A Rutherford County church said former church members' accounts of emotional and physical abuse mentioned in an Associated Press article are false and that the church does not condone or allow abuse in any form.
43 ex-congregants of the Word of Faith Fellowship told The Associated Press that instead of finding inner peace and eternal life, they were regularly punched, smacked, choked, slammed to the floor or thrown through walls in the name of the Lord.
Even young children and babies were abused, according to the report, which was published Monday as an AP Exclusive.
The ex-congregants told reporters they also had to get permission from church leader Jane Whaley and other ministers before they could date or get married. Then, several months would go by before the newlyweds were allowed to have sex.
Married couples were also restricted to specific limitations when it came to love-making and creating unauthorized children.
The former church members said couples got caught breaking the rules could be publicly rebuked, beaten, or forced to separate.
The church denies wrongdoing and Pastors Sam and Jane Whaley released a statement via their attorney, Joshua Farmer.
We are shocked and saddened to learn of the false allegations made against our church and its pastors by certain former members and reported in a recent Associated Press article authored by Mitch Weiss. We do not condone or allow abuse – in any form – at our church. Period. These false allegations were predominantly made by members of an extended family, with one of its members currently facing several legal battles, both civil and criminal. We believe these allegations are carefully targeted and timed to prejudice the jury pool, put pressure on the judges and elected officials, and otherwise influence the public in an attempt to gain advantage in these legal cases. The allegations of this small group of people should be viewed in contrast to the number of faithful members in our large congregation. It is curious – and revealing – that those now speaking out have sat on their allegations for several years and only speak out at what they perceive to be an advantageous time. If our church is such an abusive place, why did several of the attorneys quoted in Mr. Weiss's article allow their children to continue to attend our church and school for months after they withdrew from membership in the church? Further, it is notable that one of the most vehement critics quoted in the article routinely insisted that his infant daughter be cared for daily by the very individuals he now accuses of heinous abuse. False allegations have been made against our church in the past. Investigations at several levels of government have been conducted. We have been exonerated at every point. Although Mr. Weiss's article references his review of various legal documents, it fails to educate the reader on these exonerations. We remain hopeful that the public will see through these fabrications and see them for what they are. Sam &
-Jane Whaley, Pastors, Word of Faith Fellowship
-Joshua Farmer, Attorney, Farmer & Morris Law
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