The Arkansas Republican who gave his adopted daughters to a man who raped one of them was apparently in the habit of attempting to cast “demons” out of the children in his federally-funded pre-kindergarten.
According to KNWA news, a former employee of Harris’ Growing God’s Kingdom — who was also a mother of a student in the school — came forward Wednesday to discuss the bizarre pseudo-religious rituals Harris and his wife Marsha would perform on students as a routine part of daily life at the school.
The former teacher — who asked to be identified as “Amber” — said that the Harrises would perform an exorcism ritual when children were acting up.
“If they got in too much trouble they would pray on the kids, do a circle around them, put their hands on their heads, saying, trying to rebuke demons,” she said to KNWA.
Amber worked at the school for about five months in 2013, but was fired when she took exception to the Harrises’ methods for disciplining the children.
She told KNWA’s Lauren Conley that these efforts to drive “demons” out of little children was a fairly common occurrence during her time at the school.
“Well, I had another teacher there that had me take a child down to the office and whenever I did, they did it right there in front of me,” she said.
Marsha Harris introduced Amber to the two adopted girls who the family later gave up to Eric and Stacey Francis. Eric Francis is currently serving a 40-year prison sentence for the rape of the older girl, who was six years old when the Harrises “re-homed” her because they believed the girls were possessed and could communicate telepathically.
Amber said that Marsha Harris spoke freely and openly about the demons she believed were possessing the girls.
Nonetheless, the former teacher said she was comfortable leaving her son at Growing God’s Kingdom as a student until this week, but is now withdrawing him and finding another school.
“With all this going on, I think it’s too much for him right now. I just don’t feel comfortable with him being there,” she said.
Justin and Marsha Harris gave a contentious, emotional press conference at the Arkansas state capitol last Friday, but now virtually every claim that they made in that conference has come apart under scrutiny as a panoply of Aransas Department of Human Services (DHS) workers, other foster parents and other witnesses have contradicted the Harris family’s account of events.
The family is accused of keeping the older of the two girls locked in a room with no books or toys, monitored by a video camera and kept separate from her sister, who the Harrises believed she could communicate with telepathically.
Harris is accused by state officials of flying in the face of multiple professionals’ opinions about his family’s ability to raise the two girls, who came from a traumatic and chaotic home where they were neglected, molested and abused.
One former foster mother familiar with the girls and their deeply troubled older sister said that Harris used his clout as a state legislator to bulldoze past concerns by DHS officials and individuals familiar with the children.
“The problem was simple hubris,” she said. “He saw it as, ‘I’m with God. God’s going to solve this.'”
“There are lots of children you could adopt,” she continued, “you don’t need to take the most traumatized ones out of the system. He was told by many people in DHS, ‘These are not the kids you want to just jump into.’ That’s why I’m angry. I knew [the oldest daughter] wouldn’t last five minutes there.”
Harris and Growing God’s Kingdom ran afoul of the DHS and the federal government in 2011, when Harris came under fire for taking federal funds for the school, which — as a religious institution — was not eligible for them. Harris claimed that the school’s frequent group prayers and lesson about Jesus were “voluntary” for students, who were under no obligation to participate.
Growing God’s Kingdom receives around $900,000 per year in federal funds, some of which are derived from monies designated for the children of undocumented immigrants. Earlier this year, Harris sponsored a bill in the state House designed to cut off all public services and benefits to anyone who could not provide proof of U.S. citizenship.
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