Word of Faith Fellowship Spindale – Shocking Videos and Mounting Scrutiny

"An Associated Press investigation has found that Word of Faith Fellowship used its two church branches in Latin America’s largest nation to siphon a steady flow of young laborers who came on tourist and student visas to its 35-acre compound in rural Spindale."

AP article

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The Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale has been making headlines over the last few days in North Carolina (where the church is located), as well as all over the blogosphere. On Monday The Charlotte Observer reported on allegations of trafficking members from two sister churches in Brazil to the WOFF compound here in North Carolina. Then yesterday our local newspaper The News and Observer prominently featured this story on the front page.

We are grateful that the Associated Press (AP) has been diligently digging for the truth, and we pray they are able to uncover every hidden secret about WOFF, which is headquartered in Spindale. Here is an excerpt from Monday's AP article:

“They trafficked us up here. They knew what they were doing. They needed labor and we were cheap labor — hell, free labor,” Oliveira said.

An Associated Press investigation has found that Word of Faith Fellowship used its two church branches in Latin America’s largest nation to siphon a steady flow of young laborers who came on tourist and student visas to its 35-acre compound in rural Spindale.

And here is a short clip that summarizes the allegations against WOFF Spindale.

For additional information, see our previous post.

When we first wrote about the Word of Faith Fellowship just four months ago here and here, we included a 1995 segment from Inside Edition focusing on this so-called church (see below). I decided to watch it again and was STUNNED by what I heard starting at the 7:10 mark. I had been so overwhelmed by the rest of the video that I somehow overlooked this part, which is now proving to be extremely significant.

Officer Chris Justice of the Spindale Police Department once helped a Brazilian man who was desperate to get away [from the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale] but he had no transportation, and the church was holding his things. Here is what that Inside Edition clip revealed:

He [the Brazilian man] was trying to leave and they wouldn't take him anywhere. They wouldn't help him get his baggage… Where I made the mistake is I went to a travel agency a few minutes afterwards, and he got plane tickets to go to New York. But then when church members telephoned the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department to claim the Brazilian man was a missing person, the case took a rather unconventional turn. Deputies investigated and found out the man was indeed headed out of here and onto New York. And then that information was leaked right back to the church. And the next morning the officer says a church member ambushed them at the airport to insist unsuccessfully that the man return to the Word of Faith.

Please take the time to watch this important video below.

Remember, this aired 22 years ago! Based on this information, we now know that WOFF was bringing Brazilians to its Spindale compound at least two decades ago! The church was established in 1979.

Pay close attention to the large homes featured in the Inside Edition video. Are these the residences where these Brazilians are allegedly being forced to work?

Inside Edition did a follow-up story that was also extremely disturbing (see below).

https://www.amazon.com/Locked-Imprisoned-Years-Destructive-Cult/dp/0996281606Over the years, a number of members have escaped the clutches of Jane Whaley, who co-founded the church along with her husband and who purportedly controls everyone and everything at the Word of Faith Fellowship.

John Huddle and his family first got involved in WOFF Spindale in 2002. Six years later, John felt he had no choice but to leave the fellowship. Because his wife and two children are extremely loyal to Jane, that meant having to leave them behind in order to escape this cultish organization…

Since his departure in 2008, John Huddle has written a book entitled Locked In: My Imprisoned Years in a Destructive Cult, which is available on Amazon.

After publishing his book, Huddle was interviewed by the media. (see clip below)

The back cover of John Huddle's book gives an overview of his experience at WOFF Spindale.

https://www.amazon.com/Locked-Imprisoned-Years-Destructive-Cult/dp/0996281606

Be sure to check out the Rules for New Members that John Huddle mentioned. Some claim this list is bogus, but given the hyper-control that Jane Whaley exercises over the congregation, does anyone doubt that the list is authentic?

John Huddle's ex-wife and two children are featured on the church website. (see below)

So who appears to be more believable – John Huddle or his ex-wife and children?

The number of videos focusing on problems at WOFF Spindale is growing, and here are just a few of them that we recommend.

And those two district attorneys who were coaching WOFF members about what to say during an active investigation against the church were dismissed back in March. One of them was Jane Whaley's son-in-law.

Here is an excerpt from a March 10, 2017 U.S. News and World Report article entitled Prosecutors Gone From Jobs After AP Report on Church Abuse:

A North Carolina district attorney said Friday that two assistant prosecutors no longer work for him amid charges they sabotaged investigations into abuse in their secretive religious sect.

District Attorney David Learner's announcement came just two days after he asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations by former Word of Faith Fellowship members against Frank Webster and Chris Back. As part of an ongoing investigation by The Associated Press, nine ex-congregants had said the men, both of them ministers of the sect, provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member.

"I cannot allow the integrity of the office to be called into question," Learner said in a statement. "My administration is dedicated to the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice."

The ex-congregants also said that Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley's son-in-law [emphasis mine], helped disrupt a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015, and had attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents.

Folks, there's something rotten in Denmark — make that 'SPIN'dale.

Why does the mother church have to be located in North Carolina OF ALL PLACES???


Comments

Word of Faith Fellowship Spindale – Shocking Videos and Mounting Scrutiny — 175 Comments

  1. From the post:

    “Why does the mother church have to be located in North Carolina OF ALL PLACES???”

    So TWW can clarify and throw light on: (also from the post)

    “Folks, there’s something rotten in Denmark — make that ‘SPIN’dale.”

    Good work, Deebs. Thank you and God bless you and all who further enlighten with their comments. The secular press reports; TWW et al add heart and soul.

  2. The Rules list is quite believable. Been there, done that, and most of it wasn’t written. It was just tribal knowledge. You caught on pretty fast.

  3. Deputies investigated and found out the man was indeed headed out of here and onto New York. And then that information was leaked right back to the church. And the next morning the officer says a church member ambushed them at the airport to insist unsuccessfully that the man return to the Word of Faith.

    Scientology Blow Drill…

    And I want to know who leaked to the WoFF Blow Team. Was one of the cops in the loop Faithful to Word of Faith? You keep hearing stories about cops being compromised and using the powers of their position as Pastor’s Enforcers.

  4. So who appears to be more believable – John Huddle or his wife and children?

    Well, wife and children are SMIIIIIIIILING like a Tsar Bomba-level Love Bombing…

  5. And those two prosecutors who were coaching members about what to say were dismissed back in March. One of them was Jane Whaley’s son-in-law.

    Figured that one had to be an inside job. That those two prosecutors’ true loyalties were to WoFF and it’s Anointed Leader. (Would also explain why in all those 22 years there has been no follow-through from the authorities — “TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED!”

    And One True Churches like WoFF could give the Kims of North Korea and/or the Saudi Royal Family how-to lessons on nepotism.

  6. @ Tree:

    I hope our readers will scan that list of rules.

    https://www.familiesagainstcultteachings.org/resources/WOFF—RULES-FOR-NEW-MEMBERS.pdf

    – Don't read your Bible, too much.

    – Don't take notes during the service.

    – Don't be loose with your camera at any time.

    – Don't complain with the offering plates are passed more than once.

    – Don't buy a house until Jane Whaley can check it out.

    – Don't decorate your house unless Jane or her helper can help you.

    – Don't celebrate Christmas.

    – Don't celebrate Easter.

    – Don't celebrate wedding anniversaries.

    This set of rules is gonna drive me to drink. I'm heading out to buy Cheerwine and Ginger Ale in the morning!

    I do, however, agree with one of the 'rules' 🙂 (see below)

    – Don't place the toilet paper on the roll unless it rolls over the top.

  7. Deb wrote:

    I do, however, agree with one of the ‘rules’ (see below) – Don’t place the toilet paper on the roll unless it rolls over the top.

    Clearly a Godly command.

  8. JYJames wrote:

    So TWW can clarify and throw light on: (also from the post)

    That is one blessing to have come out of this darkness. I have to say, that list scared the living daylights out of me!!! That woman clearly believes that she is a god. Keep up your “happy face”, indeed. Even the Bible doesn’t rebuke those who mourn. In fact, the scriptures advise us to pray when you’re worried, not pretend that everything is okay and mindlessly obey your leaders.

    Good grief.

  9. “The arranged marriages also addressed the fact that the Spindale congregation has more unmarried females than males, the ex-members said.”

    This part has me intrigued. If they weren’t being expelled a la the FLDS, I wonder if the guys were more likely to escape, including the white native born Americans. I know there have been things in the news from time to time about church demographics skewing female, but this is an outright cult where people were (are?) not free to come and go as they please. I guess time will tell.

  10. Sam wrote:

    Keep up your “happy face”, indeed.

