The Digital Courier, May 22, 2003
By JAMES LEWIS, Daily Courier Staff Writer
SPINDALE — A dozen, rain-soaked, sign-carrying protesters greeted members of The Word of Faith Fellowship as they arrived for Wednesday evening services.
The signs, carried by area residents and former members of the organization, included slogans such as “Free the Children”, “Freedom”, “Enough is Enough”, “God Have Mercy on Word of Faith” and “Blasting is Abuse.”
Area resident Dwayne Logan said he held up his sign along busy Oakland Road at the Old Flynn Road intersection because he was supporting his friends.
“God is for family, not against family,” Logan said, referring to ongoing child custody cases involving the WOFF.
The protesters’ efforts didn’t stop WOFF members — and leader Jane Whaley — from turning down Old Flynn Road and into the organization’s campus where services are held several nights each week.
But the display did draw horn honking from apparently supportive motorists and attention from some members of the WOFF who sat in cars across the road on church property.
Other church members apparently took photographs of the protesters from inside a house; what appeared to be camera flashes could be seen re-flecting in the windows of the house.
WOFF members also called Spindale police officers, who arrived and ad-vised protesters to stay on public property before watching the situation for a few minutes and leaving.
Many of the demonstrators said they came in support of Shana Muse, a Florida woman who has been involved in a five-month custody battle over her four children. Her two boys and two girls now reside with a WOFF minister and his wife, Kent and Brooke Covington. A court hearing is set for Friday when a judge is expected to hear from the Department of Social Services which alleges the children are being abused and neglected.
Muse was at the protest, holding up a sign which read, “Jane Whaley Set My Family Free.”
Muse’s co-worker Kay Newton said she came to show support for her friend.
“I think it’s a shame the legal system has taken so long to do anything and I haven’t seen much yet,” Newton said. “Jane Whaley is not God. There is only one supreme being and one day he’s coming to get his children.”
Jennifer Gibson and Angela Allen, who also are Muse’s coworkers, said, “We are suppoert her to get her children back.”
Another woman, who was carrying a sign which read “Allow Freedom of Mind” and refused to give her name said, “I think there should be something done about it.”
WOFF, founded more than two decades ago, has been at the center of increasing scrutiny by the media and authorities as many former members have alleged the organization practices severe corporal punishment and raised concerns about a form of prayer called blasting.
The blasting, according to former members, involves organization members surrounding a child or adult and then chanting and screaming in a high-pitched, shrill voice at the person to drive out demons and devils. The ritual can go on for hours at a time, former members say.
WOFF, which has active affiliate churches in several states and countries including Brazil, operates in a closed society with members of the organization’s leadership having control over nearly every facet of members’ lives, former WOFF members say.
Earlier this year, two separate civil lawsuits were filed by former WOFF members alleging they were victims of “intentional infliction of emotional distress” while members of the congregation.
One of the plaintiffs in those cases, Holly Hamrick, was holding a sign at the demonstration Wednesday.
“What is it going to take for the people of this county to wake up and realize the seriousness of what’s going on over there,” Hamrick said.