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Monday, February 27, 2017

"Relax, Jake. It's the Bible Belt."

Fake news outlets just keep reporting the truth.

The AP has uncovered a Spindale, North Carolina sex, slavery and abuse cult:
Congregants of the Word of Faith Fellowship were regularly punched, smacked, choked, slammed to the floor or thrown through walls in a violent form of deliverance meant to "purify" sinners by beating out devils, 43 former members told The Associated Press in separate, exclusive interviews. 
...The church's obsession with controlling sexual thoughts and "ungodly" carnal pleasure — especially lengthy interrogations of pre-teens and teens about masturbation — spilled into every aspect of congregants' lives, the former members say. 
And, they say, when allegations of sexual abuse arose within the church, Whaley not only didn't report it but tried to hide it. 
In 2012, in a three-hour conversation with a former congregant recorded without her knowledge, Whaley acknowledged she was aware of several instances of sexual abuse at Word of Faith. 
In one case involving two boys, she said she failed to report the incident "because it had all stopped, and they were serving Jesus, and I found out about it way later." She also said that "because of ministerial confidentiality, I don't have to." 
In fact, there is no such waiver for clergy in North Carolina. Whaley is required to report even allegations of abuse. 
On the recording, Whaley explained why she had kept secret the sexual abuse of "an older youth" by another church member, saying she'd asked the victim: "'Do you want me to go to someone and report it? I'll report it to the police.' And he said no because it would smear his name."

One of the former members interviewed by the AP said he was sexually assaulted by a church member in 2009, when he was 15. The man, whose name is not being used because the AP does not identify victims of sexual assault, said Whaley convinced him not to go to the authorities by telling him he would be forced to relive the terrible details in court. 
He said he didn't know then that Whaley was wrong when she warned him his "name would be in the newspapers. ... She said she was protecting me. She didn't want me to face an investigation. 
Another former member said he was molested by a male church leader but was "too ashamed" and scared how Whaley would react to tell anyone. He said he saw the same leader inappropriately touch several male teens living in the minister's house, but did not report those incidents for the same reasons. 
According to court records, a church leader was convicted in 1995 of molesting a 13-year-old girl placed in his home. Of that victim, Whaley said on the 2012 recording, "She was 13, but she looked 20." 
Whaley recounted telling the local district attorney that the girl was partially responsible for the abuse because she previously had been sexually assaulted by a family member and others. 
Whaley's teachings are rooted in the modern Word of Faith Movement, founded by the pastor Kenneth E. Hagin of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who preached the "prosperity gospel": Pray loud enough and God will answer your prayers. 
...There is little Whaley does not control at Word of Faith, the former followers said:

Members can't watch television, go to the movies, read newspapers or eat in restaurants that play music or serve alcohol. Men cannot grow beards, and no one can buy a house or even a car without permission.
Sexual thoughts and intercourse are considered "ungodly" or "unclean," so adult members need permission to date, get married and even have sex after marriage. Ministers dole out condoms because couples are not allowed to have children without Whaley's authorization. 
Several couples said they had to wait up to a year after their weddings before they were allowed to have sexual relations. 
Two former members said a 20-year-old woman was repeatedly smacked and punched by a church leader who blamed her late menstrual cycle on pregnancy, when she hadn't obtained church permission to have a child. In fact, the victim said she'd never had sex with her husband; they'd only kissed — once. 
"That was one of the worst beatings," said Rachael Bryant, 28, who left the church last year. "She started punching her in the chest, punching her in the stomach, slapping her in the face. It went on and on." 
Sixteen of the former members said they were hit or beaten by Whaley, including two who said she banged their heads against a wall repeatedly. Another 14 said they saw her smack or assault others — including grabbing crying babies at services and aggressively shaking them to drive away the demons. 
Tim Cornelius, 44, a nurse who left in 2013 after more than 20 years in the church, said that in the eyes of Word of Faith leaders, "The baby isn't hungry or needs to be changed. The baby is crying because they're possessed by a devil." 
Victims of the violence included pre-teens and toddlers — even crying babies, who were vigorously shaken, screamed at and sometimes smacked to banish demons.
Among other things, this led to community-theater productions of Lord of the Flies for Jesus:
"I can't tell you how many times, in the middle of class, one child will turn to the other and say they have demons and the others will surround the child," said Rebeca Melo, 28, who taught at the school until she left Word of Faith in 2015."They're thrown to the floor and they're beaten. We're told not to stop it," she said.
None of the local papers, including The Shelby Star, 25 miles down the road and owned by a hyper-conservative California chain of "real" media, was in on the reporting.

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