Judge says religious group is cult-like

The News and Observer, North Carolina/March 17, 2009

Venessa Mills, the Wake County mother whose three children were ordered by a judge to attend public schools, is a member of a religious group that former members describe as cult-like, the judge said today in a written order. In addition, Mills has alienated the children from their father and other relatives, the judge wrote.

Wake District Court Judge Ned Mangum had ruled on March 6 that it would be in the best interests of Venessa Mills' children to go to public school this fall.

The ruling, in an ongoing divorce case between Venessa and husband Thomas Mills, has sparked national attention from conservative groups who maintain Mangum has overstepped his bounds.

Among other provisions, the written order says the parents will have joint custody of the children and that both parents can "practice their own religion and expose children to same."

Today's written order amplified Mangum's reasons for ordering the change in schooling. It goes into significant detail about the Washington State-based Sound Doctrine Church, describing Venessa Mills as a member.

The order quotes people named as former members of Sound Doctrine who describe the institution as abusive, controlling, practicing brainwashing and run by fear and manipulation.

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