Oliveira, who fled the church last year, is one of 16 Brazilian former members who told the AP they were forced to work, often for no pay, and physically or verbally assaulted. The AP also reviewed scores of police reports and formal complaints lodged in Brazil about the church’s harsh conditions.
“They kept us as slaves,” Oliveira said, pausing at times to wipe away tears. “We were expendable. We meant nothing to them. Nothing. How can you do that to people — claim you love them and then beat them in the name of God?”
The Brazilians often spoke little English when they arrived, and many had their passports seized.
Many males worked in construction; many females worked as babysitters and in the church’s K-12 school, the former members said. One ex-congregant from Brazil told AP she was only 12 the first time she was put to work.
Although immigration officials in both countries said it was impossible to calculate the volume of the human pipeline, at least several hundred young Brazilians have migrated to North Carolina over the past two decades, based on interviews with former members.
The revelations of forced labor are the latest in an ongoing AP investigation exposing years of abuse at Word of Faith Fellowship. Based on exclusive interviews with 43 former members, documents and secretly made recordings, the AP reported in February that congregants were regularly punched, smacked and choked in an effort to “purify” sinners by beating out devils.
The church has rarely been sanctioned since it was founded in 1979 by sect leader Jane Whaley, a former math teacher, and her husband, Sam. Another previous AP report outlined how congregants were ordered by church leaders to lie to authorities investigating reports of abuse.
The AP made repeated attempts to obtain comments for this story from church leaders in both countries, but they did not respond.
Under Jane Whaley’s leadership, Word of Faith Fellowship grew from a handful of followers to about 750 congregants in North Carolina and a total of nearly 2,000 members in its churches in Brazil and Ghana and its affiliations in Sweden, Scotland and other countries.
Members visit the Spindale compound from around the world, but Brazil is the biggest source of foreign labor and Whaley and her top lieutenants visit the Brazilian outposts several times a year, the AP found.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
American Slavery Rears Its Head Again
That Southern slaving impulse reappears given the slightest opportunity. A North Carolina church gets creative and enslaves Brazilians: