HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: JOY, PAIN, HOPE
December 25, 2003
By Toby Westerman
Copyright 2003 International News Analysis Today
Lacy Wien and Shana Muse - now free from physical or mental restraints - are telling of their struggle and eventual independence from a North Carolina religious denomination called the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF).
The World of Faith Fellowship is a controversial group based in the small town of Spindale, North Carolina, where it enjoys significant support. Repeated accusations against WOFF, however, have received considerable coverage from the local press, especially the Daily Courier.
The Kronzer Foundation, one of the leading non-profit organizations devoted to assisting those caught in the web of cult abuse and control, provided significant support to the women in their personal and legal struggles with WOFF.
While both Wien and Muse are now able to celebrate Christmas away from unwanted psychological and physical interference, Muse is still struggling to regain custody of her four children. When she finally decided to leave the WOFF compound, Muse entrusted her children with a WOFF pastor and his wife. After separating from the group, Muse requested that her children be returned to her. The pastor and WOFF refused.
Rutherford County Department of Social Services, the local social services provider, assisted Muse in the recovery of her children, but in an indirect manner. Instead of directly confronting the locally influential WOFF, Rutherford County Social Services - with Muse's full cooperation - charged Muse with child abuse, basing the claim on abusive actions which allegedly took place at the WOFF compound at the time Muse was a member.
The legal maneuvering succeeded, with a local judge ruling that the environment created by WOFF was abusive. Muse's children were removed and placed in temporary foster care.
WOFF, however, has appealed the ruling, and counter-sued Rutherford Social Services, claiming that WOFF's religious rights had been violated. WOFF is also known to have also obtained the services of a prominent New York attorney who has assisted the Church of Scientology in its legal battles.
The legal situation recently become even more difficult for Muse. INA Today has learned that not all of the Muse children want to return home. Muse's two daughters, both in their mid-teens, have hired lawyers to file suit for their return to WOFF, according to sources close to the Muse case. Muse's two younger boys want to return to their mother.
During the Muse trial, Wien testified to the abuse suffered by members of WOFF, including an alleged attack upon her by the organization's leader, Jane Whaley. Wien later filed assault charges against Whaley, as well as a civil suit against Whaley, WOFF, and other church members.
Among Wien's allegations is that WOFF inflicts a punishment known as "blasting" upon its members. According to Wien, a wrongdoer who is deemed in need of "blasting" is surrounded by WOFF members, who then begin to shout and loudly moan in hopes of driving out "demons" from the identified miscreant.
The North Carolina court cases surrounding WOFF promise to go on for many months, if not years, and those claiming abuse at the hands of WOFF face the formidable legal resources of a group called by critics a cult using mind control to dominate its membership.
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