    Yes, so creepy and definitely in line with all this ‘cheerfully’ forgive advice we see given to abused in mainstream churches.

    I am just amazed that someone was trying to get away 20 years ago, and was ratted out and the place continues to exist.

    I get leaving a cult, but I can’t imagine leaving your kids behind.

  11. Oh, and whoever asked how they got such a large group in a seemingly rural area? It sounds like they imported some of them from sister churches.

  12. Pingback: Not Looking Good for Word Of Faith Fellowship | 1st Feline Battalion

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Well, wife and children are SMIIIIIIIILING like a Tsar Bomba-level Love Bombing…

    They are just obeying their leader.

    From the list of “Do’s”:

    You will be required to smile on command. This is called “keeping your happy face”.

    Frankly this rule, and seeing Huddle’s ex-family’s shiny, happy obedience, gives a new application to the name Insane Clown Posse

  14. @ Burwell:

    Can there be any doubt that Jane Whatley was sitting out of camera view when John Huddle's ex-wife and children were being recorded?

    After all, she appears to control EVERYONE and EVERYTHING!

  15. “Why does the mother church have to be located in North Carolina OF ALL PLACES???”

    Protected by local/county law enforcement?

  16. “came on tourist and student visas”

    Reckon how many of those folks actually toured America or went to college?

    The math is pretty simple here:

    Business Owner/WOFF Member + Free Slave Labor = Money in the Offering Plate

    A church growth strategy from the pit of hell!

  17. Deb wrote:

    @ Burwell:
    Can there be any doubt that Jane Whatley was sitting out of camera view t John Huddle’s ex-wife and children were being recorded?
    After all, she appears to control EVERYONE and EVERYTHING!

    Every cult seems to have a leader they fear. Scientology, fundamentalist Mormons….they all have things in common with the WOFF.

  18. Deb wrote:

    Can there be any doubt that Jane Whaley was sitting out of camera view

    The interviews posted on the WOFF site are clearly rehearsed … a calculated and premeditated choice of words.

    Ms. Jane has held “The devil’s going to get you!” over WOFF members far too long. North Carolina authorities (of some sort) need to step in and “blast” this thing! This is not good for NC tourism in that part of the State … don’t stop in Spindale!!

  19. Max wrote:

    “Why does the mother church have to be located in North Carolina OF ALL PLACES???”

    Protected by local/county law enforcement?

    That certainly appears to be the case. What other explanation can there be for how long this has been allowed to go on? I am suspicious that $$$ are being passed under the table…

  20. I'm headed to the grocery store now. I don't usually imbibe soft drinks, but I plan to buy a bottle of Ginger Ale and enjoy a glass with my lunch.

    Maybe I'll have some Cheerwine with my dinner. That beautiful reddish color would look tasty in a wine glass. 🙂

    BTW, we do have our toilet paper rolls spinning in the right direction. 😉 And it absolutely must be two-ply!

  21. Mae wrote:

    Every cult seems to have a leader they fear.

    Authoritarians lead through control, manipulation and intimidation. Those traits are not fruit of the Holy Spirit.

    “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

    The videos in this piece paint a picture of WOFF members who are not in their right mind, with no power to escape the snare they are in. What spirit is on the throne at WOFF? Fear or Love? The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy … he is stealing young lives at WOFF, killing their dreams, and destroying their future.

  22. @ Deb:
    Reckon how many voting constituents of local/county officials go to church at WOFF? Reckon how many enforcers go there themselves?! There’s a lot of sweeping under the rug in rural America.

  23. Max wrote:

    “came on tourist and student visas”
    Reckon how many of those folks actually toured America or went to college?
    The math is pretty simple here:
    Business Owner/WOFF Member + Free Slave Labor = Money in the Offering Plate
    A church growth strategy from the pit of hell!

    The human trafficking is what makes this so evil. Bad enough local folks joined this cult of their own free will,they made choices. The young folks from Brazil were given false promises of schooling, touring. Instead, they were exploited as slave labor. How will they emotionally recover? How will they be financially compensated ?

  24. Max wrote:

    “Why does the mother church have to be located in North Carolina OF ALL PLACES???”
    Protected by local/county law enforcement?

    Rural NC is not unique to these cults. Believe me rural Maine, rural Vermont, rural Idaho, Montana, etc. all are susceptible to cultish groups hiding out.

  25. Deb wrote:

    Can there be any doubt that Jane Whatley was sitting out of camera view when John Huddle’s ex-wife and children were being re

    I finally watched the videos this morning ……… the ex and the kids were all plastic smiley face, happy-happy, everything is just perfect through the whole video. On top of that, they were repetitive; repeated what they had already said almost verbatim! IMO, they were coached.

    Yeah, my TP has to roll that way. But, I don’t like Cheerwine. Ginger Ale is good. I use ginger ale in my teriyaki chicken! And yesterday, I canned 11 quarts of tomatoes ……. with the tv on the whole time! I read the newspaper while my tomatoes were in the canners.

  26. From the OP –

    Why does the mother church have to be located in North Carolina OF ALL PLACES???

    The mountains of North Carolina, and probably the other states along the Appalachian Range as well, have long attracted people and groups that run the gamut of disparate beliefs – from Billy Graham’s The Cove near Black Mountain, to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s 9500 acre Heavenly Mountain community of Transcendental Meditation outside Blowing Rock and Boone, to Asheville’s ley lines and its reputation as a New Age Mecca, to the comparatively mundane snake handling churches – it seems that “Sister” Jane and her Stepford crew of abusive disciples has found her home.

    After all, Nothing Compares.

  27. Sam wrote:

    That woman clearly believes that she is a god.
    Good grief.

    Not surprising, this particularly blasphemous sort of heresy is not unique to this particular WoF church evidently. In the WoF church I once attended many years ago, my final moments there were, when after a year attending without previously hearing anything overtly heretical, the pastor declared from the pulpit that “we are gods” (an outrageously out of context, to the point of ridiculous, interpretation of Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34) and said that Jesus was NOT God when He came down and lived among us. I interrupted pastor during the sermon, refused to back down, and absolutely brought the service to a standstill. Never went back.

  28. Burwell wrote:

    The mountains of North Carolina, and probably the other states along the Appalachian Range as well, have long attracted people and groups that run the gamut of disparate beliefs – from Billy Graham’s The Cove near Black Mountain, to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s 9500 acre Heavenly Mountain community of Transcendental Meditation outside Blowing Rock and Boone, to Asheville’s ley lines and its reputation as a New Age Mecca, to the comparatively mundane snake handling churches – it seems that “Sister” Jane and her Stepford crew of abusive disciples has found her home.

    So it’s like Montana & Idaho, a great place to hide out if you’re anti-social, asocial, or just want to get away from The Other? (Except in secluded valleys instead of uninhabited plains.)

    Or a California of the East, i.e. Weird Religion Capital of the East Coast?

    Looks like Appalachian NC still needs a wandering minstrel with a silver-strung guitar…

  29. In my opinion the family is absolutely coached and brainwashed–except, perhaps for the mother, who in my opinion knows 100% that she’s lying. She’s under extreme stress here, dying inside, possibly thinking she’s protecting her children by pleasing the leader.

  30. Max wrote:

    @ Deb:
    Reckon how many voting constituents of local/county officials go to church at WOFF? Reckon how many enforcers go there themselves?!

    Only way Sister Jane could have kept her cult in operation this long (22 years after first of many scandals) was if she had the local authorities in her pocket.

    Never underestimate the effectiveness of Eternal Hellfire as a motivator.

    There’s a lot of sweeping under the rug in rural America.

    I remember a similar statement from Sherlock Holmes, about how these picturesqure rural areas can hide a multitude of evils.

    P.S. Isn’t such a Bible Belt small-town/rural environment the mythical Perfect Place of a LOT of Christianese types? To the point Smallville and Mayberry and Pleasantville are their image of Heaven and/or Left Behind‘s version of Olam-Ha-Ba? The Perfect God, Mom, and Apple Pie where everything is Nice Nice Nice?

  31. Law Prof wrote:

    In my opinion the family is absolutely coached and brainwashed–except, perhaps for the mother, who in my opinion knows 100% that she’s lying.

    “Stay Sweet… Stay Sweet… Stay Sweet…”

  32. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    =
    “Stay Sweet… Stay Sweet… Stay Sweet…”

    Yes, HUG. It’s one of the ways you can tell a brainwashed follower, that plastered on smile that screams insincerity.

