SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — Jamey Anderson vividly recalls being a skinny kid trembling on the floor of a dank, windowless storage room, waiting in terror for the next adult to open the door.
SPINDALE, North Carolina (AP) — When Rutherford County's child protection agency seeks to investigate allegations of abuse at Word of Faith Fellowship, it runs smack into two major obstacles: a habitual lack of cooperation from church members and a court-ordered compromise that limits what can trigger an inquiry and how social workers can question minors.
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — When Andre Oliveira answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18, his passport and money were confiscated by church leaders — for safekeeping, he said he was told.
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — From all over the world, they flocked to this tiny town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lured by promises of inner peace and eternal life. What many found instead: years of terror — waged in the name of the Lord.
SPINDALE, North Carolina (AP) — As a court-appointed advocate for two foster boys, it was Nancy Burnette's job to ensure they were in good hands. So as part of her casework, she visited Word of Faith Fellowship, the evangelical church they attended with the couple seeking to adopt them.
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — At least a half-dozen times over two decades, authorities investigated reports that members of a secretive evangelical church were being beaten. And every time, according to former congregants, the orders came down from church leaders: They must lie to protect the sect.
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.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A veteran social worker accused of coaching congregants and their children on what to say during a 2015 child abuse investigation of her secretive religious sect has resigned, an attorney for a child welfare agency said Friday.
A district attorney has asked the state to investigate two assistant prosecutors after an Associated Press story that quoted former congregants of a North Carolina church as saying the men derailed criminal probes into allegations of abuse by sect leaders.
David Learner said Wednesday that he wants the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the accusations against his employees, who are members of the evangelical Word of Faith Fellowship church.
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — When it comes to relationships, marriage and sex, Word of Faith Fellowship members must follow strict and unusual rules — or risk severe punishment, former members say.
Some of the edicts:
— Congregants need permission from leader Jane Whaley and other ministers to get married, and it then can take months — or even a year — before the newlyweds are allowed to have sex.
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — She looks like a successful businesswoman, with her neatly coifed blonde hair, St. John business suit, flashy diamond rings and jewelry dangling from her wrist. And she has devoted followers — an entourage — that hang on her every word and carry out her orders without question.
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — Newcomers to the Word of Faith Fellowship live by a list of strict rules for daily life, which sect leader Jane Whaley says God revealed to her, former members say. They include:
— Followers are banned from celebrating birthdays and religious or secular holidays, including Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July.
— Congregants are prohibited from watching television and movies, reading newspapers, or eating in restaurants that play music or serve alcohol.
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — 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.
SPINDALE, North Carolina (AP) — When Randy Fields' construction company faced potential ruin because of the cratering economy, he pleaded with his pastor at Word of Faith Fellowship church to reduce the amount of money he was required to tithe every week.
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — For two years, Matthew Fenner said he pleaded with authorities to investigate his allegations that a group of fellow congregants at the Word of Faith Fellowship church had punched, slapped and choked him to expel his "homosexual demons."
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina district attorney says two assistant prosecutors no longer work for him amid charges they sabotaged investigations into abuse in their secretive religious sect.
Ten former members of the Word of Faith Fellowship church say they have been contacted by U.S. federal and state authorities investigating allegations of abuse, forced labor and visa fraud after a series of Associated Press stories about the North Carolina-based evangelical sect, which has branches in Brazil and Ghana and affiliations in other countries.
SAO JOAQUIM DE BICAS, Brazil (AP) — At the Word of Faith Fellowship churches in the Brazilian cities of Sao Joaquim de Bicas and Franco da Rocha, the signs of broken families are everywhere: parents separated from their children, siblings who no longer speak, grandparents who wonder if they will ever know their grandchildren.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Every day before work, Liliane Souza says, she and three dozen fellow workers at a Brazilian picture-framing factory affiliated with the Word of Faith Fellowship church were obligated to pray.
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — An evangelical North Carolina sect that is the focus of an ongoing Associated Press investigation has issued a statement denying former members' allegations that they were brought to the U.S. from congregations in Brazil and forced to work for little or no pay.