Jane Whaley and her husband Sam, founders of the “Word of Faith Fellowship” (WOFF) in Spindale, North Carolina, have been ordered to appear in court, reports Associated Press.

The Whaley’s church has been called a “cult” and has a troubled history.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) is now investigating allegations of child abuse regarding the group and it seems the Whaleys are not exactly cooperating.

The controversial church is also involved in a struggle with a mother and former member who wants her minor children released to her custody. They are now being held by WOFF members.

Followers of the Whaley group once alleged that the mother Shana Muse abused her children, but DSS cleared the parent.

It remains to be seen if the Whaleys can pass through the same process without problems.

The question appears to be can Shana Muse receive justice in Spindale?

Authorities in the small North Carolina community have not helped the mother of four regain her children from a purported “cult.”

Muse who escaped the “cult” and then went to a well-known licensed mental health facility for former cult members called Wellspring Retreat in Albany, Ohio wants her children out of the Word of Faith Fellowship. But Whaley and her followers seem to think they know what’s best for Muse’s kids and want to keep them.

It has been said that “silence is assent” and the sound of silence is deafening in Spindale.

District Attorney Jeff Hunt has decided to effectively do nothing to compel the Word of Faith Fellowship, its members or leader to return Muse’s four minor children, even though she is their custodial parent.

Instead the DA relies upon a dubious document obtained “under duress” according to Muse, through which church members assert a claim of contractual custody. Essentially, they say Muse gave them her children under contract.

However, a family law attorney in North Carolina says, “The contract would not likely hold up in court,” reports GoUpstate.com.

But authorities in Spindale have decided to give this “contract” every possible consideration.

It seems that in the town of Spindale Jane Whaley has considerable influence. Some say through the votes, businesses and contacts of her church’s 400 active members, she effectively wields disproportionate power in this relatively small community.

The sheriff and District Attorney both seem reluctant to do anything that might potentially upset Ms. Whaley or her followers.

The local police chief even claims the flimsy paperwork signed by Muse may be “legally binding,” reports GoUpstate.com.

Within this apparent vacuum of ethical and/or decisive civil authority Whaley and her people have so far gotten their way. But it is unlikely they will ultimately prevail in court.

The impoverished mother was at first helpless to fight the “cult” leader without the money to hire a lawyer, but now a coalition of churches have decided to help her.

The real question is this. Does a religious leader’s authority somehow trump parental rights?

Some in Spindale seem to think they do. Or are at least afraid to say otherwise.

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.