Learner responds to accusations about ADAs affiliated with Word of Faith Fellowship church

Hickory Record, North Carolina/March 8, 2017

​By Tom Neas

Newton -- On Monday, the Associated Press released a second article in a series about several investigations targeting the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale.

Mitch Weiss, the author, cites former members of the church, who accuse two assistant district attorneys from the 25th District of coaching church members on how to answer questions during the investigations.

The ADAs, Frank Webster and Chris Back, work in Burke County under District Attorney David Learner. Both of the men are ministers in the church, and Webster is related to the sect’s leader Jane Whaley, according to the article.

Learner said Monday he was aware of the article, but not aware of any pending investigation.

“Regardless of what was in the article, to the best of my knowledge, there has been no complaint filed with the State Bar, and there are no criminal charges coming out of this,” Learner said. “It seems to me, that is the appropriate forum, not in the media, to determine if there was some wrong doing. If someone is making these allegations, they are welcome to follow up on it, get it investigated.”

Learner declined to comment further, calling the issue a personnel matter.

“It is not my judicial district, it is some other district attorney’s district to decide if any criminal actions took place,” Learner said.

Learner said his office wants to reassure individuals coming in to court that his office will work to ensure their constitutional rights.

“My standard is totally consistent, and has been since day one,” Learner said, “I expect everybody coming into our courts to be treated fairly, equally and impartially.”

A statement issued Feb. 27 by the sect leaders Sam and Jane Whaley denies the accusations and highlights past exonerations of the group. This statement was released about an earlier AP article written by the same author as Monday’s article.

“The allegations of this small group of people should be viewed in contrast to the number of faithful members in our large congregation,” the release states. “Investigations at several levels of government have been conducted. We have been exonerated at every point.”

The nonprofit Families against Cult Teachings have made a copy of the Word of Faith’s “dos and don’ts” available online. The full list includes 151 rules, 146 of which are “don’ts.”

Some of the “don’ts” include prohibiting the celebration of Easter or Christmas, no romantic partners without Jane’s approval and to never “question Jane’s authority to run WOFF.” Further restrictions include prohibiting any media not approved by Jane, and not to read the bible “too much.”

One of the five “dos” is “you will be required to smile on command.”

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

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