The Federal Injunction: The Cure Becomes the Disease (1)

About a year ago, I hinted at a post which would include a review of the ominous “Federal Injunction.” Time passes quickly and this seems to be the time to bring to you a short background and review of the results of the lawsuit Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) brought against the Rutherford County Department of Social Services (RCDSS). The basis for the legal action was the investigative techniques taken by RCDSS workers during their investigation of WOFF. Let me say I am no legal scholar. At this moment, I do not have a copy of the entire case file. I only have the document from which the new guidelines were put forth. I have no intentions of reviewing the entire case file in this post. That review is for another time and another venue. Today, we will take an overview of the “Stipulation for Compromised Settlement Thereon” filed June 21, 2005 in the United States District Court for the Western Division of North Carolina Asheville Division pertaining to Case File No. 1:03CV298. From the case file number- we can learn that this case started in 2003.

The perspective I bring to this discussion is unique in several ways. First, I was inside WOFF during the investigation. At the very beginning of the whole ruckus, I lived in Greenville, SC and was a part of Word of Life Church – otherwise known as Grace and Truth Fellowship. During the frenzy around the Inside Edition investigation, we felt the pressure in Greenville. Looking back, I know we were not privileged to the entire scoop, but we heard enough and saw enough to feel the same pressures and fears even though we lived several miles away. The news investigators came to Greenville and attempted to interview Gerald and Linda Southerland during 1995. During the years between 1995 and 2002, we were becoming more and more part of the WOFF drama. Looking back, I understand we were only told what was okay for those at our level of the WOFF pyramid to know. I am sure I do not have complete knowledge of the inside drama during those years, but I was aware of the main steps and what DSS did to investigate the children inside certain of WOFF. As mentioned previously, in 2002, we moved inside the group into a WOFF household. We were in the meeting where Jane introduced the idea to the congregation asking the question if we felt that suing DSS was the right thing to do. There was apparent agreement expressed. Jane then announced we would do just that…

Again, in hindsight, I see that Jane used the fears of DSS to garner the support needed to obtain the financial backing to hire the attorneys from out of state. Let me also say the fears were tangible. The fears were not ones I had dealt with in any previous area of my life. Also, I am of the opinion that from what has been told about the events during the RCDSS investigation, there were mistakes made by the DSS workers and I believe some rights and common sense protocols were violated. For whatever reason, call it exuberance or uneducated zeal; as a WOFF member I believed then and still believe that there were violations made by DSS. From my perspective now, I am also of the firm opinion that the DSS workers who carried out the personal assessments were UNEDUCATED in the nuances and dynamics associated with mind control environments. It is also very obvious they had no understanding about the WOFF-specific lingo and actual language which the children were taught from birth. Acknowledging those aspects let me continue to more fully develop where I see the present fiasco and failures have been generated.   

December 5, 2003 the action was filed and the basis for the suit was this: “Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants violated and conspired to violate, and continue to violate and threaten to violate (and conspire to so violate), Plaintiff’s constitutional and civil rights to free exercise of religion, free speech, free association, family integrity and privacy, freedom from governmental denominational preference and religious discrimination, including the rights to raise their children within a particular religious tradition, and freedom unreasonable searches and seizures; and..(introduction of Stipulations..)

I must stop here and point out the EXTREME irony of anyone at WOFF pleading in a court document that they have had their rights to “family integrity and privacy,” violated. Within that group there are NO SUCH RIGHTS! So, you complain that others have conspired to violate the civil rights which Jane and her leadership daily take away from the lower members in the pyramid structure… in the Name of Jesus? This truth has been documented in the McGee Custody case and written about here. The courts found that the Plaintiff in that case had lost control of his family to the leadership of the church. (#63 in the Court Findings) So, WOFF petitions the court for a right that they steal from their members once they are inside the group? Does that make any sense at all?

