Church couple included in case

The Digital Courier, June 28, 2003
http://thedigitalcourier.com/

By JERRY STENSLAND Daily Courier Staff Writer

RUTHERFORDTON — The waiting continues for Shana Muse, a Florida woman who has moved to Rutherford County while 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 Word of Faith Fellowship minister Kent Covington and his wife, Brooke.

A Friday court hearing in a case filed by the Department of Social Services brought out numerous supporters of Muse, but little resolution to a case that continues on parallel tracks with a custody case also being processed in civil court.

A new court date of July 18 was set after Judge David Fox ruled Friday that the Covingtons should be a party to the DSS petition to place the children in state custody.

“Do people die from a broken heart,” asked Muse after Friday’s delay, the second in the case. Muse is in the awkward position of rooting for DSS to take custody of her children.

“How many mothers do you know who want their children in DSS care,” she asked. “I just want my children away from those heathens (at WOFF).”

DSS contends that Muse’s children — through her 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 Friday’s scheduled hearing on the DSS petition. Hix contended that the Covington’s, 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 Greenway and Hensley’s arguments.

Fox cited an agreement, signed by Muse and the Covington’s be-fore Judge Robert Cilley at the end of 2002, which gave the Covingtons temporary custody and Muse visitation rights.

Greenway said the actions of Hix were meant to delay the proceedings adding, “We’re ready to go, the interests of the children are at stake.”

Hensley argued the law does not give custodians standing in a court case, unless there is a pre-existing finding that the mother is unfit.

Fox, however, said “not to join the Covingtons (in this case) would do violence to reason and common sense.”

Fox added that the only way the decision of the court could have weight against the Covingtons was for them to be a party in the case.

Greenway questioned the judge, asking what would be done if Muse had left the children with a crack dealer. Fox said he would rule the same way if Judge Cilley had ordered temporary custody to the crack dealer.

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 this time.

Prior to and during the court proceedings, about a dozen people gathered to support Muse and protest the practices of the WOFF.

Multiple signs were posted and flyers were handed out entitled “Knowledge is Power” listing the businesses in which the WOFF is involved and asking the public not to support those businesses.

Phil Kronzer, founder of the Phillip J. Kronzer Foundation for Religious Research, attended the hearing. Kronzer, who lives in California, is helping Muse with her legal expenses. The foundation exists to help those leaving religious cults with legal expenses and exit counseling. Krozner’s wife remains inside a Catholic cult.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday June 28, 2003.
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