The JC's Girls booth at the 2007 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo
|Formation||March 25, 2005|
|Purpose||To evangelize to women in the sex industry|
|Headquarters||The Rock Church|
|Location||San Diego, California|
Central Christian Church
JC's Girls (short for Jesus Christ's Girls, also called the JC's Girls Girls Girls Ministry) is an American evangelical organization of women who evangelize to female workers in the sex industry but does not try to persuade them to leave the sex industry. The organization also supports women who wish to leave the sex industry. The group does not focus upon conversion but on communicating its message that there are Christians who are not judging female sex workers and are willing to accept them. The organization also helps people seeking to overcome pornography addiction.
The organization was founded by Heather Veitch, who worked as a stripper for four years before converting to Christianity in 1999 and eventually leaving the sex industry. She founded JC's Girls on Good Friday in 2005; it was based at Sandals Church in Riverside, with the support of the California Southern Baptist Convention. That December, UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph published an article about the organization's activities. The following month, JC's Girls had a booth at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo which received much traffic and news coverage. Veitch eventually moved to Las Vegas and based the organization at Central Christian Church. Theresa Scher—a former stripper and call girl—and social worker Sheri Brown founded the San Diego chapter of JC's Girls at The Rock Church in 2007. Within a year, several strippers had left the sex industry to volunteer with the chapter. Veitch and Scher resigned from JC's Girls in 2011 and 2012 respectively, leaving Brown as the leader of the organization. As of 2014, the sole chapter of JC's Girls is in San Diego.
When JC's Girls was first founded, pornographic film director James DiGiorgio took glamour photographs of three JC's Girls members for the organization's original website for free. DiGiorgio was not a Christian, but said that he was helping JC's Girls because the sex industry is "always trying to preach freedom of speech [so] anyone in this industry who has a problem with [JC's Girls'] message is a fucking hypocrite." Reverend Ray Turner of Temple Missionary Baptist Church criticized JC's Girls for not explicitly encouraging strippers to stop stripping. In response, Veitch said, "Do we ask gluttons to stop eating too much before they come to church?" Philip Sherwell of the Calgary Herald called the evangelism of JC's Girls "America's most unusual Christian outreach operation". In reaction to JC's Girls, adherents of Raëlism, a UFO religion, founded an organization called "Raël's Girls" to tell women in the sex industry that sexual pleasure is intrinsically valuable and that they should maximize their own sexual pleasure while servicing clients.
JC's Girls is an evangelical organization that calls itself "a biblically-based Christian ministry". In keeping with evangelical principles, it says that Christians should not judge others for their sins but should engage with them. Initially, the organization focused on evangelizing to strippers and erotic dancers, but later began to engage with softcore pornographic models and call girls as well. The organization also diversified to support people with pornography addiction. Members of the organization evangelize at adult entertainment conventions and strip clubs. Because many of these women have been spiritually abused by Christians trying to frighten them out of the sex industry with warnings of damnation, JC's Girls emphasizes that God loves these women. It tells these women about the gospel but does not try to persuade them to leave the sex industry; instead, they hope that God will help them in transitioning out of it. If women express a desire to leave the sex industry, JC's Girls supports them to leave it. The organization also connects female sex workers with non-judgmental churches.
JC's Girls is less focused on seeking conversions than on communicating the message to women in the sex industry that there are Christians who aren't judging them and are willing to accept them. The organization's members aim to persuade these women that Jesus loves them, that they are beautiful, and that they have dignity. Its volunteers tend to dress attractively and backcomb their hair to convey the message that such things are not sinful and that becoming a Christian does not mean becoming less attractive. Members often wear eyelash extensions, stiletto heels, skinny jeans, and skin-tight t-shirts. Founder Heather Veitch said, "Our desire is for people to see that Christianity is anything but boring and restrictive. In Christ, we are free to experience adventure, pleasure, forgiveness, hope and peace."
Veitch worked as a stripper for four years in several cities in California and in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 1999, after having appeared in four pornographic films in the softcore and fetish genres—trample fetish specifically—she converted to Christianity and eventually left the sex industry, although no-one attempted to tell her about Jesus. In 2003, Veitch discovered that a close friend of hers who was working as a stripper had died of alcohol intoxication. Veitch began to evangelize to strippers because she regretted not being evangelized to while working in the industry herself and that she had not told her friend about the gospel before she died.