    This woman seems tragic, though. Possibly knows she got in too deep with the cult and realizes she’s lost her children’s minds to the cult and stays on because she believes she’ll lose them entirely if she leaves. Appears terrified in the video, on the verge of hyperventilating, knows she’s lying, and using all her emotional energy to spit the coached words out. Reminds me of videos posted by the captors of war prisoners and the strained manner in which the prisoner recites a script critical of their own country.

    How do I know all this? I don’t, just a hunch based on experience and the field in which I teach, in large part fraud.

  33. Law Prof wrote:

    the pastor declared from the pulpit that “we are gods” (an outrageously out of context, to the point of ridiculous, interpretation of Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34) and said that Jesus was NOT God when He came down and lived among us. I interrupted pastor during the sermon, refused to back down, and absolutely brought the service to a standstill. Never went back.

    I’ve encountered similar heresy in my life. I accompanied my grandmother to her church twice. The first time was at Easter where instead of talking about the resurrection of Christ, the pastor dedicated her sermon to “environmentalism” (y’know, because that’s the TRUE meaning of EASTER…) The second time was at my grandfather’s funeral, where the pastor equated my grandfather with GOD (-blasphemy much?-) and then proceeded to preach that Jesus was NOT the only answer for salvation and that Christians shouldn’t stand by that belief because it was used to kill Muslims and that we would be guilty of hate if we proclaimed Jesus as only Lord.

    I couldn’t believe what I was hearing or that building could even call itself a “Church”.

  34. I’m losing count of the number of parallels between this group and Scientology.

    That includes a) people being forced to leave family members behind when they escape, and b) said family members denouncing their “apostate” relatives on camera. That’s exactly what happened to Mike Rinder when he left the cult for good, and many others as well.

  35. Law Prof wrote:

    In my opinion the family is absolutely coached and brainwashed–except, perhaps for the mother, who in my opinion knows 100% that she’s lying. She’s under extreme stress here, dying inside, possibly thinking she’s protecting her children by pleasing the leader.

    Yeah, she seemed to be racking her brain, trying to find something good and wonderful to say about Whaley, and wound up repeating herself.

    By comparison, Tom Cruise had no problem whatsoever declaring David Miscavige to be “the most ethical person on the planet”. (*barf*)

  36. Law Prof wrote:

    the pastor declared from the pulpit that “we are gods” (an outrageously out of context, to the point of ridiculous, interpretation of Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34) and said that Jesus was NOT God when He came down and lived among us.

    I’m sorry…what??? Was he smoking the ESS and Mormon koolaid at the same time?

  37. Law Prof wrote:

    This woman seems tragic, though. Possibly knows she got in too deep with the cult and realizes she’s lost her children’s minds to the cult and stays on because she believes she’ll lose them entirely if she leaves.

    Her husband left the cult and wrote a tell all book, right? There is no way she hasn’t suffered for that. Maybe she realizes that was her chance to get out and she lost it.

  38. Just wondering …… if Whaley and her “lieutenants” get busted and wind up serving time, what will happen to her followers – the children and teenagers in particular. Can they function in “normal” society, or will they try to keep the cult going?

  39. Serving Kids In Japan wrote:

    I’m losing count of the number of parallels between this group and Scientology.

    The following link provide an extensive list of “Dangerous Traits of Cult Leaders” in the publication Psychology Today. A good number of them fit Ms. Jane and WOFF based on the reports coming out of “Spin”dale.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spycatcher/201208/dangerous-cult-leaders

    WOFF member, if you are reading this, put your behind in your past and get the heck out of there! There is freedom in Christ … WOFF looks nothing like Him.

  40. Why does the mother church have to be located in North Carolina OF ALL PLACES???

    Unfortunately, not even bucolic NC can escape the enemy’s clutches or our human appetite for charismatic predator leaders who promise us Utopia in exchange for our unquestioning and enduring loyalty. Sheep + Wolves = Carnage. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  41. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Law Prof wrote:
    In my opinion the family is absolutely coached and brainwashed–except, perhaps for the mother, who in my opinion knows 100% that she’s lying.
    “Stay Sweet… Stay Sweet… Stay Sweet…”

    Mormon fundamentalist motto for young women.

  42. “I cannot allow the integrity of the office to be called into question,” Learner said in a statement. “My administration is dedicated to the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice.”

    Well and good. Fine and dandy. So. When can a grand jury be convened to examine the evidence and determine whether or not to proceed with criminal indictments?

  43. @ Max:
    Great article, Max. Joe Navarro writes:

    “Having studied at length the life, teachings, and behaviors of…”

    Add to his list, this group, obviously.

    Faith communities + behavioral science = a measure of what is legit and what is dangerous. Thanks, TWW community for data driven awareness.

  44. Nancy2 (aka Kevlar) wrote:

    Just wondering …… if Whaley and her “lieutenants” get busted and wind up serving time, what will happen to her followers – the children and teenagers in particular. Can they function in “normal” society, or will they try to keep the cult going?

    Or will she decide (like Applewhite and Jim Jones) to take her followers with her?

  45. Muff Potter wrote:

    Well and good. Fine and dandy. So. When can a grand jury be convened to examine the evidence and determine whether or not to proceed with criminal indictments?

    When there are no WoFFers in the DA’s office or on the Grand Jury.

    I’ve heard too many stories of cult leaders making sure the local authorities are in their pockets.

  46. @ Deb:
    And where can I find that in Scripture?

    WOFF members are easily controlled because they are spirit-led, but not by the Holy Spirit.

  47. Deb wrote:

    It just goes from bad to worse…

    Speaking of bad to worse, have you heard about WOFF’s “Lower Building”?

    “It was the most dreaded place on the Word of Faith Fellowship grounds — a one-story, four-room structure that former members of the sect say was reserved for the most brutal physical and emotional punishment. Called the Lower Building, the former storage facility was used to house those deemed to be the worst sinners, according to Associated Press interviews with 43 former members of the evangelical church … members recounted dozens of vicious assaults, including one in which a mentally handicapped man was repeatedly punched in his face as he begged for help.”
    https://www.usnews.com/news/north-carolina/articles/2017-02-27/former-disciples-describe-storage-annex-for-worst-sinners

    There is a special place being prepared for the Whaley’s when they pass from this life to the next … they will be greeted by a sign above the door: “Lower Building.”

  48. Max wrote:

    deemed to be the worst sinners

    In that category, anything is plausible, anything can happen.

    Thankfully, Jesus died and rose so we are free, thank God. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1ff, NASB.

  49. Mae wrote:

    Max wrote:
    “Why does the mother church have to be located in North Carolina OF ALL PLACES???”
    Protected by local/county law enforcement?
    Rural NC is not unique to these cults. Believe me rural Maine, rural Vermont, rural Idaho, Montana, etc. all are susceptible to cultish groups hiding out.

    Hiding out, or worse. In Oregon, a cult took over an entire small town. Antelope, I think it was called. (The town, not the cult. Rajneesh? I forget now, but I remember reading about it in the news when cult members tried to poison a local authority figure, or something like that.)

  50. JYJames wrote:

    anything is plausible, anything can happen

    Cults tell you what to believe, take away your freedoms, and forbid you to leave. WOFF is a cult. Unfortunately, it is not against the law to be a cult in America! They have protections provided by the First Amendment freedom of religious exercise. As weird and wacko as they are, I suppose they must cross the bounds from First Amendment protection if their exercises infringe the rights of others. It sure sounds like they have, but getting that to stick in the judicial system of Rutherford County, NC has been impossible it seems.

    Law Prof, is this the way you see it?

  51. Max wrote:

    JYJames wrote:
    anything is plausible, anything can happen
    Cults tell you what to believe, take away your freedoms, and forbid you to leave. WOFF is a cult. Unfortunately, it is not against the law to be a cult in America! They have protections provided by the First Amendment freedom of religious exercise. As weird and wacko as they are, I suppose they must cross the bounds from First Amendment protection if their exercises infringe the rights of others. It sure sounds like they have, but getting that to stick in the judicial system of Rutherford County, NC has been impossible it seems.
    Law Prof, is this the way you see it?

    Of course they’ve broken the law and Whaley and others could be imprisoned for decades if even a small portion of the allegations are true. False imprisonment, kidnapping, criminal assault, some of it possibly aggravated, obstruction of justice, who knows what else? Those charges alone would be enough to put Whaley and husband in prison effectively for life if pursued successfully against them. Of course as you and others allude to, if some of the authorities actually are in on it, deflecting and running interference for Whaley, either as members of the church itself (which reportedly occurred with two prosecutors and a social worker) or as bribed members of a conspiracy, then it can be extremely difficult to do a thing absent the State of North Carolina, perhaps the State Bureau of Investigation, the AG’s office, or the feds stepping in. Things have to get pretty extreme generally before an alleged cult hits their radars and prompts action.

