LUCKY SEVERSON He looks like an all American kid, working his way through college, and one day he might be. But Chris Leoni has a long way to go.
LEONI (participant, Teen Challenge): A year ago I thought
I'd be dead right now.
SEVERSON: A year ago, he was shooting heroin -- sometimes
with his mom. He did what he had to do to get money. She
traded sex for it.
LEONI: I didn't actually get into prostitution, but
I was out there while she was prostituting and getting money
and then we'd go get high together.
SEVERSON This is Chris' mom and sister in a hospital,
after his mom almost died shooting up. Now she's back doing
And Chris is working at a kitchen cabinet factory in San
Antonio. This is all part of an evangelical Christian rehab
program called "Teen Challenge."
LEONI: We get up at 5:30 in the morning. We work,
we pray -- you know -- we help people, we come out and minister.
(To co-worker): You know, God's just like really awesome.
SEVERSON Back on the Teen Challenge campus, home
away from home for at least a year, there's nothing that
looks like therapy. No support groups, no medications. Just
learning and living the word of God.
And there's no choice. Learning the Gospel is mandatory.
Jim Heurich, himself a former addict like most Teen Challenge
leaders, heads the San Antonio program -- one of 130 nationwide;
JIM HEURICH(Teen Challenge leader): We tell them
when to get up, when to go to sleep.
SEVERSON: When to go to church?
MR. HEURICH: When to go to church.
SEVERSON: What if they say "No, I don't want to go
to church this evening. I'm not going"? Is that it? Are
they out of the program?
MR. HEURICH: Church is a part of the program. They
would have to either leave the program or go to church.
SEVERSON: At Teen Challenge, addiction is a sin,
pure and simple. And there is no separation of religion
This is Bill White, author and addiction counselor, who
says he can understand why we're seeing so many faith based
BILL WHITE (author): I think the faith-based ministry
is a way to say -- maybe we don't need more treatment institutions,
maybe we need more community.
MR. HEURICH: The Bible teaches you how to be a husband,
how to be a father, how to be a good employer; it teaches
you how to fulfill your life, and when that fulfills your
life you don't want to do drugs anymore.
SEVERSON: (to Ralph Green, Teen Challenge participant):
What are the chances that when you get out of here I'm gonna
see you on the street doing drugs again?
RALPH GREEN (participant, Teen Challenge): None,
SEVERSON (student): Isn't there always a chance?
GREEN (student): Yes, sir. But I got God in my life.
SEVERSON: But most of these 15 and 16 year-olds oppose
the death penalty and think Tookie Williams should be forgiven,
although not necessarily released from prison.
(to group of Teen Challenge participants): Now you guys,
can you imagine a year ago or two years ago you were out
on some street sitting on some garbage can smoking and taking
some kind of drugs can you imagine you're sitting around
together saying amen?
Unidentified Kid: Never. Never. Couldn't picture myself.
SEVERSON: Teen Challenge might not have survived
without the help of then Governor George W. Bush. In 1997,
he went against Texas State regulators and granted Teen
Challenge and other faith based drug treatment programs
a crucial exemption.
MR. HEURICH We got a law passed that we call the
Teen Challenge Law that enables us to operate without the
interference of Texas Drug and Alcohol or government forces.
SEVERSON : (to Heurich): So you are indebted to President
MR. HEURICH: Well I'm very thankful that he came
to our aid and kept us going, yes.