By 2005, Veitch was working as a hairdresser. One of her clients was Lori Albee, a housewife with two children and no experience of the sex industry. Veitch told Albee about her friend who had died in loneliness and depression, and to whom she wished she had evangelized. Albee suggested that they start evangelizing to other strippers. Matt Brown, Veitch's pastor at Sandals Church arrived for a hair cut and Veitch asked him for help to start an organization to minister to sex workers, and he was interested. Veitch and Brown started Matthew's House—an organization they founded as "a ministry to help people working in or addicted to the sex industry".
In the past, there have been chapters of JC's Girls in Las Vegas, Nevada; Riverside, California; Austin, Texas; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As of 2014[update], there is only one chapter and it is located in San Diego, California.
On Good Friday in 2005, Veitch, Albee and six other women went to a strip club and paid for lap dances. Instead of accepting the lap dances, they talked with the strippers, telling them that they were loved and accepted by God, that churches were composed entirely of sinners, and that they would be welcome there. One of the dancers cried and told Albee she had often wanted to go to a church but had never done so because she had thought that she would be rejected. Albee offered the woman a prayer, and she eagerly accepted and hugged Albee. Albee said that talking with women at the strip club changed her life. Because the volunteers received more positive responses than they had expected, they decided to continue to evangelize at strip clubs. To organize these activities, Veitch and Albee founded JC's Girls, with "JC" standing for Jesus Christ. They made Matthew's House the parent organization for JC's Girls.
Veitch became the head of JC's Girls and the 17,000-member Sandals Church became the organization's base of operations. The church is part of the California Southern Baptist Convention, which supports JC's Girls. The church gave JC's Girls a $10,000 budget in its first year, and much of this budget was taken up by Veitch's salary. The organization's members continued visiting strip clubs across California, paying for private dances, and then evangelizing the strippers instead of receiving the dances. Within six months of its founding, the organization's members had persuaded several strippers to start attending a church, and were only once asked to stop evangelizing in a strip club. By December 2005, Veitch, Albee, and teacher Tanya Huerter had become the organization's leaders. Huerter, who also had no experience of the sex industry, said, "I have a heart for these girls. I believe God created sex for marriage. But God will meet these girls where they are." Veitch, Albee, and Huerter invited women from other churches in the area to join JC's Girls, and approximately 90 churches responded with interest. JC's Girls received public attention in December, when UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph published an article about the organization's activities. The article prompted additional media coverage from other newspapers, television, and radio stations. Veitch began dividing her time between managing JC's Girls, appearing in the media, and serving as a caregiver for her terminally-ill husband. She said that working with JC's Girls helped keep her mind off of her husband's illness.
In January 2006, JC's Girls had a booth at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo—the largest trade fair for pornography in the United States. The booth was decorated to look like a strip club booth. The women attending the booth wore sleeveless shirts with the organization's name in sequins. When convention attendees visited the booth thinking that JC's Girls was a strip club, the women asked them to guess what "JC" meant, and gave attendees a sticker that said, "I've been booby-trapped by JC's Girls." At the convention, JC's Girls distributed more than 200 Bibles wrapped in t-shirts reading "Holy Hottie". They also distributed DVDs of a sermon about pornography addiction. The booth became very popular; many convention attendees wished to take pictures with the JC's Girls volunteers, and Veitch was interviewed for a variety of media, including a CNN news broadcast and a documentary film by Bill Day, who had previously made the film Missionary Positions about XXXchurch.com—another Christian organization that had a booth at the trade fair. By the end of the convention, the JC's Girls booth had received visits from thousands of men who read about the gospel there.
Also in January 2006, Brown approved a $50,000 budget for JC's Girls for the year. By April, seven strippers had attended Sandals Church because of JC's Girls, and various strippers across the United States had contacted the organization looking for local churches to attend. Within a year of founding JC's Girls, Veitch had lost 25 pounds and become more physically fit to show that she could still be working in the sex industry and that the organization's message is not motivated by jealousy. She said, "I want them to know that if I wanted to, I could be a stripper again, but I choose to live my life for the Lord."
Las Vegas chapter
Veitch eventually moved to Las Vegas and based JC's Girls at Central Christian Church. In 2008, Veitch collaborated with Annie Lobert, a former call girl working with Hookers for Jesus—an organization similar to JC's Girls. The organizations were both represented at that year's AVN Adult Entertainment Expo. A documentary film about Veitch, The PussyCat Preacher, was released that February. The following month, pornographic film actor Sophia Lynn left the sex industry after becoming a Christian; she underwent more than a year of counselling with Veitch through JC's Girls. Veitch had flown to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to spend a weekend educating the Celebrate Community Church about the sex industry. The church soon gave Lynn a job in its office, a scholarship to go to college, and a place to live. Lynn said, "I hope I don't have to wake up from this. I feel like my life has been saved."
