Critics say that, to the leaders of Remnant Fellowship, “mental illnesses are more sort of fabrications of a poor spiritual life where you are not in obedience to God.” Some suspect those Firm Beliefs may have led two Remnant parents to beat their child to death, instead of seeking professional help for him.
Reading his Bible for a TV crew, 8-year-old Josef Smith was the very model of obedience.
But the Smiths were a family in crisis, as the mother confided in a conference call with the women of her church.
He was very destructive,” Sonya Smith related last February. “Anything of mine he was trying to destroy. He strangled one of my babies, well, attempted to. He attempted to set the house on fire.”
In fact, investigators say the innocent-looking child called himself Legion, a term that means “many devils.” It’s a term that was familiar within their church, the Remnant Fellowship.
This family came to us for counsel,” Remnant Fellowship founder tells NewsChannel 5 chief investigative reporter Phil Williams.
The child was wild. You know, Phil, we help a lot of people every day, and we are going to get in trouble for it.”
But now his parents, Joseph and Sonya Smith, are charged with beating him to death.
Investigators say they had turned to the Remnant Fellowship with its message of strict discipline — instead of seeking professional help.
It seems to be thought by Remnant Fellowship leadership that these mental illnesses are more sort of fabrications of a poor spiritual life where you are not in obedience to God,” says former Remnant recruit Adam Brooks.
Brooks notes that, in Remnant’s own videos, depression and anti-depressants are equated with sin.
One of those testimonies came from Terri Phillips, who had been told by doctors that she had a chemical imbalance and needed medication.
When I dealt with the leaders, they were all saying, listen, she doesn’t need to be on these,” her husband David Phillips recalls.
Shamblin insists that she doesn’t tell her followers to give up their medication.
We don’t sit there and tell someone this is what you have to do,” she tells Phil Williams. “It’s not the drug that’s the problem. It’s the heart of man. It’s when we overmedicate ourselves.”
But in an Internet webcast from Remnant Fellowship, Shamblin tells her followers:
How would you like to find out all of us were on Prozac? … Then why in the world are you even beginning to think that’s OK for you?”
Later, she says:
Anyone that wants to stand up and say Get off Prozac — Ted Anger — get on up here.”
Terri Phillips says she was fine at first, because of the lingering effects of the medication and her spiritual high. Then, she began spinning out of control and realized she needed her medicine.
I was sneaking behind their backs taking it because I was desperate for my life,” she says. “I wanted to feel better again. I was thinking about suicide.”
Soon Remnant leaders found out.
Two of the men leaders actually said you get that medicine from her and you flush it, flush it down the toilet,” David Phillips says.
Did Remnant leadership ever encourage her husband to take her medicine away from her?” Phil Williams asks Shamblin.
But she and Remnant leader Ted Anger says they were only responding to the Phillips’ cries for help.
That was the advice given sure,” Anger says.
The advice given, knowing what they wanted, Phil,” Shamblin adds.
Phillips says her journal shows her turmoil, but Remnant leaders weren’t sympathetic about her depression.
In the Internet webcast, Anger chastises those members who were suffering from depression:
There is nothing to be concerned about. What’s the worst thing that happens? You die! So what? You go to heaven.”
Terri Phillips recalls, ”I was also feeling very guilty because I thought God hated me because I couldn’t be strong enough. I couldn’t pray enough. I couldn’t knock the demons out of my mind enough.”
She was just going overboard,” David adds. “Down on her face praying Oh, God, just relieve me of this pain that I’m in.”
Finally, Terri says she was near suicide.
I left church one Sunday and nobody had compassion for me, not one bit. They told me to stop crying, to just not feel sorry for myself and I ran to an ER and they admitted me.”
Brooks says he knows of some cases in which the admonition to give up medications “resulted in hospitalizations, which is not in the Remnant brochure, I can assure you.”
“Look at the results, Phil,” Shamblin replies. “Person after person coming off, person after person being set free.”
He kind of informed me there are true chemical imbalances and it’s not a sin like Remnant says it is,” David says.
Remnant’s critics say they fear most for children who may need professional help. “In a situation where physical discipline is the primary tool for getting kids in line, I worry a lot about that,” Brooks says.
Shamblin and other Remnant leaders insist they are not insensitive to mental health issues — that they have a psychologist on staff.
But there’s no evidence that their staff did anything — other than encourage the Smiths to get tougher on their troubled child.
Feb. 6, 2004