Bernard “Ben” McGee filed a motion claiming his former wife, Pam Sharp, was in contempt of the ruling which gave joint custody of the couple’s three children. The primary residence of the children remained with Sharp in the Spindale-based church.
The ruling, made by Judge Randy Pool, specifically stated that the children were not to be subjected to a blasting or loud prayer, a controversial practice of WOFF in which a person is usually seated while a group of people surround the person and use loud screams or guttural sounds to force out demons.
Testimony was not completed Thursday and the domestic court hearing will resume on March 22.
McGee said the children have been subjected to blasting since Pool’s ruling.
Sharp acknowledged the children had participated in blasting, including as recently as Wednesday.
Sharp said, since a December 2003 Rutherford County Department of Social Services statement which did not substantiate any abuse at the time, she felt she was free to resume blasting.
“I told (DSS) it was my Constitutional right and their Constitutional right to decide how to pray,” said Sharp.
WOFF members consider the blasting a “strong prayer” in which people participate voluntarily.
“I would never deprive them of their freedom of religion and their right to pray and if (McGee) wanted to take us to court he could, but no one has a right to tell us how to pray,” added Sharp.
Sharp said she withheld the children from blasting from the time of the Pool’s ruling to the December 2003 DSS letter.
“We did get the clearing and I wouldn’t stop praying for them,” said Sharp about her interpretation of the DSS letter which did not find any abuse at the time.
In February 2003, Sharp signed a statement on a safety assessment by DSS which stated that Sharp agreed to not subject the children to inappropriate discipline through blasting.
Sharp said it was a mistake to sign that statement, but felt the subsequent DSS letter gave her the freedom to resume blasting.
On cross examination, McGee’s attorney Laura Powell asked Sharp if she understood that Pool’s ruling in 2000 was still valid.
Sharp said she thought the DSS finding superseded the court ruling.
Powell told Sharp it did not and asked if Sharp continued having the children blasted even after McGee filed the contempt of court motion in October 2004.
Sharp said she had and acknowledged blasting took place Wednesday.
Sharp was represented by attorney Tom Hix who tried to delineate between any blasting and the “inappropriate discipline” as identified in the 2003 statement signed by Sharp.
He asked Sharp if blasting was every used as a disciplinary tool, and Sharp said it never was.
Pool’s ruling, however, was a more broad prohibition.
“Neither parent shall allow the children to be exposed to blasting, also known as loud prayer, nor shall the children be permitted to engage in blasting (or loud prayer), or the gesturing identified on the video tape exhibit, by either parent,” the 2000 ruling states noting a secret video of a blasting session obtained by the television show Inside Edition.
Hix questioned aspects of the 2000 ruling, stating that there was no opportunity for appeal of the decision.
On Thursday, Judge Mark Powell said he was obliged to follow Pool’s ruling and said, even though it was a temporary order, it can be effectively permanent.
“(Pool’s ruling) is the law of this case and I can’t disregard any part of that order,” said Judge Powell.
McGee, who left the WOFF after he and Sharp separated, said he sees blasting as harmful to his children.
“I believe it is unnecessary; I believe it is abusive, coercive and just bad,” said McGee.
Both sides went over various aspects of a psychological examination of the children made by a psychologist from Asheville.
That report indicated the children were suffering from anxiety and depression because of a variety of factors including the blasting as well as behaviors of McGee.
Hix put Rutherfordton psychiatrist Dr. Robert Crummie on the stand to talk about his clinic’s evaluation of the children in 2001.
Crummie said he did not find any signs of depression or anxiety in the children, except for what would be expected by children whose parents are separating.
Crummie stated his take on blasting.
“It was our opinion, my opinion and my opinion after talking with my wife and her opinion also, that this has a healthy effect on the children,” said Dr. Crummie adding that the children told him they liked the blasting. “This was something they needed and there was a lot of love in it.”
Crummie’s wife, Ann, also practices at their Raintree Clinic.
Crummie said he does not consider the WOFF a dangerous place.
“I don’t see the Word of Faith as being that different from an evangelical church,” he said. “I thought it was healthy for the kids, I think they are kind to take in people that others will not take in. The children seem to be given a lot stability by being in the church in my opinion.”
Crummie said he had personal experiences in other evangelical churches with practices that including singing, dancing and speaking in tongues and didn’t see the WOFF as much different from them.
He did say on cross examination that he has not personally witnessed the blasting, but said his clinical examination of the children did not reveal any ill effects.
The original case between McGee and Sharp, known then as Pam McGee, was the first in which a court found that certain practices by the WOFF were harmful to children.
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