    In defense of the authorities, there are several criminal cases pending right now against members for some of the assaults, so there may be some justice. Why has it taken so long and Whalen herself escaped all prosecution when there have been so many testimonies from a wide variety of people over the course of decades, some of them making national news? The cynic in me would consider that the prosecution of leaders of a relatively large church in Bible Belt North Carolina is not high on the list of things to do if you have political ambitions, as so many prosecutors do.

  52. Max wrote:

    an extensive list of “Dangerous Traits of Cult Leaders”

    An informative list by Joe Navarro, his work recently featured in a TWW post.
    And the traits that form the profile of a follower?

    Countering with
    1 – the traits of an excellent leader? (thinking of “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek)?
    2 – the traits of healthy collaborators? (avoiding the word, “followers”)?

  53. Law Prof wrote:

    … if some of the authorities actually are in on it, deflecting and running interference for Whaley …

    Well, the last two minutes of the Inside Edition video above is disconcerting in this regard … check it out beginning at 7:45.

    Someday, Hollywood will make a really bad movie about this. In the meantime, innocents suffer in Spindale. But God …

  54. @ Max:

    Check out this article from 1995.

    http://www.goupstate.com/news/19950304/teen-claims-church-abused-him

    Several former church members accused Rutherford County Sheriff Dan Good of failing to investigate child abuse and other criminal acts at the church and school. Friday morning, Good said North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation will begin a full-scale investigation of the Word of Faith Fellowship. Good’s office will not participate in the investigation. “I requested the district attorney and SBI do the investigation, since there were comments that the sheriff’s department may not have been doing its part,” said Good, at a noon press conference. Good, a Republican, said he had been in the Word of Faith Fellowship twice for political rallies – once when he was running for office in 1990 and again in 1994. The sheriff was re-elected in November.

    The rest of the article is very interesting too!

  55. @ Deb:
    From the article:
    “Ten of those interviewed spoke of male Brazilians obtaining green cards for permanent residency and being able to legally work by being married off to female American congregants.

    “It is illegal to enter a sham marriage for the purpose of avoiding U.S. immigration laws.

    “’I can count at least five or six Brazilian guys that moved here to marry an American girl,’ Melo said. ‘They would never, ever, ever consider letting you date somebody outside of the church.’”

  56. Deb wrote:

    The rest of the article is very interesting too!

    Yes, it is extremely interesting. And as HUG has pointed out up-thread, the good sheriff is a textbook example of why things in your neck of the woods have not changed appreciably since the days of Reconstruction. Please do not take offense, none was intended, there is plenty of unsavory crapola that goes on out here in liberal la-la-land where I live too.

  57. scott hendrixson wrote:

    Does anyone know how the churches in the area are responding.

    I ask that question because I believe it’s fundamental to the environment that makes spiritual abuse and cults possible in the first place and because the local churches should be the place to go when people are trying to put their broken lives back together. When I watched those two kids who had been brainwashed against their father, it absolutely broke my heart as a father myself. I pray that someone with better restraint than myself is helping him where he has little choice but to trust God. I pray that there is a church there that has his back.

    Unfortunately, I believe that people end up in cults because they were desperate and the cult helped at first where other churches failed to be churches.

  58. scott hendrixson wrote:

    Does anyone know how the churches in the area are responding.
    I ask that question because I believe it’s fundamental to the environment that makes spiritual abuse and cults possible in the first place and because the local churches should be the place to go when people are trying to put their broken lives back together.

    So true.

  59. scott hendrixson wrote:

    Does anyone know how the churches in the area are responding.

    There was a cult on my university campus when I was a student. A friend of mine was sucked into it. Whenever we tried to talk to her, older cult members would block the way and insist that we had to “discuss your beliefs with their pastor”. They always walked in groups and they reported who you were and where you lived to their church and people would continually come after you to harass you or convert you if you tried to talk to one of their newbies.

    Isolation is a key tactic of cults. WOF surely kept a lot of their members separated from the rest of the world. The fact that they hide this awful slave labor scam for this many years is part of that. If churches did have an idea of what was going on, they probably didn’t know how to bridge that isolationism.

  60. And they are probably still separated.

    Though I agree that churches should be a place of refuge, many people coming out of cults have to have years of professional deprogramming or they are likely to find the same kind of authoritarian structure.

  61. @ scott hendrixson:
    Not sure I agree with that.
    Have two female friends who were in the same cult, 35 plus years ago. Although they both got out of the cult, they both still gravitate towards more authoritative preaching.
    Just seems to be an element of their personalities, that finds security in heavy handed preachers/preaching. Both still view the more authoritative style as, being on, “fire for God.” I do believe both women are more grounded in doctrine, to ever be taken in again to a full fledged cult again. However both still have something in their emotional makeup that draws them to strong leadership.

  62. Mae wrote:

    Have two female friends who were in the same cult, 35 plus years ago. Although they both got out of the cult, they both still gravitate towards more authoritative preaching.
    Just seems to be an element of their personalities, that finds security in heavy handed preachers/preaching. Both still view the more authoritative style as, being on, “fire for God.” I do believe both women are more grounded in doctrine, to ever be taken in again to a full fledged cult again. However both still have something in their emotional makeup that draws them to strong leadership.

    If I may join this conversation….

    I may have an explanation for these women’s behavior. If you check sexual abuse statistics, one in two women will be sexually abused before age 18. In addition, women are often raised differently than men, in the sense that women are socialized (especially in Judeo-Christian circles) to not assert themselves, to not question, to obey and to leave “scriptural matters” in the hands of those who know better, i.e. men. If you take these two facts into account, it’s no wonder that women are seduced by cults or authoritative preaching as they are used to living in a state of control and abuse, where they are not allowed to think independently or have control over their lives.

  63. @ Sam:

    I know these women very well. Neither have ever confided they were sexually abused. While I know some can never confide this happened, I don’t believe in their cases, sexual abuse occurred.
    In actuality, these two ladies are not door mats to their husbands either. Both have kind and loving husbands too.
    From my observation, they both get caught up in the more emotional side of Pentecostal expression.

  64. Mae wrote:

    Not sure I agree with that.
    Have two female friends who were in the same cult, 35 plus years ago. Although they both got out of the cult, they both still gravitate towards more authoritative preaching.

    Mae

    You’re absolutely right that some people have a stronger tendency than others to be attracted to envionments where abuse is more likely. We all have something in our constitution that creates a “pig to slop” attraction to things that detail us from God’s best. It gives me hope when you say that you’ve got two friends who……….. We should all have two friends who…….. My mom once had three women friends at church who were felons and we’re also accepted and loved by broader segments of the church. ,At one time, I had three young people at church who had lost both of their parents in some tragic way. Currently, my wife and I have a several friends who very ventured outside their tightly knit culture based social networks to become a beautiful part of our lives. There are still many people within and without the walls of the institution that have a friend who……….

    I’m glad to say that I p personally have friends who can say they have a friend who……… about me. They know that I’m a “pig drawn to slop” and they love me anyway. Some of these people are in exploitive.church environments themselves, but they have some Jesus-like thing that helps. I know their are still pockets of people who serve God and others in their weakness through the strength of Christ. The burden of my heart is that those people struggling through this life disconnected from God and each other would find fellowship with both. Maybe these people need professional help to adjust their way of thinking, but they also need to be part of a group of people who’s hearts have been, and are being, transformed. If you are a part of a group like that inside the institution, then you are truly blessed.

  65. Sam wrote:

    women are socialized (especially in Judeo-Christian circles) to not assert themselves, to not question, to obey and to leave “scriptural matters” in the hands of those who know better, i.e. men. If you take these two facts into account, it’s no wonder that women are seduced by cults or authoritative preaching as they are used to living in a state of control and abuse, where they are not allowed to think independently or have control over their lives.

    It’s not just true for women, though. Cults usually exert as much control over men as women. Men who come out of cults are likely to either avoid religious organizations entirely or seek out another authoritarian-style church. As Mae said, people who are attracted to cults are often attracted to authoritarian leaders.

    Don’t forget–this is a cult with an absolute authoritarian female leader. It likely does not follow patriarchal patterns like many of the other groups TWW covers.

  66. ishy wrote:

    If churches did have an idea of what was going on, they probably didn’t know how to bridge that isolationism.

    Ishy

    You’re right, it’s not always apparent what today do when there’s the will to do it.

  67. ishy wrote:

    Don’t forget–this is a cult with an absolute authoritarian female leader.

    I would be interested to see if there has been some sort of compare/contrast on these types of cults led by male or female leaders.

