From all over the world, they flocked to this tiny town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lured by promises of inner peace and eternal life. What many found instead: years of terror — waged in the name of the Lord.
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.
Victims of the violence included pre-teens and toddlers — even crying babies, who were vigorously shaken, screamed at and sometimes smacked to banish demons.
"I saw so many people beaten over the years. Little kids punched in the face, called Satanists," said Katherine Fetachu, 27, who spent nearly 17 years in the church.
Word of Faith Fellowship, an evangelical church with hundreds of members in North Carolina and branches in other countries, also subjected members to a practice called "blasting" — an ear-piercing verbal onslaught often conducted in hours-long sessions meant to cast out devils.
Apparently this constant assault was directed by the church's controlling leader, Jane Whaley, who appointed herself a kind of dictator, controlling every aspect of her congregant's lives. Including whether they could have children or not.
And oh yes there was of course sexual assault on some of the children as well.
Once again this is another reminder that even seemingly intelligent people can allow themselves to suffer incredible abuse and manipulation after surrendering their critical thinking skills and accepting everything on faith alone.
I think that the majority of us would have left this "church" the minute that somebody put their hands on us, or we witnessed them putting their hands on others.
And yet many of these people stayed for years of physical and mental abuse, why?
Faith, that's why. Good old fashioned, superstitious, barbaric, faith.