A church with a troubled history in Spindale, North Carolina won’t return the minor children of a former member, reports The Herald-Jornal.

The “Word of Faith Fellowship” has been called a “cult” and is led by Jane Whaley. Former members say Whaley rules over her flock like a dictator, reports The Daily Courier.

Shana Muse left the group in September and eventually sought help through a mental health facility established for recovering cult members called “Wellspring Retreat.”

But church members under Whaley’s control persuaded Muse to leave her four minor children behind. They even drafted a document to essentially take possession of the kids. It is doubtful that such an agreement apparently made under duress is legally binding.

However, legal authorities in Spindale, a small community that includes 400 of Whaley’s followers, have chosen so far to do nothing. They have refused to assist the mother who wants to pick up her children. Something of a standoff has developed, as Ms. Muse refuses to leave town quietly without her family.

The very idea that a church organization could exercise such power over a family is outrageous. No matter what the District Attorney and police say in Spindale, there is nothing that can rationalize their failure to reunite this family.

The flimsy agreement cited by church members cannot possibly trump a mother’s right to exercise existing legal custody over her own minor children. It is unthinkable that Whaley or her church somehow has the power to supercede this mother’s rights.

As the machinery of due process grinds at a snail’s pace in Spindale perhaps Whaley’s people can be understood, after all they are “cult” members under the influence of a charismatic leader. But what about the behavior of the civil authorities who are certainly not “brainwashed”?

There is no excuse for public officials standing idly by and not helping this mother. After all, it’s their job isn’t it? And by not fulfilling their designated duties they are simply enabling Whaley by default.


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