    Sidenote: There was a veronica mars year ago where one of her classmates got sucked into a cult and she investigated. The twist (spoilers!) was that the cult legitimately made him a better person than his own family. In talking about this, has there been study on cultish organization that are not actually abusive? Or do people just tend to leave them alone?

  68. @ ishy:

    I forgot to add my two friends were in a female lead cult. She was considered a, "prophetess", came from England and headed up a church there as well. My two friends got involved when they joined a woman's bible study. (Not a study from within the Church they attended) After they left the cult, they were welcomed back into the Church they'd left. That's where I met them 30+ years ago.

    @ scott hendrixson:

    I am blessed to know them. We are old now but back in our, "Jesus Movement" days, many of us got off track. We loved the Lord but had issues. 🙂 Anyway, I certainly had my time, in my youth, of being in pig slop. I try real hard to remember my wondering days, when meeting folks who are, in the midst of, or recovering from, a mixed up life.

  69. ishy wrote:

    Don’t forget–this is a cult with an absolute authoritarian female leader. It likely does not follow patriarchal patterns like many of the other groups TWW covers.

    That’s probably very true. I recall the beating death that occurred last year at “The Word of Life” church in New Hartford, NY The pastor there was a female.

  70. Lea wrote:

    In talking about this, has there been study on cultish organization that are not actually abusive? Or do people just tend to leave them alone?

    I think I would define some MLMs that way! Some of those certainly border on cults.

    I would tend to centrally define a cult by whether or not you can leave without harassment. Might be other issues with abuse or control but that’s usually a key indicator and it is usually a primary reason that people would avoid leaving if they had major hesitations. And I think harassment is innately abusive.

  71. Burwell wrote:

    JYJames wrote:
    Mae wrote:
    Idaho
    … Moscow?
    Doug Wilson would not handle the competition very well.

    Far enough away from each other’s compounds, not to cause a fuss. Who knows, maybe they’ll co mingle down the road…..switch the women folk around.

  72. Sam wrote:

    Mae wrote:
    Have two female friends who were in the same cult, 35 plus years ago. Although they both got out of the cult, they both still gravitate towards more authoritative preaching.
    Just seems to be an element of their personalities, that finds security in heavy handed preachers/preaching. Both still view the more authoritative style as, being on, “fire for God.” I do believe both women are more grounded in doctrine, to ever be taken in again to a full fledged cult again. However both still have something in their emotional makeup that draws them to strong leadership.
    If I may join this conversation….
    I may have an explanation for these women’s behavior. If you check sexual abuse statistics, one in two women will be sexually abused before age 18. In addition, women are often raised differently than men, in the sense that women are socialized (especially in Judeo-Christian circles) to not assert themselves, to not question, to obey and to leave “scriptural matters” in the hands of those who know better, i.e. men. If you take these two facts into account, it’s no wonder that women are seduced by cults or authoritative preaching as they are used to living in a state of control and abuse, where they are not allowed to think independently or have control over their lives.

    One or more commenters here have remarked on this, even saying that the trained behavior for women raised in christianity (and in society in general?) is codependency. That is, women are taught from their earliest years that they are to act codependent in order to get ahead in life, and if they wish to attract a life mate.

    I am not a psychologist, nor do I play one on television, so apologies if I’ve used the technical terminology incorrectly.

    However, while I’m stunned at the statistic (where does it come from? I mean, what is the source, for further consideration?), the comment rings true. In addition, I suspect that a man raised by authoritarian parents is subject to the same vulnerability in that his comfort zone somehow causes him to gravitate to authoritarian preaching.

  73. ishy wrote:

    I think I would define some MLMs that way! Some of those certainly border on cults.

    Plexus!!! Also, maybe, essential oils. I tried to ask someone why I should buy essential oils from them when they are cheaper whole foods (if something is cheaper at whole paycheck, that is a problem!) and never got a satisfactory answer.
    ishy wrote:

    I would tend to centrally define a cult by whether or not you can leave without harassment.

    Maybe, but in applying this to churches you often have the opposite problem of shunning. Is shunning harassment? It’s not refusal to let someone leave, which tends to be my major personal identification of a cult.

  74. Mae wrote:

    @ Sam:
    I know these women very well. Neither have ever confided they were sexually abused. While I know some can never confide this happened, I don’t believe in their cases, sexual abuse occurred.
    In actuality, these two ladies are not door mats to their husbands either. Both have kind and loving husbands too.
    From my observation, they both get caught up in the more emotional side of Pentecostal expression.

    Ah, this presents another side. Emotionalism is a great manipulation tool.

    I’m having a little trouble connecting the dots. The people I know who have escaped an authoritarian, controlling, patriarchal culture who have gone through therapy have mentioned the fact that their emotions were deliberately “broken” by the culture. Being commanded from infancy to practice “cheerful obedience” (in reality, it was pretense, not practice), something like the happy face rule talked about in these posts, caused them to disregard and dismiss any true emotion. Basically, the majority seemed to become a brittle smiling shell over a volcano of seething anger or deep, dark depression.

    When they left the former church, they had to learn to deal with emotions, not just repress them. Some have been more functional than others. I grieve the ones who have gone off the deep end, drugs and alcohol, for example.

  75. Lea wrote:

    Maybe, but in applying this to churches you often have the opposite problem of shunning. Is shunning harassment? It’s not refusal to let someone leave, which tends to be my major personal identification of a cult.

    Look at it this way: The threat of shunning is in the same camp as refusing to let someone leave. It’s the spirit of the thing: emotional manipulation to keep someone under your thumb.

  76. Mae wrote:

    Who knows, maybe they’ll co mingle down the road…..

    Only if Jane modifies the alcohol and facial hair policy of WOFF to allow both.

  77. @ Lea:
    Juice Plus!

    They’ve got the whole “don’t listen to any critics” spiel down. From the little bit I’ve seen (an acquaintance got sucked in), they cultivate dependence. Every critical question we asked, this person was texting to the mentor and relaying the mentor’s replies.

    And that was one of the mentor’s responses.

    I got that Wizard of Oz movie feeling… (Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!)

  78. Lea wrote:

    ishy wrote:
    I think I would define some MLMs that way! Some of those certainly border on cults.
    Plexus!!! Also, maybe, essential oils.

    I was actually assaulted by someone from one of those EO companies at a health fair. She grabbed my arm and started putting lavender oil on me without asking. I tried to pull away and told her to stop but she didn’t let go. I’m deathly allergic to lavender and I told her that. She said it was impossible to be allergic to lavender essential oil because it was “pure” from her company. I had to run away and wash it off in the bathroom and I still got a bad rash. Since then I haven’t exactly been fond of those companies because of the lies they perpetuate. I mean, even if their claim to being “more pure” was true, that just means it’s even more potent. I kinda wish I had pressed charges against her at the time. The guy who wrote the guidebook for both companies has a doctorate in nothing related to chemistry. But I eventually gave my testimony to the FDA against that company, so there! If you want something interesting about that, this article lists their purity values: https://www.facebook.com/notes/bta-the-chemistry-of-essential-oils/a-compilation-of-3rd-party-gcms-test-results/916963078390956/

  79. Lea wrote:

    ishy wrote:
    I would tend to centrally define a cult by whether or not you can leave without harassment.
    Maybe, but in applying this to churches you often have the opposite problem of shunning. Is shunning harassment? It’s not refusal to let someone leave, which tends to be my major personal identification of a cult.

    I think cults do shun as a community but usually people are pursued by at least one person in leadership. I do think an argument could be made for shunning as harassment in some cases, if not all. I have gotten harassed by people in cultic groups when not even a member though, so I don’t think it’s something they hesitate to do.

  80. @ refugee:
    Just my observations. Both of them are musically talented. They also love attending, being a part of, church musicals, plays, etc. Get caught up sometimes in, ” drama”.

  81. Lea wrote:

    I would be interested to see if there has been some sort of compare/contrast on these types of cults led by male or female leaders.

    I’m also interested.

  82. Burwell wrote:

    JYJames wrote:
    Mae wrote:
    Idaho
    … Moscow?

    Doug Wilson would not handle the competition very well.

    “First thing to remember is these guys do NOT hang out together. The Universe cannot have two Centers.”
    — Kooks Magazine, interview regarding Conspiracy Cranks

  83. Mae wrote:

    @ refugee:
    Just my observations. Both of them are musically talented. They also love attending, being a part of, church musicals, plays, etc. Get caught up sometimes in, ” drama”.

    Observations are interesting to read, both first- and second-hand. I am still figuring this stuff out, myself. I don’t want to walk away from the faith, but I don’t want to get sucked in again, so I’m sort of in limbo right now.