Based on Veitch's work with Celebrate Community Church, JC's Girls started a program called "One Church for One Girl", which encourages churches to help women to leave the sex industry. In July 2011, Veitch resigned from JC's Girls so she could spend more time with her family.
San Diego chapter
Theresa Scher, a former stripper and call girl, wanted to leave the sex industry when she watched a CNN interview with Albee about her work with JC's Girls in Riverside. Scher contacted Albee, who allowed Scher to found a new chapter of JC's Girls in San Diego. Sher founded the chapter in 2007 with Sheri Brown—a former social worker. Scher received her first volunteers when she told a group of women at a retreat about JC's Girls; several of the women joined the new chapter—which was based at The Rock Church, a 10,000-member church with a majority of members under the age of 30. Within a year, several strippers had left the sex industry and volunteered with the chapter. Many of the chapter's members do not personally visit strip clubs but help in other ways. Scher said she was amazed at the chapter's success, and that the former strippers were the most effective JC's Girls volunteers because they understand from personal experience the situations of the women they are trying to help. Twice each month, members of the San Diego chapter of JC's Girls visit strip clubs. They pray before, during, and after each visit, and have a prayer team praying for them while they are out.
Carrie Prejean joined the San Diego chapter of JC's Girls in 2008 and became Miss California USA the following year. At the Miss USA 2009 competition, Prejean became the subject of a controversy because of her response to a question about same-sex marriage. Scher said that the controversy would not affect Prejean's membership of the organization, and that the issue of same-sex marriage was not relevant to the group's activities. Prejean said that in volunteering with JC's Girls, she encountered pornographic models who, through exploitation and abuse, had developed very low self-esteem but who had regained a sense of their own dignity because of their interaction with JC's Girls volunteers.
By 2009, there were approximately 40 women on the chapter's active evangelism team, and they had given pink Bibles—along with other gifts including lip gloss, necklaces, and lotions—to most of the strippers in San Diego County. On one occasion, the volunteers left such gifts at a strip club they were not allowed to enter, and one of the club's strippers showed up at The Rock Church the following Sunday and converted to Christianity. In August 2010, Brown went to Warsaw, Ohio, to briefly join forces with Anny Donewald, a former stripper and founder of Eve's Angels—an organization similar to JC's Girls. Together, Brown and Donewald negotiated a "peace treaty" between women working at a strip club and members of a local church who had been picketing the club for four years. The strippers had been counter-protesting by dancing in bikinis in front of the church during Sunday services while Tommy George—the club's owner—played music from his car. Brown and Donewald spoke at the church, urging them to stop protesting at the strip club. Brown and Donewald also visited the strip club and spoke with the strippers—two of whom converted to Christianity while continuing to work at the club. The peace treaty received much publicity, but the church's members resumed picketing once Brown had returned to San Diego. George and his club's strippers reciprocated.
By 2011, several of the strippers JC's Girls members spoke with in San Diego had begun attending a Bible study hosted by the organization, and the chapter had helped one stripper become a Christian, leave the sex industry, and gain employment. In March 2011, the chapter sent a delegation to Adultcon at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where Scher and Brown spoke with conference attendees and offered them prayer. That July, Veitch left the organization and handed the leadership to Sher and Brown. In June 2012, Sher gave up her co-leadership of the organization to focus on her family, leaving Brown as leader. By 2013, the organization had established guidelines regulating the participation of female sex workers in the evangelistic activities of JC's Girls. Participants must consistently attend a Bible study for four months, read Francine Rivers' book Redeeming Love, and be interviewed by the chapter's leaders, who then decide whether the woman should join the organization's outreach team. These guidelines were established because some women who quickly went from working in the sex industry to evangelizing with JC's Girls soon left the organization and returned to the sex industry.
Within the a few months of founding JC's Girls, Veitch and Albee launched the organization's first official website, which initially received little traffic. Three months later it had received 40,000 hits. By December 2005, the organization had received messages through its website from pornographic film actors and men with pornography addiction who said that JC's Girls had changed their lives and had introduced them to Christianity. Without asking for payment, Veitch's friend, pornographic film director James DiGiorgio, took glamor photographs of Veitch, Albee, and Huerter for the JC's Girls website. Within a year of the organization's founding, Veitch, Albee, and Huerter were maintaining Myspace pages that were receiving high volumes of traffic, and they used these pages to offer support, counsel, and advice. By 2008, the JC's Girls website—which included a blog—was receiving around 15,000 hits per day.
