A Texas-based pastor was raided for a second time in late July under suspicion of abuse and human trafficking — but still hasn’t been charged with any crime.
The Birmingham News reported that Pastor Gary Wiggins has run boarding schools for troubled boys in Texas, Missouri and Alabama. His schools in all three states were investigated after officials began to suspect that Wiggins was abusing the boys and using them for illegal labor, but he has somehow eluded jail time.
During the July 25 raid on the Joshua Home facility in the tiny town of Bertram, investigators from four Texas agencies took away eight boys aged 10-17 — all of whom were from out of state. The school was raided, the News reported, after a total of 11 state agencies investigated Wiggins and the school for weeks over allegations of “abuse, neglect, labor violations, fraud, licensing violations and human trafficking.”
Wiggins’ first raid took place in 2016 when authorities in Seminole, Alabama descended upon the Blessed Hope Boys Academy following the escape of two boys who told neighbors they were being abused. 22 children ranging in age from 8 to 17 were taken from the Baptist pastor’s custody.
As the News noted, no charges were filed against Wiggins in Alabama. After the raid in Alabama, he took off for Missouri with some of the boys from Blessed Hope and founded the first iteration of Joshua Home. Soon enough, the nearby McDonald County Sheriff’s Department started getting calls about the school, and after a deputy did a well-child check on the property, Wiggins moved the boys to Texas.
Houston LGBT magazine Out Smart reported that a young man who formerly attended Blessed Hope, the pastor’s school in Missouri, accused him of using physical abuse to “convert” gay children into being straight.
Lucas Greenfield told ABC’s 20/20 that Wiggins threatened the boys, saying “I’m going to get the demon out of you and make you straight.”
Wiggins himself told ABC’s undercover reporters that he had an “80 percent success rate” converting young men from gay to straight.
“He charged parents $21,000 a year to house their children,” OutSmart noted, “and said he had permission to physically discipline them.”
According to the Burnet Bulletin newspaper, the sheriff in the Missouri town Wiggins vacated for Texas called the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office to give them a “heads up” about the pastor. Raw Story has reached out to the sheriff’s office for more information about the case and charges against Wiggins.
“It’s an absolute horror what they do to these children,” Charles Kennedy, a retired police captain who assisted with the investigation in Texas, told the Bulletin. “Gary Wiggins does the same kind of stuff that would violate the Geneva Convention.”
You can watch the 20/20 interview with the pastor and one of his alleged victims below, starting at the 26-minute mark.