Posted: Mar 14, 2013 7:14 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Mar 14, 2013 7:15 PM
HELENA - Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch, a Christian school in St. Ignatius, came under fire on Wednesday as Montana lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to revive a bill which would regulate it.
The Montana House of Representatives voted on a bill which would require church schools to be licensed, after the measure had previously died in committee on a party line vote.
MT State Representative Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) says she is bringing the bill because students from the school have come forward and accused their teachers of physically abusing them.
The school gained national attention when CNN ran an investigative series of stories outlining the alleged abuse.
Hill said, "We are talking about protecting the littlest Montanans, babies, forgotten kids, throw-away teens, kids who are sent here from far away places, and no one is able to look out for them except for us."
However, some Republicans say the state shouldn't be regulating schools like Pinehaven, saying it violates the separation of church and state.
MT State Representative Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel) said, "This is a 'designer' crime bill and it's written specifically for one specific ranch that deals with troubled kids, and has been for 40 years. Over those 40 years they have had 500 kids come through their program. They have no government funding and they have had numerous, numerous success stories.
The bill died with 45 Representatives voting yes and 52 Representatives voting no.
The full title of HB 236 is: A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: "AN ACT ELIMINATING THE EXEMPTION FROM LICENSURE FOR AN ORGANIZATION OR SCHOOL THAT IS AN ADJUNCT MINISTRY OF A CHURCH INCORPORATED IN MONTANA; AND AMENDING SECTION 37-48-102, MCA."