TeenPacters Speak Up: Part Eleven, TeenPact Needs Integrity, Not Money

TeenPacters Speak Up: A Series by Between Black and White

HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Between Black and White. Part Eleven was originally published on May 25, 2013.

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Part Eleven: TeenPact Needs Integrity, Not Money, by Starfury

TeenPact is an organisation started in 1994 by Tim Echols in an effort to “turn students into statesmen.” In 1996, he formed Family Resources Network, of which TeenPact became a part. [1] Family Resources Network is a tax-exempt non-profit organisation. [2] As such, there are specific tenets that it needs to follow, particularly pertaining to support for political campaigns. Organisations with a 501(c)(3) status are restricted from engaging in political campaign activity. [3]

In 2010, an ethics complaint was made, partially regarding the amount of involvement TeenPact and TeenPact Students had during the election in question. “Student Project” is the name that was given to the campaigns Tim Echols (and others involved with his organisation, albeit with his blessing) decided his students should support. Be it for a handful of days, or a whole week, he would gather TeenPact students to come and spend long days campaigning for those running for office. Publicly, TeenPact refused to associate with the various “Student Projects.” The keyword here is “publicly.”

Many emails inside the organisation tell a different story. Here are a few excerpts of the many emails that I, and several others, have received. I have removed the names of most individuals and states, to protect their privacy at this time. These were all sent to TeenPact email lists: some staffing, some state specific, others had a wider base.

For those who could afford to travel to these events and pay the fees associated therewith, it was essentially a TeenPact event. I, for one, was told when I arrived that it was not an “official” TeenPact event, but we were held subject to the same TeenPact Appropriate rules – dress, media, behaviour, etc. The only distinguishing factor was that rather than be at a class, we were on a campaign trail.

Here follow seven examples spanning from 2006 to 2010 (about which time those who have been willing to contribute thus far stopped receiving TeenPact emails):

Date: Jul 12, 2010 8:21 PM

Subject: Your new TeenPact State Coordinator!

Dear [State] TeenPact family,

…It has truly been a blessing serving with you, whether we were in a TeenPact class together at our state capitol, or knocking on doors during a [State] Student Project! […] However, due to necessity of the [STATE] TP state coordinator actually living in [state] […] I now formally introduce Mr. [Name] as the next TP [State] State Co.! […] Mr. [Name] is now fully plugged in with the TP home office and will be running (or delegating any leadership roles) any state class or [State] Student Project from now on, and he assures us all that he is ready to go!

From: Tim Echols

Date: Mon, May 10, 2010 at 8:02 PM

Subject: Echols running for PSC

Hi All,

By now, you have probably heard about my statewide campaign for Public Service Commission. Please join our facebook group tonight at http://tiny.cc/cgy7i if you have time.

More importantly, I am looking for hundreds of students who can be a part of five different projects we are putting together. See attached. I need moms to drive and host families to host. It will be hot, and a lot of work, but we can win this seat.

We are having a Sunday night prayer call at 8pm every Sunday night after church as well. Let me know if you can join that.

Thanks,

Tim Echols

www.timechols.com (if you can make a small donation I would be very grateful)

PS We are having a call tomorrow and Wednesday to discuss the projects. Email me for the number and code.

Date: May 25, 2007 7:37 PM

Subject: Concerning TeenPact, this years[sic] Student Project, and [Name]!!

Hi Everybody!

It was so great to see you all at the TeenPact class. […] Because her seat is now vacant, there is going to be a special election held on June 12th. Mrs. [Name], a very godly and conservative lady, is running as the Republican candidate, and we have been asked, and given the opportunity to help her get elected! We are going to be working out of the GOP headquarters in [Capitol] on June 9th, 11th, and 12th. The state of [State], [Name], and I, need your help in order to “pull this off”! Therefore, if you want to put your recently honed and sharpened TeenPact skills to work for both our State and God’s kingdom, then please respond to [email] and let me know which day or days, you can come.

Date: May 23, 2007 11:24 AM

Subject: [City] Project

My Fellow Teenpacters, it is my pleasure to invite you to join Mr. Tim Echols and myself and many others as we do some grassroots campaigning in North [State] June 13th through the 19th for Dr. [Name]’s run for Congress. We will be focusing primarily on door to door campaigning during the week and this will be a great opportunity to apply the civic skills you have learned through TeenPact in an actual political environment.

From: Tim Echols

Date: Tue, Mar 13, 2007 at 11:26 AM

Subject: campaign in [City]

Dear TeenPact Campaign Veterans,

Dr. [Name], a good friend, is running for Congress here in a special election to occur June 19th. There will be a Student Project put together for this campaign. We need several paid staff for that.

Additionally, we need staff now that would like to come over and live here. This is also paid.

Please let me know if you are interested. I am giving significant personal time to this so we will be interacting regularly.