    And some of my family members have gone from fire to frying pan, in that they are now attending a church affiliated with 9Marks. So far, the church pushes membership but does not require it. I’m sort of in a waiting pattern, which means I avoid forming relationships because I don’t want to get enmeshed in a church that may end up a dead end.

    Someone might try to encourage me to “be the force for change” but I’m old, and tired, and I’ve been there and done that in a few circumstances, and ended up being among those who got chewed up and spit out in the end.

    I feel like Frodo, riding home from the Quest, crying, “Will I ever find rest?”

    Or something like that.

  84. refugee wrote:

    And some of my family members have gone from fire to frying pan, in that they are now attending a church affiliated with 9Marks. So far, the church pushes membership but does not require it. I’m sort of in a waiting pattern, which means I avoid forming relationships because I don’t want to get enmeshed in a church that may end up a dead end.

    And germane to the discussion of people going from one authoritarian church to another… a lot (yes I know, it’s a relative term) of the people I see in local 9Marks churches are refugees from Mars Hill or other controlling churches, including our former church. In one depressing conversation with a couple we’d known in the past, they mentioned their new church was “9Marks” like it was a badge of honor, or what’s that seal they used to tout in advertising for household products? Was that the “Good Housekeeping” seal? I forget.

  85. @ refugee:
    Perhaps that was how the Nazis took over Germany in the 30s. They appealed to people’s craving for order and security.

  86. ishy wrote:

    I was actually assaulted by someone from one of those EO companies at a health fair. She grabbed my arm and started putting lavender oil on me without asking. I tried to pull away and told her to stop but she didn’t let go.

    I know of several women in my area who are adept in hand to hand combat techniques. Had the fool you’ve described in your narrative pressed her luck with one of them, she’d have found herself on her a$$ and gasping for breath.

  87. Muff Potter wrote:

    I know of several women in my area who are adept in hand to hand combat techniques. Had the fool you’ve described in your narrative pressed her luck with one of them, she’d have found herself on her a$$ and gasping for breath.

    I actually am adept enough, but I guess I was blindsided by someone who would do that, especially at a conference with thousands of people and after I told her not to do so. I do wish I had pressed charges now, but no idea who she was, so can’t go back.

    I felt like I got a little even by testifying about it to the FDA. That company has been sued a bunch of times and people still keep buying that crap.

  88. @ ishy:

    Yay, for reporting to FDA!
    I am sick of , essential oils, juicing, paleo diets, etc.
    Just a new spin of Amway type merchandising.

  89. Muff Potter wrote:

    Yes, it is extremely interesting. And as HUG has pointed out up-thread, the good sheriff is a textbook example of why things in your neck of the woods have not changed appreciably since the days of Reconstruction. Please do not take offense, none was intended, there is plenty of unsavory crapola that goes on out here in liberal la-la-land where I live too.

    I used to be a left winger…and then started working, taught some economics, paid taxes and learned about life. And so I dropped that for good.

    Then I became a right winger…and then moved to the Deep South for a teaching job, saw the good ol’ boy corruption and horrific abuse coming from a lot of church leadership, and all of these corrupt and abusive people were good Republicans. And so I dropped that for good.

  90. refugee wrote:

    Was that the “Good Housekeeping” seal? I forget.

    The “Good Housekeeping” seal is apropos to 9Marks – I believe that is how they would describe their use of church membership covenants.

  91. Mae wrote:

    I am sick of , essential oils, juicing, paleo diets, etc.
    Just a new spin of Amway type merchandising.

    They come like ocean waves crashing against the sea shore; they may wax and wane, but they never stop.

  92. Mae wrote:

    …they both still gravitate towards more authoritative preaching.
    Just seems to be an element of their personalities, that finds security in heavy handed preachers/preaching. Both still view the more authoritative style as, being on, “fire for God.” I do believe both women are more grounded in doctrine, to ever be taken in again to a full fledged cult again. However both still have something in their emotional makeup that draws them to strong leadership.

    Possibly abuse suffered in early life. People sometimes seek the Lord as an antidote to their parents—but sometimes, people see a God very much like their parents, and an abusive, heavy-handed, parent might well set a child up for a lifetime of seeking the same sort of God or church. Even people who really know the Lord aren’t immune, we’re all walking wounded on some level.

  93. refugee wrote:

    I feel like Frodo, riding home from the Quest, crying, “Will I ever find rest?”

    Frodo only found rest in the Undying Lands.

  94. ishy wrote:

    They always walked in groups and they reported who you were and where you lived to their church and people would continually come after you to harass you or convert you if you tried to talk to one of their newbies.

    Like OT VII Tom Cruse and his Sea Org handlers.

  95. Law Prof wrote:

    Why has it taken so long and Whalen herself escaped all prosecution when there have been so many testimonies from a wide variety of people over the course of decades, some of them making national news? The cynic in me would consider that the prosecution of leaders of a relatively large church in Bible Belt North Carolina is not high on the list of things to do if you have political ambitions, as so many prosecutors do.

    “TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED!!!!!”
    — Benny Hinn’s favorite proof text

  96. refugee wrote:

    Hiding out, or worse. In Oregon, a cult took over an entire small town. Antelope, I think it was called. (The town, not the cult. Rajneesh? I forget now, but I remember reading about it in the news when cult members tried to poison a local authority figure, or something like that.)

    The Rajneeshees and their historic Oregon ghost town of “Rajneeshpuram”. An informant of mine from Redding said they used to send a “bus ministry” down as far south as Redding to pick up homeless and bus them north to swell the voter rolls in an attempt to take over the town completely by putting Rajneeshees in all elected offices.

    The poisoning was an attempt to swing the election; a couple days before election day, Rajneeshee “operatives” went to buffets and restaurants frequented by their opponents and contaminated the salad bars with salmonella culture. The idea was to give as many of their enemy voters food poisoning for election day.

    When the word got out, the Feds got VERY interested. Terrorist Act (with biological weapon) and all that. And Jonestown was still in living memory, so the Feds came down HARD.

    The Rajneesh himself skipped the country back to India (with a couple suitcases full of Benjamins, though he had to leave his collection of Rolls-Royces behind) where he later died of AIDS.

  97. Max wrote:

    Speaking of bad to worse, have you heard about WOFF’s “Lower Building”?

    “It was the most dreaded place on the Word of Faith Fellowship grounds — a one-story, four-room structure that former members of the sect say was reserved for the most brutal physical and emotional punishment. Called the Lower Building, the former storage facility was used to house those deemed to be the worst sinners, according to Associated Press interviews with 43 former members of the evangelical church … members recounted dozens of vicious assaults, including one in which a mentally handicapped man was repeatedly punched in his face as he begged for help.”

    Like “The Hole” at Scientology Gold Base.

    Or Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) basements in general.

  98. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    “TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED!!!!!”
    — Benny Hinn’s favorite proof text

    That Mr. Hinn may soon discover that he is neither particularly anointed nor untouchable after the IRS is finished with him.

  99. JYJames wrote:

    @ Law Prof:
    Middle of the road?

    You know you’re probably on the right path when you’re taking friendly fire from both sides.

  100. @ Law Prof:

    I know where you’re coming from. I’m not an any-winger at present. The DNC bears no more resemblance to the party of FDR, than does the GOP to the party of Ike. My views are all over the place. Some of them will earn me the stinging rebuke of my progressive brothers and sisters, and yet others will assure me damnation as heretic, apostate, and infidel in conservative circles.

  101. ishy wrote:

    I was actually assaulted by someone from one of those EO companies at a health fair. She grabbed my arm and started putting lavender oil on me without asking. I tried to pull away and told her to stop but she didn’t let go.

    A woman co-worker grabbed me by the arm to force me into a chair at a megachurch where I did projects, part time. Quietly, I went to HR. They said they were aware this lady had an authoritarian problem working with people she considered her underlings or servants, and others had already reported how she was treating me in particular. Scary.

    HR told this lady to stay away from me while the pastors figured it out. This lady went directly to the pastors, though, and I was fired. Soon the HR person was gone, too. The pastor that fired me died – not old.

    The bully lady, it turns out, grew up as a missionary child in Brazil where she had Brazilian servants. Not every missionary is a good guy. (And not all are bad.)

    How we treat people day-to-day, matters. A lot.

  102. Muff Potter wrote:

    I’m not an any-winger at present.

    LOL. Cool way to say it. No more fringe, huh?

    Though the TWW commands a stalwart stance on truth and justice – the levelheadedness, experience, and wisdom here are refreshing.

  103. scott hendrixson wrote:

    Does anyone know how the churches in the area are responding.

