Mother ruled in contempt

RUTHERFORDTON –The ongoing saga of former Word of Faith Fellowship member Shana Muse continued Tuesday as District Court Judge Athena Brooks ruled that Muse was in contempt of a visitation agreement.

Muse was in court this week after the WOFF couple, who now have custody of her two male children, claimed she violated court orders after a recent alleged incident in Charlotte.

Brooke and Kent Covington, WOFF ministers, accused Muse in a civil case of violating a standing custody agreement after Muse was arrested and charged with simple assault and battery and misdemeanor assault on a child under the age of 12 in Charlotte.

Muse denied any wrongdoing during the visitation with her children and sister in Charlotte in June. Charges were filed alleging that she pushed her sister and strangled one of her two boys.

Muse was not found guilty of the charges in criminal court in Charlotte and two Charlotte Police officers testified Tuesday that they could not find cause to believe that Muse had assaulted her child.

Muse has four children, two older girls — who have been emancipated and are considered legal adults — and two younger boys.

All four children are were removed from the Covington’s home and placed in foster homes in October 2003 after a court ruling found the WOFF environment to be abusive. That verdict was overturned by the North Carolina Court of Appeals which said the Rutherford County Department of Social Services did not properly bring the case to trial.

The two boys were returned to the custody of the Covingtons after the Court of Appeals’ ruling. Muse had left her children in the custody of the couple after she decided to leave the controversial Spindale-based organization and seek counseling at an Ohio center noted for cult deprogramming.

Muse signed a temporary custody agreement with the couple when she left, but has been actively trying to get her children back since.

The DSS effort to get her children out of the WOFF failed and Muse has revived a civil custody suit to get her children back.

Two of Muse’s sisters, Cindy Cordes and Suzanne Cooper, are WOFF members and have taken part of various visitations over the years and have been involved in the care of the children.

Cordes was with Muse and the children in Charlotte occurred.

Muse testified Tuesday that her children and Cordes were with her at a hotel in Charlotte when one of the boys became upset over a science kit that Muse had given him.

The gift was from a third party and Muse testified that she told the boy that he could play with it when he was with her but that he could not take it back to the Covington’s house.


Be sure to evaluate this story in light of its background.

Muse said that the boy became angry and threw the science kit onto the bed and she restrained him by holding his left arm with her right hand.

As she restrained her son, her other son accused her of choking the boy and Cordes was not in the room, Muse said. When the accusation was made, Cordes and the two boys left the hotel room and the police arrived soon after.

Muse testified that the son who accused her of choking her other son said “now we can leave,” as he left the room.

DSS and various former WOFF members have over the years accused the WOFF leadership of practices that are abusive.

Those allegations include the use of strong prayer or blasting, where a person is usually seated in the center of a group of people who use loud screams or sounds to force demons out of the seated subject.

Court testimony has revealed that most church members, including children, have been blasted.

DSS Social Worker Andrea Denning, who had the case of the two boys and supervised several visits between the boys and their mother, testified that she saw “no sign that Muse was unfit to have overnight visitation,” with her children.

Brooks ruled that Muse was in contempt of two parts of the temporary visitation agreement.

Brooks said that Muse admitted by her own testimony to having a conversation about religion with her sister within earshot of the children, which was a violation of a section of the agreement.

Brooks also said that when Muse restrained the boy by the arm and “had conversation in such a loud manner that security was called,” she violated another part of the agreement.

Word of Faith Fellowship
The Word of Faith Fellowship is an abusive church. Its teachings and practices fall so far outside those of normal, Biblical Christianity, that this church should be considered to be, theologically, a cult of Christianity. Sociologically, the WOFF has many cultic characteristics as well.

“The defendant had the ability to comply with the court order by keeping her mouth shut and not grabbing the boy,” said Brooks.

Brooks alluded to testimony that the boys gave in a private session where the audience was asked to leave the courtroom.

In a past trial, one of the boys answered a question on the witness stand by saying “they did not tell me how to answer that,” implying a degree of coaching from the WOFF or WOFF’s lawyers.

Brooks ordered that Muse have a psychological evaluation.

Brooks also ruled that Muse could continue to visit her children under the supervision of two people. She suggested that the boys be allowed to pick who they wanted to bring with them and that Muse also bring someone with her to avoid further conflicts.

“If ya’ll want to bring video tapes and record it, we will not have this again,” said Brooks.

Brooks ruled that the science kit be given to Muse’s child that day and if any part of it was missing that someone should alert her office.

Muse was visibly shaken by the verdict and the audience members who support WOFF were obviously happy. One person leaving the courtroom said, “Brooks was a judge today.”

“All I want to say is: I love my boys and I miss them,” said Muse after the trial.

Staffwriter Jerry Stensland contributed to this report.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Daily Courier, USA
Sep. 28, 2005
Josh Humphries, Daily Courier Staff Writer

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday September 29, 2005.
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