Please hit reply all if you are interested and let us know your availability and financial needs.

Tim Echols

From: The TeenPact Times Staff [official @teenpact.com address]

Date: Mar 1, 2007 2:24 PM

Subject: The TeenPact Times: March Edition

Vote Yes for Life in [State]!

In September of last year, about twenty students headed out to South Dakota to campaign for the referendum to ban abortion in the state. […] The following is an interview with [Name].

1) [Name], when it looked like TeenPact was not going to be able to mobilize students to go to [State], you wrote Mr. Echols a long note urging him not to give up.

I believe that abortion unless stopped, will cause the destruction of our great nation. I believe God told me to take a stand. Helping the Vote Yes for Life campaign was part of it.

2) How many students wound up going and approximately what did it cost to get them there?

Twenty-one students went to South Dakota. It cost us around $450.00 per attendee that totalled around $9450.00

[…]

*TeenPact thanks the many donors who made the trip to South Dakota possible. Special thanks to Don Wildmon of AFA, Joe Brinck of the Sanctity of Life Foundation, and the Arlington Group in Washington D.C.

[The following was sent to an email list of TeenPact Staffers]

From: Tim Echols

Date: Oct 4, 2006, 1:14 AM

Subject:

Dear Staffers,

On behalf of the Governor, I would like to invite you to the Governor [Name] “Student Project.”

[…]

Space is limited to 100 students, so go to www.studentproject.net and print out your application today. Parents, we need you too. Please fill out an application as well.

[Name] is our program director, and I’ll be there the entire time as well.

[…]

I hope you’ll join me in helping Governor [Name] win another term in office.

Sincerely,

Tim Echols

(1) – http://teenpact.com/about/statement-of-faith/

(2) – http://teenpact.com/about/statement-of-faith/

(3) – http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/election_year_phone_forum_slides.pdf

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End of series.

TeenPacters Speak Up: Part Seven, It’s All About Standards

TeenPacters Speak Up: A Series by Between Black and White

HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Between Black and White. Part Seven was originally published on May 23, 2013.

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Part Seven: It’s All About Standards, by Alessandra

As a national organisation, TeenPact felt it necessary to maintain certain public standards. Whether their slogan was “Turning Students Into Statesmen” or “Changing Lives to Change the World,” one of the end goals of these standards was to set TeenPacters apart from the rest of the world. What they failed to grasp, however, was the concept of equality in standards across the board.

In addition to their routine at the statehouse, TeenPact turned its attention toward the courtroom with its alumni class, TeenPact Judicial. Associated previously with Regent University and Alliance Defense Fund, it now opens its doors at Liberty University. I attended the program – geared toward educating teens about the legal system in a “law school boot camp” style – twice, whilst it was divided into East and West. I first attended TPJ East at Regent, and the following year I attended TPJ West with the ADF.

The concept of “TPA” prevailed at each, but also brought with it new and different standards, with no clear explanations. Take the dress code: professional dress was required for the state classes, and pants or slacks, even as part of a suit, were expressly prohibited for the ladies. At Judicial, however, pantsuits and dress slacks were considered perfectly acceptable attire. I even asked a staffer about this during my first Judicial experience, and was told that “[T]hese were the rules.” No further explanation was offered, and when I attempted to press the issue, I was rewarded with the cold shoulder.

The response provoked questions and doubts as I attended my state class afterward, and had to give up the pants in the name of professional dress.  Even at fifteen, I could not grasp how TeenPact reconciled itself between one standard and another. With the answers I received to my questions, I doubted whether TeenPact knew how to reconcile the differences. Curiosity begs the questions of how and why such a discrepancy occurred, and was allowed to continue. Even so, the dress code was not the only area claiming a double standard.

My second trip to TeenPact Judicial, this time in Arizona, proved more difficult. TeenPact itself almost didn’t let me attend that class, as the boy I was courting at the time was also going to attend. TeenPact was fond of talking about how they loved SR’s – Special Relationships (what they called courtship or dating) – but how they did not want or allow “purple” at events. Pink and blue – girls and boys – were acceptable, but could not mix. To ensure that all acted in accordance with TPA standards, guys and girls had to be in groups in order to associate with one another. I found this problematic at every event I attended, simply because I got along better with the men.

Certain people at events such as National Convention were able to get away with breaking those rules, at least to the untrained eye. Those of us on a lower totem in the TeenPact hierarchy were required to ensure that we had at least three or four people in our group, and never an even split of guys and girls. One did not need to be in a relationship – or even heading in that direction – to risk the scrutiny of the TeenPact staff. As for anyone who was in a relationship, TeenPact always knew about it, and increased their observation of the couple in question whilst at events.

