Mennonite Church Camp For ‘Troubled’ Boys Accused Of Human Trafficking & Subjecting Teens To Forced Labor

Boys were forced to drag chains as a punishment.

Chain on dirt Natalyadiies1 / Shutterstock

A federal lawsuit was recently filed in Pennsylvania that claims that a chapter of the Mennonite Church — a camp for "troubled" boys — forced children to perform forced labor and violated human trafficking laws.

The lawsuit is being brought forward by two men who were previously residents of the Mennonite chapter and participated in the forced labor.

The men are now in their mid-20s but first joined the farm when they were 14 and 18. 


What happened at Liberty Ridge Farms?

The lawsuit alleges that, rather than go to school or receive any sort of education, the residents of Liberty Ridge Farms were made to work, performing hard and often menial labor.

The residents of the Mennonite farm were all boys that were considered “troubled” or thought to have “special needs.”

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According to the lawsuit, the boys would spend months or even years at a time at the farm where they were made to do work at the facility for at least 8 hours a day, every day, except for Sunday.


According to the plaintiffs, they received no education nor compensation for the months or, in some cases, years of work that they did at the facility. 

The work that the boys were forced to do included farm work like raising farm animals, building fences and pallets, and working for a trucking company.

Mennonite families paid to send sons to the farm.

The lawsuit alleges that the boys did all of the work for the profit of the farm and at the expense of the boys’ families, who paid out $2,300 per month for the boys to live and work there, or $27,600 per year.

That means that, according to the lawsuit, the farm was taking the $27,600, presumably using some of that money to feed and house the boys and pocketing the rest. Then, the farm would turn around and make the boys work for the enrichment of the facility and its owners.


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The alleged treatment of these boys was horrible, but somehow, it gets even worse.

The boys allegedly faced harsh punishments.

Punishment was available if the adults in charge of the boys felt that they weren’t working hard enough or were otherwise acting against the Bible.

Punishments included “dragging chains over their shoulders, breaking boulders into tiny pieces by hand with a small hammer and digging out stumps by hand,” according to the lawsuit.

But the alleged punishments did not stop at brutal physical labor, the boys’ food and water were at stake and their diets might even be restricted until they completed their tasks.


The lawsuit even claims that the boys were liable to be physically handled and restrained by their adult overseers. The adults would get together and hold the boy down before hogtying him with zip ties.

Restrained boys might also be dragged around in the facility as further punishment.

The plaintiffs, whose full names have not been released, are seeking compensation for their work at the facility and to have it shut down so that no other boy would be subject to the same mistreatment.


The plaintiffs’ attorney is also calling for other boys that were forced to work at the farm to step forward and demand their own justice as well.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.