Coopers' day in court delayed

The Digital Courier/March 20, 2004
By Jerry Stensland

Rutherfordton -- Shane Muse, her sister Suzanne Cooper and Cooper's family made a brief appearance in court Friday to confirm the continuance of Muse's case.

The case which alleges false imprisonment will be heard April 2 at the same time counter charges of assault filed by Cooper's husband Rick and daughter Lena will be heard.

Muse, a former member of the Word of Faith Fellowship, has accused the Coopers and Carol Smith of falsely imprisoning her in March 2002 when Muse says she was trying to leave the Spindale-based church.

Rick and Lena Cooper have countered that Muse assaulted them during the same incident.

Friday's delay was expected as courts generally prefer to adjudicate cases with counter charges at the same time.

Muse, who lived with the Coopers during her two-and-a-half years in the church, claims that a half-dozen people held her in a bedroom and blocked the door to keep her from leaving.

Those people included the Coopers and Carol Smith.

Muse said she desperately wanted get out from the control of the church and says that any physical altercation with the people in the room was a result of being kept from leaving and in self defense.

Rick and Lena Cooper filed charges last week that Muse assaulted them.

Rick says Muse struck him in the face with her hand while Lena says Muse swung at her and spit in her face.

Muse has essentially admitted to doing those things, but says she was making every effort she could to get out before eventually giving up.

Muse did leave the church about six months later, though she left her four children with WOFF ministers Kent and Brooke Covington.

After getting counseling at an Ohio retreat for ex-cult members, Muse returned to Rutherford County to get her children but the Covingtons refused to give them up claiming the children did not want to go with their mother.

In October 2003, Judge Randy Pool ruled in favor the Rutherford County Department of Social Services in awarding DSS custody of Muse's children. Pool said in his ruling that the environment at WOFF was abusive to children.

Muse supported the DSS action and is currently trying to get full custody.

The WOFF is a unique and controversial church which operates a closed, communal society with large group homes. Its practices have been described as cult-like by ex-members.

The WOFF has been under legal and media scrutiny for its unusual practices which include a form of prayer called blasting, use of corporal punishment and other forms of discipline and control.

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