RELIGION

Probe sought after AP report on church abuse allegations

  • In this 2012 photo provided by a former member of the church, Jeffrey Cooper holds his infant daughter at her 2012 baby dedication at the Word of Faith Fellowship compound in Spindale, N.C. At second right is Frank Webster, an assistant North Carolina prosecutor who is married to church leader Jane Whaley's daughter, Robin, left. At right is Frank Webster's son, Brock. At second left is Jeffrey Coopers' wife, Natalie. Frank Webster and Chris Back _ church ministers who handle criminal cases as assistant DAs for three nearby counties _ provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member, according to former congregants interviewed as part of an AP investigation of Word of Faith. (AP Photo)

    In this 2012 photo provided by a former member of the church, Jeffrey Cooper holds his infant daughter at her 2012 baby dedication at the Word of Faith Fellowship compound in Spindale, N.C.¬†At second right is Frank Webster, an assistant North Carolina prosecutor who is married to church leader Jane Whaley's daughter, Robin, left. At right is Frank Webster's son, Brock. At second left is Jeffrey Coopers' wife, Natalie. Frank Webster and Chris Back _ church ministers who handle criminal cases as assistant DAs for three nearby counties _ provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member, according to former congregants interviewed as part of an AP investigation of Word of Faith. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this 2012 provided by a former member of the church, Word of Faith Fellowship leader Jane Whaley, center left, holds Jeffrey Cooper's infant daughter, accompanied by her husband, Sam, center right, and others during a ceremony in the church's compound in Spindale, N.C. At least a half-dozen times over two decades, authorities investigated reports that members of a secretive evangelical church were being beaten. And every time, according to former congregants, the orders came down from church leaders: They must lie to protect the sect. (AP Photo)

    In this 2012 provided by a former member of the church, Word of Faith Fellowship leader Jane Whaley, center left, holds Jeffrey Cooper's infant daughter, accompanied by her husband, Sam, center right, and others during a ceremony in the church's compound in Spindale, N.C. At least a half-dozen times over two decades, authorities investigated reports that members of a secretive evangelical church were being beaten. And every time, according to former congregants, the orders came down from church leaders: They must lie to protect the sect. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Thursday, March 2, 1995 file photo, Word of Faith Fellowship church leader Jane Whaley talks to members of the media, accompanied by her husband, Sam, in Spindale, N.C. In August 1995, then-DA Jeff Hunt said investigators determined that adults and children had been abused inside the church, but declined to prosecute. Hunt said he concluded he couldn't win a conviction because he lacked specifics and most of the congregants interviewed by the state Bureau of Investigation had declined to testify. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

    FILE - In this Thursday, March 2, 1995 file photo, Word of Faith Fellowship church leader Jane Whaley talks to members of the media, accompanied by her husband, Sam, in Spindale, N.C. In August 1995, then-DA Jeff Hunt said investigators determined that adults and children had been abused inside the church, but declined to prosecute. Hunt said he concluded he couldn't win a conviction because he lacked specifics and most of the congregants interviewed by the state Bureau of Investigation had declined to testify. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)  (The Associated Press)

A district attorney in North Carolina is asking for a state investigation of two of his assistant prosecutors who are members of a North Carolina church where former congregants say officials beat members and derailed criminal investigations.

In a statement Wednesday, District Attorney David Learner said he asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into his employees. That request was made Tuesday, a day after Learner told reporters he was familiar with The Associated Press story about his prosecutors but couldn't talk because it was a personnel matter.

Former members of Word of Faith church in Spindale told the AP that prosecutors Frank Webster and Chris Back provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member.