    Good question, Scott. You would think that real churches in the area full of real Christians would be very concerned about this. The Green River Association of the Southern Baptist Convention has 35 churches within earshot of the blasting that’s going on in Spindale. However, Southern Baptists don’t like to mix with Pentecostals, for fear that something will get on them! They wouldn’t be inclined to launch a rescue mission to reach those enslaved at WOFF … if it’s not on the church calendar of potlucks, bowling nights, and skating parties, they just couldn’t work it in. I’m sure there are some good Southern Baptists keeping up with WOFF in the news, but that would be about it most likely. They need to be launching some mass impreacatory prayers toward WOFF from those 35 SBC churches, but that’s too heavy on the spiritual side for the average Southern Baptist.

  104. @ Law Prof:
    I am a non card carrying libertarian. More like a classical liberal although the word has been hijacked since the era of the divine rights of kings. They also don’t blame ALL men for all ills in society. The good old boy club with nepotism and a totally one party bureaucracy in my state for 60 years were the Dems. Boss Hogg types infested the Capitol.

  105. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Lea wrote:
    I would be interested to see if there has been some sort of compare/contrast on these types of cults led by male or female leaders.
    I’m also interested.

    Yes, that would be helpful I think in understanding the differences, the similarities.

  106. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    JYJames wrote:
    @ Law Prof:
    Middle of the road?
    You know you’re probably on the right path when you’re taking friendly fire from both sides.

    Agree! I don’t know where I am politically. Just know I offend both conservative and progressive.

  107. JYJames wrote:

    @ Law Prof:
    Middle of the road?

    Not moderate, not middle of the road, not anything. I died to politics about a dozen years ago.

  108. @ refugee:

    “Someone might try to encourage me to “be the force for change” but I’m old, and tired, and I’ve been there and done that in a few circumstances, and ended up being among those who got chewed up and spit out in the end.”
    +++++++++++++++

    not unfamiliar. one day i decided to imagine the last day of my life. i’d still be waiting… waiting for “the change”. years, decades of waiting, of postponing what i wanted to do, sacrificing freedom, denying myself the joy and happiness of all the adventurous & ambitiously not-the-norm things i wanted to do in life.

    (at the time, adventurous and ambitiously not-the-norm meant not going to church for a Sunday! gasp!) oh, so utterly ridiculous.

    (now, it means as soon as my kids are launched i want a 1-way plane ticket somewhere. until i want to go somewhere else. maybe Paris for a some months. then….oh, maybe Tibet for a while. Then Buenos Aires…. Capetown…..Jerusalem…..Boston…..New Zealand….)

    for the pure joy of adventure, exploration, and people and places. no other agenda than that.

  109. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Frodo only found rest in the Undying Lands.

    Sounds like my cuppa’ tea. Kinda’ like Olam-Ha-Ba for heretics like me who have no desire for mansions, streets of gold, jewel encrusted vistas, or any of the other certainties fundagelicals are so certain of.

  110. @ JYJames:
    I taught my kids to evaluate potential mates based on how they treated ‘the least of these’: children, the disabled, elderly, homeless, poor, etc. You can tell a lot about a person by how he treats those who have no power or resources to repay him.

  111. @ Muff Potter:
    I’m with you, MP. I have no desire whatsoever for glory, riches, power, or praise when I enter into my rest. All I want is to look into my Lord’s eyes and hear Him say my name. That’s more than enough reward for me.

  112. refugee wrote:

    Lea wrote:

    Maybe, but in applying this to churches you often have the opposite problem of shunning. Is shunning harassment? It’s not refusal to let someone leave, which tends to be my major personal identification of a cult.

    Look at it this way: The threat of shunning is in the same camp as refusing to let someone leave. It’s the spirit of the thing: emotional manipulation to keep someone under your thumb.

    I buy that. I guess I’m thinking of people who get run out without even wanting to go? Maybe they are the ones who aren’t under control, and thus are a threat to overall control. Hm.

  113. ishy wrote:

    I was actually assaulted by someone from one of those EO companies at a health fair. She grabbed my arm and started putting lavender oil on me without asking. I tried to pull away and told her to stop but she didn’t let go. I’m deathly allergic to lavender and I told her that.

    What??? That is INSANE! Im sorry you didn’t file a complaint (although I’m sure it would have been a pita so I get it). But that is legit dangerous.

    I love essential oils and use them all the time for bath salts, lotions, etc. But I think the people who try to convince you that they will, say, cure cancer and anything else is just an evil plot from the pharmaceutical companies are downright dangerous too. If an essential oil can cure X then do a scientific, controlled trial and prove it.

  114. Max wrote:

    You would think that real churches in the area full of real Christians would be very concerned about this.

    They could be very concerned, but it’s really hard to get grown people away from cults they joined willingly. That one guy couldn’t even convince his wife. If law enforcement is also unwilling to look at violations, I don’t know what the churches could do except privately reach out to people where possible.

    Politically, I don’t care what people are or if we disagree, just don’t try to tell me what to think and we’re cool.

  115. Lea wrote:

    I would tend to centrally define a cult by whether or not you can leave without harassment.

    Maybe, but in applying this to churches you often have the opposite problem of shunning. Is shunning harassment? It’s not refusal to let someone leave, which tends to be my major personal identification of a cult.

    Humans are social creatures, we seek to belong. Being shunned, actively excluded, is denying us something that is essential for our well-being. The thing about being shunned isn’t that you’re allowed to leave, it doesn’t work if you’re not there for them to turn their back on you, refuse to speak to you, refuse to give something to you or take something from you. Shunning only works when you’re present and being completely cut-off from interaction. You’re right that it’s not the same thing as harassment, but it’s like harassment, it’s a terrible repercussion of going against the will of the group leader – one of two opposite extremes.

  116. Technically, the reason why shunning works when you’re not present is because: The cult is the only thing that matters, it’s life – it’s everything and you’re only significant if you’re apart of it. If they won’t let you in – then you’re nothing. It’s not unlike saying that someone is “dead to you” even though they are very much alive.
    I was reading up on head-covering and this one ex-cultist said that if you had failed to follow the rules, then you’d be shunned and you had a new set of rules. So say the rule was that women must wear head coverings when they pray – when you’re shunned, you’re not allowed to wear a head covering when you pray. If you show up wearing a head-covering, the group will sit there in silence until you remove your head-covering and only then they will pray while you are expected to be silent.

  117. With so many Mennonite friends, some who grew up Amish, I’ve always seen the shunning thing from two sides.

    One the one hand, if you really really really want to be part of some group, you learn the group rules and abide by them. The folks in the group do not owe you community. They have a right to associate or not associate with whomever they please, and that is not at all evil.

    And on the other hand, if you DON’T want to keep a group’s rules why the heck do you want to be part of that group? Move on and drop them. Find congenial friends. Let them shun away–like you’d be aware anyway.

    Two of those friends left PA for the desert southwest. Knew they did not want to keep the Amish rules. Went and made a life for themselves that was good, very good. Yes, they lost friends and family but made new ones for themselves. They knew they had no right to demand the Amish change to their rules, counted the cost, and got out.

    At the death of one of their parents they learned the folks they had left had never stopped shunning them or dropped the anger and bitterness. 40 or so years of it had taken its toll. But my friends did and still do live a very connected, very happy, very abundant life.

    Who shunned who? Who got punished?

  118. Lea wrote:

    What??? That is INSANE! Im sorry you didn’t file a complaint (although I’m sure it would have been a pita so I get it). But that is legit dangerous.

    Well, I did file a complaint; it was just with the FDA. I actually got a nice letter from an FDA investigator thanking me and she said had been inundated with stories like mine. That company would not have done a thing. They probably would have told me I was in the wrong. I was in a EO Safety group for a long time and the stories about them are outrageous. There’s been all kinds of lawsuits but they moved to a South American country to avoid them.

    Here’s how nutty they are: https://medium.com/@elizabrown1204/the-disturbed-dr-270ee3791b68

  119. Muff Potter wrote:

    Sounds like my cuppa’ tea. Kinda’ like Olam-Ha-Ba for heretics like me who have no desire for mansions, streets of gold, jewel encrusted vistas, or any of the other certainties fundagelicals are so certain of.

    I think it is an alpine meadow up in the Cascades just East of where I am, after the mosquito season of course.

  120. Waaaaaayyyyyy yonder off topic, but I have good doggie news. No one ever claimed that stray beagle that showed up in our carport two weeks ago. But, another family saw one of the fliers I put up, and called me. They were interested in the beagle if no owner called. I met with them today, and they took they beagle home with them. Home for that beagle is now a dad, a mom, and 4 kids on a dairy farm. Mom is going to call the vet Monday and make an apt for the beagle.
    I think the dog will be happy with this family. The mom and dad told me to call anytime if I want to see how the dog is doing.

