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Judge orders ranch for adopted kids to be licensed

By Associated Press
Published On: Mar 28 2013 02:28:40 PM MDT
Court
HELENA, Mont. -

A state judge has ordered the owner of a ranch for troubled children adopted abroad to obtain a license from state regulators or be shut down.
    
District Judge James Wheelis ordered the Ranch for Kids to apply for the license and submit employee background checks by May 20.
    
The ruling comes after owner Joyce Sterkel argued the Eureka ranch is exempt from state oversight because it is an adjunct ministry of a local church.
    
Wheelis agreed with the attorney for the state Department of Labor and Industry, who said the Epicenter International Missions Ministry is not a church and that Sterkel was attempting to skirt state fees and regulations.
    
State attorney Mary Tapper says the ranch can appeal, but it would have to shut its operations while it does so.