The Word of Faith Fellowship Church in North Carolina has already had its share of very bad press. Labelled a ‘cult’, with thriving support groups for ex-members, this particular church has a pretty bad rap. However, being labelled as cultish isn’t too hard for devotees to shrug off, as they can simply claim to be misunderstood. But there’s no way to shrug off claims of child abuse. Those kinds of allegations, unfortunately, have a way of sticking like glue.
The Church, which was founded in 1978, has been the subject of abuse allegations for decades, so this is actually not new. A court case that took place in 2000 in Rutherford County saw numerous former members stepping up as witnesses and sharing some of the church’s innermost practices and treatment of children. Testimony given in that case made repeated reference to “the rod of discipline.”
The current story, however, is far more concerning. It includes allegations that two assistant prosecutors who are members of the church were conspiring to undermine an investigation into the church’s practices. According to numerous media sources, a North Carolina district attorney has asked that the State Bureau of Investigation look into two assistant prosecutors who are alleged to have derailed criminal probes into abuse allegations against church leaders.
The allegations were made public in a story published by the Associated Press. Nine former members of the Word of Faith Church claim that Assistant District Attorney Frank Webster and Assistant District Attorney Chris Back, who are both active members of the congregation, provided help to the church in order to undermine the state’s investigation into possible child abuse crimes.
According to the former members who are speaking out, Webster and Back both provided legal advice, assisted with strategy sessions, and even participated in a mock trial to help prepare four other members of the congregation for trial. Three of those four were eventually acquitted, and charges against the fourth person were finally dropped.
Former members tells stories of abuse and lies within the church.
In addition, the former members claim that Webster and Back worked behind the scenes to frustrate a social services (CPS) investigation into possible child abuse. Claims have been made that Jane Whaley, who is one of the leaders of the church, told members in a meeting to lie to police when questioned about the abuse. It is said that both Webster and Back were present for these meetings.
Under North Carolina law, a prosecutors may not provide legal advice, or be involved in any way in outside cases. Any violations of these rules can lead to punishment, including ethics charges, dismissal, or disbarment. North Carolina law also specifies that a prosecutor may not offer legal advice in an ongoing investigation in order to help someone avoid prosecution that could lead to criminal charges. Webster and Back are no longer employed by the Prosecutor’s office.
Although this story takes place in North Carolina and not Michigan, where we practice, it is a very good example of the fact that the Justice System is not impervious to error and influence. This is why it is so important to have a highly skilled and experienced defense attorney on your side, ensuring that your rights are fully protected, and that your best interests are being represented in all legal dealings.
If you or a loved one have been accused of abuse or neglect of a child in Michigan, you are going to need help from a top tier defense attorney. So don’t waste time searching for help, call us immediately at 800-576-6035. An attorney is standing by 24/7 to take your call and provide you with helpful legal advice that works for your unique situation.