Circle of Hope may be finally closed, but for many of the victims, the fight is not over.
Stephanie and Boyd Householder, former long-time directors of a “troubled teen industry” program called Circle of Hope, were arrested and formally charged with over 100 felony counts of child sexual abuse, child physical abuse, and child neglect. Jerry Pyle, Pastor of the Bible Baptist Church of Vernon County, has now issued a statement to his congregation in support of the Householders, calling the charges “false, demonic accusations,” and asking for spiritual and financial support for the couple.
Circle of Hope officially shut down in August 2020, when investigators removed all children from their care. Charges were filed in March of 2021.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt brought 102 charges against the Householders, including dozens of sexual abuse charges. Schmitt has also raised concerns regarding their attorney, who was indicted in 2019, during which he was accused of bribing a witness to commit perjury in a murder case.
Victims have alleged sexual assault, the use of stress positions, including being forced to hold a pushup position, violent restraints and physical assaults, including having their heads slammed into walls, and other humiliating punishments. Those alleging sexual abuse state that assaults happened regularly.
Charges were first filed after the couple’s daughter, Amanda, published allegations on social media site TikTok. The facility had previously been investigated many times before.
Pastor Jerry Pyle, however, has stated that these charges are “false, demonic accusations.”
Pyle is the Pastor at the Bible Baptist Church of Vernon County, Missouri. The Householders had begun attending Pyle’s church last year, as well as bringing current detainees of their facility to the church.
On May 7, Pyle sent out a letter expressing support for the Householders, asking his congregation to support them, to pray for them, and to send financial support. According to the Kansas City Star, he has also regularly visited the Householders in jail, whom he describes as “faithful Christians.” He has also stated that dozens of congregants are prepared to testify to the couple’s character.
Circle of Hope described itself as a Baptist school, inspired by the work of Lester Roloff, a fundamentalist Baptist pastor. Roloff founded a series of schools that promised to bring “wayward teens to Jesus,” and used a variety of highly controversial tactics, such as whippings and prolonged solitary confinement.
Circle of Hope operated under a religious exemption law in the state of Missouri.