Thinking of you, Nicklaus Ellison

A few months before he took a toxic mix of drugs and died on a stranger’s couch, Nicklaus Ellison wrote a letter to his little sister.

He asked for Jolly Ranchers, Starburst and Silly Bandz bracelets, some of the treats permitted at the substance abuse program he attended in Florida. Then, almost as an aside, Mr. Ellison wrote about how the Christian-run program that was supposed to cure his drug and alcohol problem had instead “de-gayed” him…

After breaking his probation sentence for drunken driving and crashing into four parked cars, Mr. Ellison faced a year in jail. As an alternative, the prosecutor in the case agreed to Mr. Ellison’s enrolling in Teen Challenge, a program that teaches participants to overcome addiction by studying the Bible and becoming more “Christ-like.”

Teen Challenge was highlighted by President George W. Bush as a successful faith-based program that deserved federal funding…

His yearlong program in Pensacola, Fla., consisted of doing manual labor for many hours a day. Local landscaping companies, carwashes and a fish market employed the men, former participants and their families said. Teen Challenge said money from the “work assignments” helped cover some expenses and the men were not entitled to compensation, according to a participant consent form.

“This wasn’t treatment, this was free labor,” said Angie Helms, whose son Tyler attended Teen Challenge with Mr. Ellison.

Teen Challenge explained that working was a way for the men in the program to overcome their addiction. Work is “one of the central purposes for human existence,” according to the consent forms…

Centuries later, Paul’s writings inspired a group of lawyers in Los Angeles to develop the practice of Christian conciliation. The group’s work ultimately gave rise to Peacemaker Ministries, a nonprofit that devised a legal process that draws on the Bible.

The peacemaker method is used by private schools, Christian lawyers and others. Clauses requiring Americans to use Christian arbitration instead of civil court now appear in thousands of agreements like the one Mr. Ellison signed with Teen Challenge…

Ms. Spivey had to pay a $5,000 retainer and a $750 fee to Peacemaker Ministries, her lawyer said in court papers…

His family said they thought it was hypocritical that Teen Challenge was willing to collect food stamp subsidies to feed participants in the program, but insisted on the separation of church and state when it came to their legal case…

Cloud Sailing

“Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price.”  Amelia Earhart

Come Sail Away, by Styx

I’m sailing away,
Set an open course for the virgin sea,
‘Cause I’ve got to be free,
Free to face the life that’s ahead of me,
On board, I’m the captain, so climb aboard,
We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore,
And I’ll try, Oh Lord I’ll try, to carry on

I look to the sea,
Reflections in the waves spark my memory,
Some happy, some sad,
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had,
We lived happily forever, so the story goes,
But somehow we missed out on the pot of gold
But we’ll try best that we can to carry on

A gathering of angels appeared above my head,
They sang to me this song of hope and this is what they said,
They said come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me lads,
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me,
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me baby,
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me

I thought that they were angels, but to my surprise,
We climbed aboard their starship, we headed for the skies
Singing come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me lads
Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me