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Judge rips homeschool mom's choice of churches
Quotes critics, calls their condemnation 'credible'
Posted: March 17, 2009
10:31 pm Eastern
By Bob Unruh
© 2009 WorldNetDaily
A North Carolina judge under fire for ruling in a divorce dispute that three children must attend public schools against their mother's wishes has cited critics of the mother's choice of churches in his ruling, calling their condemnation "credible."
The ruling came today from Judge Ned Mangum in Wake County, N.C., in a temporary custody order for the children, 12, 11 and 10, of Venessa and Thomas Mills.
As WND reported, the judge ordered that the children be allowed to finish this school year in homeschool with their mother. But by fall, he said, they must be enrolled in public schools, against the mother's wishes.
Mangum, when contacted by WND at that time, explained his goal was to make sure the children have a "more well-rounded education."
He also said the public schools could "challenge" what the children had been taught by their mother.
"I thought Ms. Mills had done a good job [in homeschooling]," he said. "It was great for them to have that access, and [I had] no problems with homeschooling. I said public schooling would be a good complement," he told WND.
The judge said the husband has not been supportive of his wife's homeschooling, and "it accomplished its purposes. It now was appropriate to have them back in public school."
Mangum said he made the determination on his guiding principle, "the best interest of the minor children," and he conceded it was putting his judgment in place of the mother's.
"It will do them a great benefit to be in the public schools, and they will challenge some of the ideas that you've taught them, and they could learn from that and make them stronger," the judge told the mother.
Vanessa Mills says she will appeal Mangum's ruling.
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Mangum, who had admitted the children were "thriving" under Mills' instruction but said they need to be exposed to the "real world," demanded that all objections to his order be filed by Sunday, the day the mother observes the Sabbath.
Venessa Mills says she was unable to meet the deadline for two reasons – because it was Sunday and because she was up until midnight helping her estranged husband move out of the house as part of the judge's order.
The judge then cited a number of critics of the mother's church, Sound Doctrine Church, in his ruling.
He quoted Venessa Mills' mother, Dawn Lewis, and father, Dan, who said they were "concerned" about her involvement in the church. "The Court finds this is a credible statement," the judge wrote.
"In numerous sworn affidavits submitted to the Court, witnesses describe this group as a 'cult,'" the judge said. "The Williams (church leaders) encourage members to call them variations of mom and dad. Vanessa Mills does this. Her children refer to the Williams as variations of grandma and grandpa."
The judge quoted a "former member," Tina Wasik, who said, "Sound Doctrine is not a healthy place for kids to grow up it is run by fear and manipulation."
"Mothers, who are former members of Sound Doctrine, provided under oath to this court that Timothy Williams made several inappropriate sexual comments about girls as young as 4 years old," the judge wrote.
He also said the husband reported his wife's conversations consisted "almost exclusively of quoting scripture or parroting Sound Doctrine religious rhetoric," that Venessa Mills' mother was "concerned" about the children's emotional stability and Venessa Mills' father reported she was "domineering" with the children.
"The Court finds this as a fact," Mangum wrote.
However, church officials said they had provided a long list of affidavits rebutting each of the accusations, but the judge refused to quote from any of them.
Church assistant pastor Malcolm Fraser insisted to WND, "It's pure gossip allowed to run out of control and into a courtroom."
He cited the church's doctrinal statement on its website recognizing it is not the only church, and its members are not the only Christians, a statement few cults would publish.
"It is one of the reasons why we include that statement," he said. "We do not in any way, shape or form believe that this is the only church."
Fraser said the Enumclaw, Wash.-based worship center has been accused of being a cult before.
"It's not exactly new. Anybody who reads the Bible can see Christians in the New Testament were accused of being a sect," he said. "It's not unusual for gossip and slander to be circulated in this form. We try to make it very clear. Certainly we're conservative. Certainly we have strong beliefs."
The assistant pastor said the judge was stating as fact statements based on hearsay and gossip.
"I think it's pretty obvious what's going on here. None of these things was ever raised before Vanessa went public and pressure was brought to bear on the judge. Now all of a sudden his order is absolutely filled with this stuff, with no rebuttals from Venessa," he said. "We submitted affidavits on her behalf that thoroughly dealt with all these accusations.
"These affidavits showed this was gossip and not accurate, conjured up by ex-members with their own personal agendas and axes," he said.
A comparison by WND of the proposed order, submitted by attorneys for the husband, and the judge's, in fact reveal large sections added by the judge to address the mother's choice of churches.
Among other statements, the church's "truths" include:
Love, empowered by the Holy Spirit, for God and man is the most important matter and the essential goal in Jesus Christ. Everything else at Sound Doctrine Ministries has its foundation in Christ upon this.
The Bible is the inspired Word of God and only through the Holy Spirit may we understand it.
Only through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross can mercy be freely given by God to worthless sinners. Jesus paid the price of punishment for our sins.
The concept of Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, with each being separate yet fully God is supported in Scripture.
The church's website also quotes well-known 20th century evangelical minister and author A.W. Tozer.
The comments the judge included alleged church leaders directed a "boot camp" training for young children and multiple comments linking young girls to sexuality.
"Simultaneous with Venessa Mills' decision to join Sound Doctrine in 2005, she began to consider withdrawing her children from public school," the judge said.
The judge noted the father agreed to that on a temporary basis, and that under the mother's teaching, it was "clear to this Court that all three children are intelligent and have thrived academically."
The father's submitted a statement admitting adultery, but the judge's ruling said he "became completely miserable in the marriage" and attributed that to "Ms. Mills involving herself and [the] children in the Sound Doctrine Church to such a degree that [the] entire household was turned upside down."
The judge ordered that the children attend public school for the 2009-2010 school year, that each parent could expose the children to whatever religious practices they choose and custody would be shared.
A friend of Venessa Mills, Robyn Williams, told WND the judge's "findings of fact" "rely almost entirely on hearsay evidence directed against Venessa Mills church, for which no effort was made to verify. … Almost no material from rebuttal affidavits filed on behalf of Venessa Mills is included."
She said the judge was using the accusations against the church to "divert attention away from his own bad judgment on the homeschool issue."
One of my friend had sent me the first story that was reported about this family. This is a real situation. I know of a very similar situation that happen in West Virginia. The pastor of a church we know of got involved with another woman, and decided to leave his church and family. His wife had homeschooled their children, and their church had even started a Christian school. In the divorce hearings he wanted the youngest child to be put in public school. Total flip from his life he lived as a pastor (of an Indepedent Baptist Church)! The child had to go through psychological testing and everything. Finally I think he got to go to a Christian school. This is such a scary situation for moms! This situation scares me! We need to pray for this family! I am going to see what other news stories I can find.
1 year ago