RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Arts and Entertainment Network (A&E) announced late yesterday that their upcoming documentary series, The Devil Next Door, will be postponed to a future date. The series featured ex-members of the Word of Faith Fellowship (WoFF) church located in Rutherford County.
A&E had been notified by WoFF and several other sources of journalistic ethical and content concerns about former members being paid to be in the documentary. The church requested that A&E not air this series in the same way it pulled a 2016 documentary on the Ku Klux Klan when participants were paid.
In a 1995 Inside Edition’s TV expose rituals of “blasting” prayers were secretly recorded. Ex-members have cited these blastings as a form of child abuse that escalated into striking and other forms of violence. Recently, through an Associated Press investigative series of articles, some ex-members claimed they were forced to work without pay in an unemployment insurance fraud that has resulted in federal charges against member-owned businesses and church leaders.
Josh Farmer, the church’s attorney, presented a copy of a check of one of the participants in the documentary as evidence of payments. Most documentaries and journalistic standards frown on payment to participants as it could influence participants to tell a filmmaker what they wanted to hear. The credibility of the participants could be weakened with those suspicions.
Note that the check comes from an account not carrying the documentary project name, but from another Collins Avenue project.
An A&E network executive reported that in its guidelines it pays documentary participants for missed days of work, child care and licensing for use of their video. In an interview with Francis Gasparini, the executive director of the project, he reiterated that participants were only paid for travel expenses, lost wages, and child care. However, checks were issued in much higher amounts and at least one exceeded $25,000 which seems unreasonably high for expenses.
Further, more than one person stands to significantly gain financially from their appearance in the docu-series. Participant John Huddle has his privately published book, Locked In, for sale while AP reporter Mitch Weiss has allegedly signed a book deal with a major publisher.
RC Catalyst requested a press release on the postponement of the airing of “The Devil Next Door” but one was not received by press time. There is no word of any future air date, but as of last evening no plan to can the series has been made either.