The former members of a church in Spindale, North Carolina are urging the state to take legal action to overturn a court settlement that they say has limited child abuse investigations involving the church and its leaders.
Former congregants of Word of Faith Fellowship, which I have written about previously, are asking for John Carroll, the director of the Rutherford County child protection agency, to resign. They allege that he pushed for the 2005 settlement and that he failed to protect children from abuse at the hands of the church.
Word of Faith Fellowship was co-founded by Jane Whaley, and under her leadership the church now has about 750 congregants in Spindale, and another 2,000 members across the world. Dozens of former members have come forward to say that congregants are regularly beaten and abused to “purify” sinners.
My previous coverage of this deranged sect was about the case of a gay man being kidnapped and beaten by several members of the church.
The 2005 settlement limited the available options officials had for investigation into child abuse as well as additional limitations for what could actually trigger an abuse investigation. According to an email in 2005 from the attorney general’s office, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services were warned that the settlement could have a “far reaching impact”, but the department agreed to the terms of the settlement anyway.
Former members of the church have placed the blame on Carroll for agreeing to the settlement, and for placing the church members and their children in danger by not acting on child abuse allegations.
The settlement was the result of a lawsuit that had been filed against the agency in 2003 by several members of the church who said that they were being targeted because of their religious beliefs. Because apparently beating children should be a protected form of worship.
While Carroll has consistently avoided discussing the suit, he has tried to maintain that it does not interfere with the agency’s ability to protect children. But the agreement prohibits social workers from asking children about religious beliefs and practices. Considering that one of Word of Faith Fellowship’s core practices is “blasting”, which is when church members gather around a fellow congregant and yell at them to drive out demons, sometimes for hours, I think that Carroll may be mistaken about the settlement’s impact.
North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services has stated to reporters earlier this month that it did not support Carroll’s decision and that it is working with Rutherford County social services to properly investigate all alleged cases of child abuse.
The state Department of Health and Human Services told the AP this month that it did not support Carroll’s decision to sign the compromise and that it is working with Rutherford County social services authorities to ensure they follow up on all child abuse allegations.
The fact that defenseless children are being victimized by this church is infuriating and vile. Hopefully the people at the Department of Health and Human Services will step up and do their job.