A Republican lawmaker who owns a religious pre-school adopted a little girl with his wife. He apparently later “re-homed,” or unofficially but permanently gave over the 6-year old to a man he would end up hiring as a pre-school teacher. That man later raped her.
Justin Harris is a conservative Arkansas State Representative who serves as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Children and Youth. A Tea Party Republican, Harris has voted to allow the Christian bible to be taught in public schools, and has co-sponsored anti-abortion bills. A Pentecostal Christian, he and his family belong to the Assemblies of God fellowship. Harris also owns a religious, Christian pre-school, named Growing Gods Kingdom.
In 2011, Americans United, an organization that advocates for separation of church and state, revealed that Harris’ Growing Gods Kingdom Preschool had “received over $1 million in state funds since 2005,” despite separation of church and state.
That revelation did nothing to discourage Rep. Harris, just two years later, from co-sponsoring a bill that would, as NCRM reported, “force the state to pay for ‘faith-based’ or religious daycare and pre-school, as long as the parent and not the state requests it.”
That same year, in August of 2013, the Arkansas House posted this video profile of Rep. Harris to YouTube:
Despite being “very excited” to adopt the girls, sometime probably in late 2013 Harris and his wife apparently “re-homed,” or gave those two little girls to Eric Cameron Francis, a man they later hired to be a teacher at their preschool, according to reports. Rehoming is not an official act, but an under the radar means some adoptive parents use to get rid of adoptions that aren’t working out smoothly, rather than working with the adoption facility. Harris would not confirm he had re-homed the two girls.
“The Harrises aren’t saying why they would give up their daughters to a relative stranger just a year after taking them in,” Doktor Zoom at Wonkette reports. “The six-year-old told the Crimes Against Children Division (CACD) interviewer that she had been placed in foster care after being sexually abused by someone in her biological family. The Department of Human Services gives special training to parents adopting children who’ve come from a traumatic background, but apparently that wasn’t quite enough to prepare the Harrises for caring for a little girl who’d already been through hell, and who no doubt had behavioral issues stemming from her abuse.”
Sadly, the story gets worse.
In April of 2014, “Eric Cameron Francis was arrested by the Arkansas State Police for the rape of a 6-year-old girl in what the police said was his temporary care,” the Arkansas Times reports. “Francis had recently worked as head teacher at a Christian preschool in West Fork owned by state Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork) and his wife, Marsha.”
Harris, who said he was “devastated and sickened” by news of the abuse, told the Arkansas Times in April 2014 that Francis had been in his employ only about three months, from November 2013 to January 2014, before being fired for poor work attendance.
What Harris did not publicly disclose last spring, however, is how Francis came into contact with the 6-year-old victim. In prosecutor documents recently obtained by the Arkansas Times, state police investigators and multiple witnesses concur that the child was in fact the legally adopted daughter of Justin and Marsha Harris.
Yes, the Harrises adopted two little girls, apparently gave them up a short time later, and one of them was subsequently raped by the man the girls were “re-homed” with.
Shockingly, at least in Arkansas, it is not illegal to give away your adopted children.
The Arkansas Times has published an extensive investigation into this story.
In February, the Arkansas Times asked Rep. Harris to comment on the case and explain what became of the girls he and his wife had adopted. He refused, and stated that the Times was attempting to “smear” him. “It’s evil,” he said, becoming visibly upset.
When asked whether he rehomed his adoptive children with another family, he replied, “I’m not confirming that.” When asked about the statements made in the State Police report in the Francis case, Harris said he hadn’t read the file because of the disturbing descriptions of sexual abuse that they contain.
Harris then quoted Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.”
“You don’t know what we’ve been through this past year. You have no idea what my family has been through,” he said emphatically. “I don’t care what the people of Arkansas think about me. I don’t care if I lose my position. I care what my wife thinks about me, and I care what my three sons think about me.”
If all this seems difficult to sort out, understandably it is. The author of the Arkansas Times article this afternoon spoke with a local public radio station to explain the story. You can listen to the five-minute interview here.