And to claim that their rights of “free speech and free association” have been violated when inside the group those rights DON’T EXIST! You have no freedom to speak you opinions if they are contrary to Jane’s unless you want to lose your membership in the group. You have no freedom to associate with anyone of your choosing unless Jane says so. Again, this speaks to the surreal irony associated with this case. We continue with the review.

The next few statements acknowledge that the Defendants (RCDSS) deny such violations; the court recognized the claims of the violations on June 10, 2004 and the court also recognized,

… “(RCDDS) has a statutory duty to investigate allegations of abuse, neglect or dependency of minor children, in compliance with state and federal law, including the United States Constitution: and

WHEREAS RCDSS has determined that the Stipulation for Compromised Settlement Thereon will not interfere with its abilities to carry out its statutory duties: and

WHEREAS all parties to the above captioned action desire to resolve the disputes between them without the expense and uncertainty of further litigation:” 

Again, let’s stop and reflect on these statements. The RCDSS has stated they recognize they have DUTY to investigate allegations of abuse, neglect or dependency of minor children, in compliance with the state and federal law, including the United States Constitution. This document was not intended to dismiss them from their statutory obligation and in fact they go on to admit here that the requirements in this document will not interfere with their ability to carry out these statutory duties. But I must contend that in fact that this document and the fear-ridden daily interpretation of these guidelines set forth herein, HAVE actually been a great hindrance to RCDSS fulfilling their stated legal duties to protect the children inside WOFF AND now for certain, the ones being adopted into WOFF!

This is a classic case where the cure has in practice become the disease!

Case in point should be the most recent case of the young 17 year old female who ended up at the RCDSS office on her volition and yet she was put in a room and ignored and not afforded the proper interviews. Let me say here, that unless RCDSS workers have obtained the correct education in how to ask the questions to WOFF members of any age; then they will not get the accurate answers they desire. If you ask a WOFF child if he or she has been abused? They will most likely say no. In their mindset and in their world, “God through Jane” will not abuse them. If you ask them if they have ever been physically corrected for not obeying God? Then you may get an affirmative answer. If you ask who did this, there may be confusion on their face. If you ask which minister helped you receive your correction or get back in your place? Then you may get a name. From there, you then should ask how the child or adult was corrected. Children should also be asked “if their classmates helped them get back in the will of God?”  And “how did they do that?”  If you suggest the type of correction, then you may not get the terms right. If you allow the WOFF member to describe their time of correction and “getting their heart right with God”, then you may get an accurate description of any physical force used. Using their terms will help the communication with the reported victim.

In the case of the recent WOFF young person, my information comes from the inside of DSS. The scene was conveyed that she was not interviewed. In my opinion, any official report to the contrary is steeped in fear and shirks the responsibility of the DSS which they have been obligated to perform by the laws stated above. If the reasoning for such false reports was the “Federal Injunction”, then my case has been made with this incident and others. Do I need to list the attempted escapes that I know of that have thwarted by governmental incompetence? Just from my limited knowledge, I believe that the escapes attempts of AB, JF, JA and DC were all handled incorrectly – even if one of them was successful. There have been more attempts than the ones I know about- I am reasonably certain.

As an example, this compromise states as condition #13- Under no circumstance shall RCDSS commence and Investigation of any WFF member or Subject Child based on religious beliefs or practices concerning music, television, radio, movies, dress or appearance, sports, holidays or birthdays. Okay, I understand that part and it is constraining, but plausible. It is the next stipulation that in my estimation opens the Pandora’s Box.  

#14- Plaintiffs maintain that their religious practices of strong or blasting prayer, or discipleship, as practiced by WFF and WFF members, cannot constitute abuse or neglect within the meaning of the laws and the Constitution of the State of North Carolina, or the Constitution of the United States. Plaintiffs maintain and preserve their position that any child protection services conducted by RCDSS or any agency working with or on behalf of RCDSS based in whole or in part on WFF practices of strong blasting prayer or discipleship would be in violation of WFF’s and its members’ constitutional and statutory rights, including any such investigations pursuant to, and consistent with, the Terms of this Settlement Agreement. (emphasis added)

In my opinion, this first part of #14 is the root of the overwhelming fear of and RCDSS official or worker as well as any other governmental agency to which this doctrine of WOFF has been preached. If we only read this part, we would have to say the case for the review of this document is pretty slim. However, we will give the second part of the paragraph and outline my contentions for the basis for a judicial review of this compromise – Settlement Agreement.

