North Carolina megachurch was used as a hub of slavery
She loves Jesus. And dogs. And infants. She’s got big hair and a well-practised smile. So why is Jane Whaley, of North Carolina’s Word of Faith Fellowship, getting mercilessly savaged by the press, AP in particular?
Well, back in February this year, we reported that Whaley, 77, was running her megachurch like a sadistic dictator. This was based on an AP investigation which detailed widespread abuse carried out over many years at the church.
Whaley and her husband Sam, an ex-car salesman, vehemently denied it all in a press release, but AP wasn’t through with the Whaleys … not by a long chalk.
Today, the Freethought Project reported that, in addition to abusing homegrown members of its congregation, the Word of Faith Fellowship was trafficking slaves from Brazil to work without pay under atrocious conditions at the church.
Its report, based on a new AP investigation, revealed that scores of former slaves have come forward to expose the Word of Faith Fellowship congregation as a hub for modern slavery in the US in which hundreds have been victims.
The Word of Faith Fellowship set up two churches in Brazil and used it as a means of siphoning young labourers to the United States to used them for forced labour.
One of those slaves, Andre Oliveira, said he was forced to work 15 hours a day, usually for no pay, first cleaning warehouses for the secretive evangelical church and later toiling at businesses owned by senior ministers. Any deviation from the rules risked the wrath of church leaders, he said, ranging from beatings to shaming from the pulpit.
They trafficked us up here. They knew what they were doing. They needed labour and we were cheap labour – hell, free labour. 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?”
One of the dozens of victims interviewed by the AP told reporters that she was put to work for no pay when she was only 12-years-old. The males were used as construction workers while the girls were often used as babysitters in the church’s K-12 school and forced to sew during the night.
Whaley would travel to Brazil and tell the members of the church there that salvation awaited them in the United States.
Ana Albuquerque was another victim who came to the church when she was only five. Over time, she witnessed so much verbal and physical abuse that she began to see this behavior as normal.
They come to you and say, ‘You will get to know the United States of America. You will get to go to the malls. But when you get there, everything is controlled.
Other victims of the church describe horrifying scenarios in which they were crammed into the basements of other church leaders’ homes to be used a slave labour.