The Daily Courier, July 17, 2003
From staff reports
RUTHERFORDTON — DSS goes back to court today for a hearing on its petition to take custody of four children currently in the care of a family in the Word of Faith Fellowship.
A hearing will be held Friday in the case of the children of Shana Muse, a former member of the WOFF who is now attempting to regain custody of her four children.
The children, who are between the ages of 8 and 16, remain in the care of a WOFF minister Kent Covington and his wife, Brooke.
A June court hearing in a case filed by the Department of Social Services brought out numerous supporters of Muse, but no resolution in a case that continues on parallel tracks with a separate custody case also being processed in civil court.
The July 18 court date was set after Judge David Fox ruled in June that the Covingtons should be a party to the DSS petition to place the children in state custody.
DSS contends that Muse’s action — of leaving the children with the Covingtons — constitutes abuse and neglect because of the unusual practices of the WOFF which the DSS petition, filed in May, calls “grossly inappropriate procedures to modify the children’s behavior.”
The Covington’s attorney Tom Hix filed a motion to intervene prior to the June hearing on the DSS petition. Hix contended that the Covingtons, who were not named as a party in the petition, should be a legal party to the proceedings.
DSS attorney Brad Greenway and Muse’s attorney Ed Hensley countered by saying the DSS complaint is against the practices of the church, not the Covingtons as individuals and, therefore, the Covingtons need not be a party in the case.
“I have difficulty with the concept that the people who have custody of the children with some legal standing are not necessary parties in the disposition of this case,” said Judge Fox in disagreeing with Greenway and Hensley’s arguments.
Fox cited an agreement, signed by Muse and the Covingtons before Judge Robert Cilley at the end of 2002, which gave the Covingtons temporary custody and Muse visitation rights.
“Not to join the Covingtons (in this case) would do violence to reason and common sense,” Fox said.
After ruling in favor of bringing the Covingtons in as a party to the case, discussion shifted to whether or not to join the stalled civil suit with this DSS case before Judge Fox.
Neither side expressed an interest in joining the legal actions at that time.