Ex-members say church uses power, lies to keep grip on kids

SPINDALE, North Carolina (AP) — An Associated Press investigation has found that members of an evangelical church have used deception and positions of authority to bring children into the congregation or keep them from leaving.

As a result, the AP found children have been introduced to sometimes violent practices that run counter to the laws designed to protect them.

Former members of the North Carolina-based Word of Faith Fellowship church say some parents have seen their children pried away and forced to live with ministers, often until adulthood.

In addition, three single mothers told the AP that a longtime Word of Faith member who was a county court clerk bypassed the foster system and won custody of their children, even though a judge called her conduct inappropriate.

The church called the allegations “preposterous.”