Findings of Fact….

During many years of the history of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF), there have been several drawn out custody battles in which church practices became a main focus. In 2000, there was the McGee custody battle, Ben McGee- plaintiff; in which an eleven page “Findings of Fact” was rendered on or about December 5, 2000 by Judge Randy Poole. The case was heard in Rutherford County General District Court – case #FILE NO. : 00 CVD 0686. Included in this ruling from the court were definitive statements about church practices and their danger to children. I will include a few here. After each one, I will offer my opinion about the “fact”. Remember, during this hearing, I lived in Greenville, SC and only attended special meetings. For certain, this material was shared on a “need to know” basis. Let me also point out that when/if some or all of these “facts” had been shared with regular WOFF members, there would have been major spin presented and a dare put out there to question or voice any agreement with the “facts”. Does that sound plausible? If you showed or expressed questions or doubts– that was your invitation for an open rebuke and/or church discipline.

16. There is a hierarchy of control and authority within the WOFF organization. Subordinate members are encouraged to report any perceived aberrant behaviors of other subordinate members to higher authorities within the organization.

This was such a common occurrence at WOFF, who would dispute the validity of this “fact”? We were all required to tell the sins of others or “that sin was in you!” and you were as guilty as if you had committed the act. Yes, this could be a reason it is hard for present and former members to trust – ANYONE.

28. In addition to the discipline of parents, children within the WOFF organization are subjected to the discipline of WOFF authority  figures, staff and school personnel.  It is a policy of WOFF authority figures, staff and school personnel to emphasize mental and physical discipline of children. Children are routinely disciplined and told to do things because they are filled with the devil.

 This “fact” was true at the time. I saw things moderate and only certain ones were allowed to “bring strong correction” or spank children. But, I seriously doubt the last part has changed. I believe children are still being told “they are filled with the devil.” That statement is a precursor to their signature practice and belief- everyone needs blasting, loud prayer and deliverance from devils

30. The discipline referenced above has included physical restraint, including on occasion, the tying of children to chairs. Children have been made to sit still for excessive periods of time and directed not to move their legs, not to cross their legs and to keep their hands folded.  Children have been disciplined with a striking rod, referred within the WOFF organization as a “rod of correction”. This rod is at least 18 inches in length, 1 Y2 inches thick and 3 inches wide.  

 If a child lived through this time period and never received the “rod of correction”- it was the rare exception. Who can forget the commands all adults were taught to teach the children- sit up, fold your hands and show me your “happy face”! I was in many a classroom where children were instructed to pay attention to the “monitor” so they could “hear the word of the Lord”- for hours.

31. On at least one occasion, prior to 1995, a child of six years of age, within the WOFF, was disciplined by Douglas McDonald who struck this child at least15 times, leaving bruises and contusions.  The child was physically injured and traumatized by this discipline, had difficulty sleeping following this incident and had to sleep on his stomach due to injuries sustained as a result of this discipline. This child was disciplined because the child was allegedly possessed by “homosexual devils”.

 Honestly, while in WOFF, I do not remember being told this “fact”. After listening to Michael Lowry’s story, I have no doubts.

33. Based upon the testimony of (former members) and others, the Court finds that as a result of punishment by Church authorities, staff or school personnel, children were scratched, bruised and suffered contusions.

 As a consideration of former members, I have redacted their names. Pertaining to the “fact” documented by the court, the longer I have been out the more I hear that agrees with this “fact”.

36. Excessive corporal punishment has been used on children for failing to obey instructions such as to stop playing, or to sit still.

 I have no basis to deny this “fact”. While inside WOFF, this was considered “God’s ways” and excessive was normal to many there.

42. When exposed to blasting, children will cry and kick.  Others will respond with blank looks.

Well, how could this one be denied? How many times did someone leading prayer exhort the children AND adults to take hold of their minds and not space out? “Were you “praying” or thinking about what you were going to do afterwards?”

 51. Dr. Steven DeBerry was qualified and received as an expert witness in clinical psychology.    Dr. DeBerry testified in detail about the use of aversive conditioning by cults in order to gain control over individuals.   Aversive conditioning involves over-stimulus designed to force the recipient to acquiesce to expectations. Aversive conditioning is not the equivalent to punishment in that punishment is corrective, occurring following a behavior requiring correction.  Aversive conditioning is applied in advance of any behavior requiring correction.  Persons subjected to aversive conditioning are not aware of what they are doing wrong but will do anything to avoid the over-stimulus or aversive conditioning.

 52. Dr. DeBerry was shown a portion of video tape used by the Plaintiff to illustrate blasting.  Dr. DeBerry considered the illustration of blasting to illustrate a form of aversive conditioning.  He reiterated that aversive conditioning is a staple of cults. Aversive conditioning as used by cults is intended to render a person subjected to the over stimulus helpless and in a state of shock.