When JC's Girls first started receiving funds from Sandals Church, some of the church's members were displeased that their donations were going towards lap dances. Brown said that funding the activities of JC's Girls was worthwhile because the sex industry "has been largely ignored by the evangelical church" and the budget allotted to JC's Girls is small compared to the money made by the sex industry. Rumors that the organization's funding was being used by Brown for lap dances also circulated. Sandals Church members were also concerned that ministering to strippers would be ineffective. Brown used Veitch's conversion as an example and said that other strippers could have similar experiences. Because of the controversy surrounding JC's Girls, Brown nearly lost his church facility on the California Baptist University campus, but the church united in support of JC's Girls and the church's location remained unchanged. Terry Barone, spokesman of the California Southern Baptist Convention, said that JC's Girls members "are doing what Jesus did ... He ministered to prostitutes and tax collectors." Barone said that members of the convention might find viewing the JC's Girls website awkward, but that it was not intended for them. Stephen Clark of the Los Angeles Times called the website "edgy" and "provocative".
In its first year, JC's Girls was criticized for asking DiGiorgio to take glamor photographs of Veitch, Albee, and Huerter for their website. Veitch responded to this criticism by saying, "it is not a sin to be attractive or dress cute", and that the photographs were intended to persuade women in the sex industry to dismiss the idea that Christianity is about "being locked up in a house with a Bible." DiGiorgio said that JC's Girls is correct in believing that there are women in the sex industry who need to be rescued from self-destructive behavior, but he did not think that encouraging the women to become Christians would necessarily be helpful. At the end of 2005, Veitch said that she had expected that someone would have shouted at JC's Girls members or ejected them from a strip club at some point, but no-one had. In 2006, Reverend Ray Turner of Temple Missionary Baptist Church criticized JC's Girls for not explicitly encouraging strippers to stop stripping. He said, "How can you stay in the industry and have a relationship with God?" In response, Veitch said, "Do we ask gluttons to stop eating too much before they come to church?" At the 2006 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, photographer Michael Grecco photographed Veitch, Albee, and Huerter, and included the image in his 2007 book Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry. In the image caption, he called the trio a "devout Christian trinity". Philip Sherwell of the Calgary Herald called the organization's evangelism "America's most unusual Christian outreach operation".
In a Daily Express article, a journalist wrote that JC's Girls members look like Barbie dolls or Las Vegas prostitutes, and said that they are successful in gaining entry into strip clubs because "the men who run them can't resist a flashy woman." This journalist also praised the organization's volunteers for their earnestness, pragmatism, and efficacy, and specifically described Veitch as uncommonly positive and impressive. Pat Sherman of Pacific San Diego Magazine said that the members of the San Diego chapter of JC's Girls "have the looks to land jobs working the pole." A journalist for The Observer compared JC's Girls to XXXchurch.com, writing that both of "these ministries are in some way reforming the church as well as their would-be followers." According to WoldNetDaily, documentary filmmaker Bill Daly said that JC's Girls are like Charlie's Angels, but in real life. He said that members of the organization are "fighting false glamour with real spiritual beauty." In his book Evangelicals and the Arts in Fiction, John Weaver writes that science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein conceived of evangelicals as being sexually repressed, but would eventually undergo a sexual revolution. Weaver offers JC's Girls and XXXchurch.com as evidence that Heinlein's prediction would be fulfilled. Adherents of UFO religion Raëlism founded an organization called "Raël's Girls" in reaction to JC's Girls. Like JC's Girls, Raël's Girls is an organization of women who engage with female sex workers and their clients. The two organizations differ primarily in their message; Raëlians hold that sexual pleasure is intrinsically valuable. Members of Raël's Girls teach women in the sex industry how to maximize their own sexual pleasure while servicing clients.
- "What would Jesus do?: Former $2000-a-night stripper Heather Veitch, now a born-again Christian, tells Gaby Wood why she's bringing the gospel to the 'adult industry'". The Observer. February 12, 2006. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
- Catherine Elsworth (December 5, 2005). "Former stripper takes God's word to world of porn". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved December 28, 2013.
- S.D. Liddick (January 2008). "Saved by the Stripper: Former sex worker Theresa Brown [sic] aims to save souls through her stripper ministry". San Diego Magazine. Retrieved December 8, 2013.
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- Grecco (2007), n.p.
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- Prejean (2009), p. 22.
- "Impressed by ex-strippers on a mission". Daily Express. March 25, 2006. p. 21.
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- McPherson (2009), p. 159.
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- Weaver (2013), p. 116.
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- Weaver, John (2013). Evangelicals and the Arts in Fiction: Portrayals of Tension in Non-Evangelical Works Since 1895. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786472065.