RCDSS maintains that it may investigate allegations concerning WFF religious practices of strong or blasting prayer, or discipleship, pursuant to the terms of this Settlement Agreement.”(emphasis added)

So, there is a ray of light that RCDSS may still investigate allegations concerning WOFF practice of strong or blasting prayer. This is hopeful for one main reason, since the affirmation and acceptance of this document- the internal dynamics of “strong or blasting prayer” have grown to include hitting, slapping and in some cases punching the one receiving the prayer. I sincerely believe that any reasonable judicial body would find that conduct as not considered safe or allowable as a protected religious practice. What do you think? The rules of engagement, as I will call them outlined in the rest of the document for the most part are so impractical- it is laughable. I can say with a high degree of assuredness that the attorneys involved in the hammering out of this compromise did not foresee the changes in what now constitutes strong or blasting prayer and for sure had not lived inside WOFF and become familiar with the dangers of life in that group. So again, what was intended as a cure has in practice become the disease. We will discuss what can be done to reverse this in a future post.  

We need to stop here and revisit this subject soon. We are only through page eight of the document and there are twenty-one pages. I am not sure how detailed we will get here with this review, enough to say that in the next post we will review some more of the actual details of the Compromise including the expunging of the records for the families involved in the case. Expunging the records did not change the practices which were called into question; in my opinion, it only strengthened Jane Whaley’s hold on her people. We will discuss how this happened in subsequent posts.

And with that, let us remember:

It is never too late to wake up and leave and reclaim your life!” Steve Hassan

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. Jane told me and Josh confirmed it.

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 467.

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2 thoughts on “The Federal Injunction: The Cure Becomes the Disease (1)”

  1. John, just re-reading your very informative post about the DSS/WOFF issue…if I understand correctly, RCDSS still has the right to investigate WOFF? Please explain further…is there nothing to stop NEW Rutherford County DSS employees from investigating WOFF as far as legal ramifications, is that right? -Look forward to your next post on this issue…thank you for all of your wonderful insights on WOFF — FROM YOUR POST ABOVE: “In my opinion, this first part of #14 is the root of the overwhelming fear of and RCDSS official or worker as well as any other governmental agency to which this doctrine of WOFF has been preached. If we only read this part, we would have to say the case for the review of this document is pretty slim. However, we will give the second part of the paragraph and outline my contentions for the basis for a judicial review of this compromise – Settlement Agreement.

    “RCDSS maintains that it may investigate allegations concerning WFF religious practices of strong or blasting prayer, or discipleship, pursuant to the terms of this Settlement Agreement.”(emphasis added)

    So, there is a ray of light that RCDSS may still investigate allegations concerning WOFF practice of strong or blasting prayer. This is hopeful for one main reason, since the affirmation and acceptance of this document- the internal dynamics of “strong or blasting prayer” have grown to include hitting, slapping and in some cases punching the one receiving the prayer. I sincerely believe that any reasonable judicial body would find that conduct as not considered safe or allowable as a protected religious practice. What do you think? The rules of engagement, as I will call them outlined in the rest of the document for the most part are so impractical- it is laughable. I can say with a high degree of assuredness that the attorneys involved in the hammering out of this compromise did not foresee the changes in what now constitutes strong or blasting prayer and for sure had not lived inside WOFF and become familiar with the dangers of life in that group. So again, what was intended as a cure has in practice become the disease. We will discuss what can be done to reverse this in a future post.”

  2. AJ,

    There are plans to expound more on this topic. Thank you for reading and asking for more.

    John

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