53. Dr. DeBerry testified that blasting on a child of 5 years of age could have a negative effect mentally and physically in that all organ systems could be placed in a state of hyper arousal, including the auditory system.  Children subjected to blasting could become mentally ill. In addition, as a result of this type of aversive conditioning, children could have difficulty developing trusting relationships, difficulty with intimacy and interpersonal relationships.

 I do not know Dr. DeBerry. This may be his webpage…  http://www.drstevedeberry.com/  it lists an Asheville, NC address. His testimony of children having trouble developing trusting relationships after being subject blasting does not surprise me. Are you surprised?

 54. The WOFF authorities exercise control over subordinate members through a process referred to by both witnesses for the Plaintiff and Defendant as “locking in”.  Subordinate members are expected to lock in with authorities before taking their children on outings to the public park, before engaging in sexual relations with their spouses, and before making other decisions.

 If my memory serves me right, in 2007, WOFF leadership started having classes for married folks to go over again “God’s ways in the marriage bed”. I vividly remember the warning from Brooke Covington, – If you are going out of this class and talk about this to others, including the world, then just leave right now. The inference was those on the outside just would not understand the ways of God. That makes sense, right? After all, WOFF members live on a different plane than other Christians. WOFF members walk in such a “higher place in the Spirit”-right? What had been “put on hold” years previous was being reinstated- with vigor and strength. Welcome to WOFF. I am not sure who was passing out condoms during that time.

56. Children in the WOFF are discouraged from participating in any activities outside of the WOFF community.  They do not go for drives, play on little league teams, or other normal activities engaged in by children.

 It was true then and as far as I know it has not changed. In fact, it has become a bragging point to some aspiring WOFF parents just how secluded the WOFF children live. “Play on little league teams” out in the community? Are you kidding me? Now, certain upper high school grades may play on a team that may play in a league- but, NOT younger children. Will Brock get a breakthrough and be the first? Will Jane coach?

63. The Court finds that the Plaintiff, while in the WOFF community, was controlled by authority figures and that he was not in control of his family. The Plaintiff was required to “lock in” before making any decisions of any significance.

 Well, how can this be denied? Just by living inside WOFF and “living God’s ways”, parents surrender their parental authority to WOFF leadership one day at a time, one service at a time, and one school day at a time. Most faithful, regular members see this as “normal” and/or do not even realize they have been replaced until a crisis comes. Thus families will continue to be destroyed for as long as WOFF practices this type of authority replacement or usurpation.

67. The Plaintiff identified an illustrative exhibit, a video tape, which he testified accurately illustrated the practice of blasting.   The Court finds that the tape does illustrate blasting as the same was identified by other Plaintiff’s witnesses.  Children in the tape, present at church services, appear to have clenched fists, which they shake and wave in an angry type of gesture.

 Facts are facts… see video… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPpbmDDRm8M As mentioned in previous posts, the discipline of the children has morphed into Jane’s grandson leading a group of children to blast other children and adults. It has also been reported that these children are allowed to hit, punch, slap, kick and push the ones receiving prayer. So, at what age do you tell a child that it is no longer God’s will to hit someone in prayer? I am not sure it will be stopped at any age.

From the many court documents I have read and some recent defenses put forth by WOFF, all of these “facts” are countered as their “religious freedoms”. While I was inside, I thought and gave the same defense. It is a characteristic of cognitive dissonance which we have discussed before and will take up again in future posts. It was common inside WOFF to rationalize and automatically justify everything WOFF did as right and those who opposed as always wrong.  After all, if you stopped to consider Jane Whaley as less than perfect and practices of WOFF as possibly harmful – just maybe? Then your whole WOFF fantasy could/would begin to crumble and you may do something courageous and leave. It was a constant battle to keep up those walls of justification against very sound evidence that WOFF-life was less than perfect and in fact, could prove harmful to your person. More than the evidence, I suspect many there have a still small voice on the inside encouraging them to face the truth and leave the fantasy-land called WOFF.

In closing, I will quote one more “fact” from our source document-

74.The  environment created at WOFF has an adverse effect on the health, safety

     and welfare of children.  The Court recognizes a First Amendment right to the

     exercise of religious freedom,  so long as the health, safety and welfare of children

     is not affected . 

 On this “fact”, I encourage a re-examination of what has transpired and a fresh look at the present situation at WOFF. Can anyone outside of WOFF be assured in light of the recent incident report of assault filed by a former member, that ….the health, safety and welfare of children is(has) not (been) affected?  Can anyone be certain that practices within this group are stable? Do we have enough grounds to investigate further and examine and assess the health, safety and welfare of children and adults within WOFF? In my opinion, we do need further investigation and examination of the practices as well as the welfare of WOFF members.

Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Comments are invited from all readers, including present or former members. Polls are not scientific and no private information is gathered.

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Please, take time to read the Terms of Use for this personal blog. As mentioned, for posts written by John Huddle, any information about WOFF is from his memories and recollections as perfect as that may be or not be. Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted. (Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 391.

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