In my case, it took several conversations with a variety of staff members, including a couple we already knew, and multiple promises that we would not act like we were in an SR for the entirety of the event, in order for them to relent and allow me to go. Once there, I spent the entire week being watched like a hawk. For several meals, I refused to eat at the same table as he, lest I get into trouble. Yet, in between all the sessions on legal matters, the staff pounded the idea that all godly men and women should marry and have babies to save the nation.

Looking back, I wonder at what we were supposed to take away. SRs had no place in TeenPact, aside from Mr. Echols – the founder – telling us he was happy to officiate our weddings, but, in the meantime, any semblance of “purple” was not considered TPA. After this talk, usually from the program director of whichever event, the group would be divided by sex. The girls were told how it was their fault if the boys stumbled and lusted after them. Whispers told us those who pushed the line were in need of a change of heart and lots of prayer. We were brought back together and learned how it was important to go forth and multiply.

After all, if we all trusted God to choose the size of our families, we would soon overrun the liberals by sheer numbers. We would, of course, send our children to TeenPact, as well, and then they, too, would follow in our footsteps. Taking back America was well within our grasp. It was practically sinful to turn your back on it.

Whether it concerned how a woman clothed the lower portion of her body, or what she did with the lower portion of her body, TeenPact was fond of making rules. Despite their reassurances that they were put in place to protect us, and inspire us to a godlier standard of living, those creating the rules couldn’t seem to agree on what exactly that standard was. In the end, it didn’t matter what you did or what you wore, as long as a staffer slapped “TPA” across it.

To be continued.

TeenPacters Speak Up: Part Three, She’s Not TPA

TeenPacters Speak Up: A Series by Between Black and White

HA note: This series is reprinted with permission from Between Black and White. Part Three was originally published on May 21, 2013.

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Part Three: She’s Not TPA, by Alessandra

To any TeenPacter, there are three words that represent ultimate ruling at any event – Teen Pact Appropriate. Oft abbreviated to the acronym TPA, it was bandied about concerning clothing, actions, and topics of discussion. It was the vague final standard that floated over attendees, replacing a popular evangelical choice of WWJD with, “Is that TPA?”

It was easy to tout it as well as ay other… during my first year. TPA was presented as hip, cool, and in to a sect of the population who often made their friends and had the most socialisation at TeenPact. I saw no problem deeming ankle length skirts and blouses a size or two too large as professional attire to wear to the capitol when I started out. I listened intently to the “girl talk” about causing en to lust. I very carefully kept any talk of Lord of the Rings or other such subjects to nothing more than hushed whispers.

My second year, I ran for governor of TeenPact Maine on the slogan “Vote AJK, She’s TPA.” Even so, there were tendrils of doubt forming in my mind. There were rebukes given to women who dared hold the door open instead of waiting–or letting–a man do it. I wondered what really happened during the “guy talk,” and why all the responsibility for men’s lust was being placed on the women. I had spent more time at the capitol between the two state classes, and didn’t understand why pantsuits for women were not allowed — something that came up again later in my TeenPact history. Then, of course, came the comments that shook my faith in my gubernatorial victory: the number of people who remarked that they didn’t know how I could have won, when they all voted for the other candidate.

I tried not to worry about it, but, for an organisation that promotes integrity above all else, there should never be any doubt.

I tried not to let my concerns shake my faith in the organisation, and proud of my newfound determination to prove the equality of women, I set off for my second National Convention on the presidential campaign trail. The historical inauguration of the first female governor of TeenPact Maine was fresh in my memory, and I was determined to make TeenPact history once more. My running mate and I knew we had our work cut out for us as the first girl/girl team, but, we were more than willing to embrace it.

What I was not prepared for ere the incredulous looks on the faces of boys and girls as they stopped by our campaign booth. Riding in a van with Mr. Echols on the way to a church service was not the first time, nor the last, that a fellow TeenPacter asked me how a girl running for president was TPA. After all, women should never be in positions of leadership over men!

The first time I was asked if it was TPA, I was flabbergasted. Still, my answer did not change. If Deborah could do it, so could I. Besides, I was just as capable as every other guy there, at the very least – why shouldn’t I run? In the end, though, I was the one with questions. The popular vote recorded for my state did not match the number of votes from my supporters. I wasn’t the only one with doubts that election, but, who were we running against?

Popular vote doesn’t matter when determining whether someone is TPA enough.

That same year I had an interview for staffing state classes the following year. I was very excited about the chance to do it, and was counting down the time until my interview. Things seemed to go well, up until my interviewer put her pencil down and looked me straight in the face. “How do you reconcile the TeenPact statement of faith with being Orthodox?”

I blinked.

I wasn’t sure if she was concerned because I had been running for president, or she just didn’t know what being an Orthodox Christian meant. The result of the interview was that I could staff the one-day class for 8-13 year olds, but that they weren’t comfortable with me staffing the four-day class.

From there, however, I turned to another side of TeenPact, and the hypocrisy therein: TeenPact Judicial…

To be continued.