course.  Welcome to planet Earth.

The activists remain resolute in their determination to hold PBI accountable for the activist's allegations but have devolved into a ragtag group with some alleging to be victims while others are a collection of disgruntled alumni and/or atheists using the opportunity to denounce Christianity in general.  They continue to call for a pseudo-investigation/kangaroo court led by their friend Boz & his GRACE without ever addressing the elephant in the room.  What is the elephant?  That an actual evidence based investigation has already been conducted by the RCMP and found the accusations to be unfounded.  They fully looked into the matter and found there was no credible evidence to pursue.  Of course as I have pointed out before a lack of evidence does not by necessity mean that an accusation is untrue, rather only that the accusation is unfounded.
  un·found·ed  (n-foundd)
1. Not based on fact or sound evidence; groundless. 
2. Not yet established.

The activists are certain that Boz will confirm their accusations because he is not encumbered by needing to follow the evidence where it leads, instead his presuppositions determine his conclusions.  If Boz were to follow an evidenced based approach then he would reach the same conclusion as the RCMP.

Some abuse victims who tired of the bullying nature and fallacious reasoning of it's leaders have chosen to disassociate themselves from the group.  Any dissent within the online group of activists was at times rewarded with expulsion and an accusation of the dissenter also being a "perpetrator" or otherwise defamed, serving to further undermine the group's rationality and credibility.   The activists, through their name calling and otherwise polarizing behavior have only succeeded in polarizing themselves into oblivion. 

As time wore on the leaders further self destructed their credibility by publishing the personal stories of some alleged victims without consent from that person(s).  This was the final straw for many, however still some who should have known better chose to cheer-lead the petty & ridiculous behavior and then employ the association fallacy by comparing the unpopular behavior to Old Testament prophets. Such fallacious thinking is common amongst the lead activists as they often had to reply to critics by using the same fallacy and attempting to associate the critical thinker with being a redneck fundamentalist or other such lazy thinking insult.

Others chose to seek a reconciliation with PBI, made possible through either the mediation of the Center Street Church or through an alumni group which can be contacted here:

Anonymous, unfounded accusations are easy but logic and verifiable evidence are better.  Extraordinary claims demand good evidence.  For the activists the accusations were plentiful, the logic and verifiable evidence was never forthcoming.  No doubt some victim's stories are true but PBI has never endorsed or caused such criminal behavior.

Statistically the levels of abuse taking place in proximity of PBI are most likely way below average when compared to Canada (1 in 4, according to the activists) on whole.  The question is why would that be?  What was PBI doing right?


  1. "Repressed/recovered" memories are also the leading evidence for alien abduction. Hypnosis and memory recovery therapy is ridiculous.

  2. This link is to a copy of the current policies regarding abuse that are followed by Prairie. As you can see they are excellent.

  3. Anonymous: While I too consider hypnosis and the methodology for recovering memories to be dubious at best I would not in any way compare child abuse to alien abduction (I realize that may not have been your intent). That association would be misleading since alien abduction is clearly nonsense however child abuse happens throughout society on a regular basis. I too endured abuse, it is very real.

  4. Modern activism is interesting, not so concerned with facts and more driven by ideology. In the case of PBI we saw that many of the activists who were so willing to condemn the school had never been on campus in their life. This inconvenient fact did not stop them of course from declaring all their perceived problems both cultural and theological. Others who had a school connection but none to any abuse seized on an opportunity to slam the school they grew to hate. It became obvious that many of them simply had an axe to grind. Often they would relate resentment towards their parents and then extend that toward the school.

  5. Thanks. I find it interesting that the professional victims are still making demands for Prairie to hire GRACE yet they never, ever deal with the objections you have pointed out. GRACE is so obviously a complete dead end now.

    On facebook, whenever someone attempts to dialogue with them by asking a hard question or suggesting that PBI was not all bad, they immediately pull the victim card and say the other person is somehow attacking and triggering them. So people leave them alone and then they go on and on about how no one cares enough to dialogue with them. They seem deathly afraid to even mention this blog let alone post an article from it.

    They demand belief of their "truth" and decry that as children their individual parents demanded belief. The irony of them becoming what they hate is completely lost on them.

  6. Why would Prairie, the RCMP or any responsible organization discuss an individual's personal history of abuse with a self appointed spokesperson like Fossen or her cohorts anyway?

    Declaring yourself as a leader and then demanding that Prairie enter talks with you regarding other individuals is pretty foolish.

  7. I made a huge mistake in sharing my story with someone unworthy of my trust. She promised to keep it confidential but instead has now made a Pinterest poster out of it and spread it all over Facebook and the internet. I feel so violated and betrayed.

  8. SK;

    I am so sorry for what you are going through. Despite this exploitation of your story let me encourage you to go to the police if your story includes abuse that could be considered criminal in nature. I assure you the police will act in a professional and confidential manor, they will not be making posters and discussing your story on facebook. The police have the authority to investigate fully, properly & lay charges if appropriate, give them the chance. They want to help. I know that your experience of having someone betray your confidence and exploit your story for their own agenda makes sharing your story that much more difficult. Another kind of abuse, disgusting.

  9. Hugs (((SK in tears)))

  10. Sad when the goal or agenda becomes more important than the people.

  11. Thanks so much for keeping your posts at the level of ideas, evidence & reasoning rather than relying on insults. God has and will use this situation for good. Many have been able to come forward with personal stories that needed to be said. The school gained an opportunity to listen and respond to hurting people. There is alot of excitement around campus for what He has planned & enrollment continues to increase.

  12. SK, what was done to you was so wrong. I am sorry for what happed.


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