  121. Lea wrote:

    Max wrote:
    You would think that real churches in the area full of real Christians would be very concerned about this.
    They could be very concerned, but it’s really hard to get grown people away from cults they joined willingly. That one guy couldn’t even convince his wife. If law enforcement is also unwilling to look at violations, I don’t know what the churches could do except privately reach out to people where possible.
    Politically, I don’t care what people are or if we disagree, just don’t try to tell me what to think and we’re cool.

    People in cults are very hard to reach out to. Even if you get a few moments, they believe you are the enemy of the faith.
    Sincere, ardent prayer for the individuals, ( if you know them ),is the best weapon we have.

  122. ishy wrote:

    Here’s how nutty they are

    Wow!!! I need to forward that to some people for sure. I think that’s the one where you have to sell something like 100 dollars worth of oil a month?

  123. Lydia wrote:

    The good old boy club with nepotism and a totally one party bureaucracy in my state for 60 years were the Dems. Boss Hogg types infested the Capitol.

    Before they grew out thin grey ponytails, donned Che T-shirts, and moved to Sacramento.

  124. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Lydia wrote:
    The good old boy club with nepotism and a totally one party bureaucracy in my state for 60 years were the Dems. Boss Hogg types infested the Capitol.
    Before they grew out thin grey ponytails, donned Che T-shirts, and moved to Sacramento.

    Yeah, right……. trying to outrun the long arm of the law, maybe.
    Carroll Hubbard, Jr. and Ernie Fletcher come to mind, both of them Baptists, btw.

  125. Nancy2 (aka Kevlar) wrote:

    I think the dog will be happy with this family. The mom and dad told me to call anytime if I want to see how the dog is doing.

    It’s because of you the little one has a fighting chance. You didn’t turn your back when nudged by the Almighty in the real-time here and now. You didn’t worry about ‘sanctification’ and a host of other ethereal vagaries, you went ahead and did it.
    Well done thou good and faithful servant, well done!

  126. That beagle …….. it pains me to wonder …….. CJ Maheney, Matt Chandler, Spindale sheriff, Al Mohler,etc …… their ilk and their minions …….. why can’t they and other people involved care half that much for wounded, hurting, abused people …… just provide some shelter, a little food, a little sympathy, a little love, a place to rest, a little bit of hope, just a little balm for the soul………..
    It hurts me so to know that so many “Christian” people will treat other people worse than I would ever dream of treating a stray dog.

  127. @ Jenny:
    Yes, saw this today, by Thomas Friedman (NYT): “How is not the question, it is the answer, that is, how we treat people.”

  128. Nancy2 (aka Kevlar) wrote:

    The Feds are getting into the game

    Praise the Lord! Government cogs move pretty slow. In the case of WOFF, it took them 38 years to take a look at the spin in Spindale.

  129. Nancy2 (aka Kevlar) wrote:

    That beagle …….. it pains me to wonder …….. CJ Maheney, Matt Chandler, Spindale sheriff, Al Mohler,etc …… their ilk and their minions ……..

    Their shtick will die out and it will not see the 22nd century.

  130. Muff Potter wrote:

    Nancy2 (aka Kevlar) wrote:
    That beagle …….. it pains me to wonder …….. CJ Maheney, Matt Chandler, Spindale sheriff, Al Mohler,etc …… their ilk and their minions ……..
    Their shtick will die out and it will not see the 22nd century.

    From your lips to God’s ears, as I heard somebody or other say one time.

  131. Lea wrote:

    I guess I’m thinking of people who get run out without even wanting to go? Maybe they are the ones who aren’t under control, and thus are a threat to overall control. Hm.

    In addition, they serve as object lessons to any sheep who might be entertaining an independent thought. “This is what can and will happen to you if you cross the leadership. It’s for your own good, and that of the rest of the sheep.” Ha. (not funny. I guess you could call that a bitter laugh.)

  132. Lea wrote:

    They could be very concerned, but it’s really hard to get grown people away from cults they joined willingly. That one guy couldn’t even convince his wife.

    Yeah. I don’t remember who it was anymore, but I remember talking with someone whose grown child and family had moved to the East Coast to join the “Weigh Down Workshop” cult leader’s group. A lot of pain, there.

  133. @ ishy:
    Evidence that not all nut-cakes choose a ministry career path. Some of them operate businesses. I’m reminded of the psychopath scale in a previous TWW post; CEOs and clergy topped the list.

  134. This is my home county. 🙁 I grew up “within spitting distance” of Spindale, as they say around there.

    Why did WOF take root there? These are just guesses on my part:

    1) The illiteracy rate is fairly high, compared to the rest of the state.
    2) The unemployment rate skyrocketed after several local textile mills shut down.
    3) The level of occult activity in this county is high, compared to the rest of the state. I don’t remember why, but I read a report on it in high school from a county source. There was research being done as to *why* so many people had at least tried occult activities. I remember at least five different people (who didn’t know each other) in high school talking about having tried some form of occultic practices.
    4) The high-school drop-out rate is high. (16%, IIRC?)
    5) Local businesses shuttered like crazy. My husband once said, “Rutherford county seems to specialize in used cars and musicians, and only one of those jobs makes money.”

    So, any one of these things would make a population ripe for an authoritarian leader who claimed to have it all figured out. 🙁 All five of them combined? Sadly, there’s a portion of the population that will believe *anything*.

    Fundamentalism of every stripe is there. What *isn’t* there is opportunity.

    There’s also a strong, “loyalty to family” culture there, meaning people typically don’t move away. 🙁 If they do? They come back, like salmon to the stream that spawned them.

    An author who came from that area is trying to get free wifi access, so people can have opportunity to link up w/online jobs & education–and maybe, MAYBE, to have better access to websites that debunk the authoritarian lies that people there are fed from controlling churches. 🙁

  135. Mae wrote:

    @ refugee:
    Just my observations. Both of them are musically talented. They also love attending, being a part of, church musicals, plays, etc. Get caught up sometimes in, ” drama”.

    It’s my personal belief that people with undiagnosed, untreated ADHD are *primary* targets for extreme fundamentalism and cults, because our brains need more structure than a person without ADHD. I have an article coming out soon on that topic. I just asked the blog owner when it would come out.

  136. @ Max:
    They didn’t reply with anything but “ew!” when the story came out on Inside Edition all those years ago. 🙁

  137. XianJaneway wrote:

    Mae wrote:
    @ refugee:
    Just my observations. Both of them are musically talented. They also love attending, being a part of, church musicals, plays, etc. Get caught up sometimes in, ” drama”.
    It’s my personal belief that people with undiagnosed, untreated ADHD are *primary* targets for extreme fundamentalism and cults, because our brains need more structure than a person without ADHD. I have an article coming out soon on that topic. I just asked the blog owner when it would come out.

    Be curious to read that article.

  138. It’s funny, John Huddle’s book was free for Kindle the day before this post, and I got it without knowing the connection. Having read it, I believe him. What his wife said about his not wanting to work – the church was trying to force him to work for a member-owned business that he had worked for in the past and burned out on. He had a couple jobs on the side too to try to make enough money. It was his refusal to quit them in favor of the church job that led to him being shunned even in his own home, not allowed to attend church, etc. He had begun researching abusive churches and the shepherding movement by that time also.

  139. JYJames wrote:

    The bully lady, it turns out, grew up as a missionary child in Brazil where she had Brazilian servants.

    Didn’t Charles Darwin write about how “servants” were treated in the Brazil of his day?

  140. Lea wrote:

    But I think the people who try to convince you that they will, say, cure cancer and anything else is just an evil plot from the pharmaceutical companies are downright dangerous too.

    Suppressed Sure Cure + Big Pharma/Medical Establishment Conspiracy Theory = classic Quackery.

  141. Burwell wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
    Looks like Appalachian NC still needs a wandering minstrel with a silver-strung guitar…

    Silver John’s been a long time gone

    But the Witch-Men are still going strong.

  142. Nancy2 (aka Kevlar) wrote:

    Just wondering …… if Whaley and her “lieutenants” get busted and wind up serving time, what will happen to her followers – the children and teenagers in particular. Can they function in “normal” society, or will they try to keep the cult going?

    Or mass suicide like Jonestown, Heaven’s Gate, Solar Temple, and that cult in Uganda?

  143. refugee wrote:

    Basically, the majority seemed to become a brittle smiling shell over a volcano of seething anger or deep, dark depression.

    C.S.Lewis used almost the same words in his Preface to Screwtape Letters.

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