The Associate Press reported on Monday that the Word of Faith Fellowship has been recruiting young members from two affiliated churches in Brazil to come to the U.S. and put them to work on the church’s 35-acre compound in Spindale for no pay.
One of the workers, Andre Oliveira, spoke with the AP and said that he was forced to work 15-hour days with no pay. The jobs would consist of cleaning offices and warehouses owned by the evangelical church.
Olivera also said that he was forced to work outside the church in private businesses owned by some of the church’s ministers.
“They kept us as slaves,” Oliveira explained. “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?”
According to AP, “Under U.S. law, visitors on tourist visas are prohibited from performing work for which people normally would be compensated. Those on student visas are allowed some work, under circumstances that were not met at Word of Faith Fellowship.”
Former congregants who came from Brazil spoke with the AP as well. They said that their passports were taken away and they were forced to live in the basement of a church leader’s home.
“Brazilians came here for labor. I’m telling you, that’s it,” claimed Thiago Silva who was recruited at age 18. He called the treatment “a violation of human rights.”
The North Carolina church is currently under investigation by the U.S. Attorney in Charlotte for crimes that may go back years.