An A&E spokesman confirmed the change and said producers are updating the series with more footage and additional reporting, and are waiting on an official response from the church. A new airdate has not been set.
This fall, A&E said the series would “provide a voice to the former members of the deeply secretive North Carolina-based Word of Faith Fellowship Church as they open up about the shocking abuse they alleged to have endured at the hands of the church” and “chronicle their tireless efforts to convince loved ones still inside it’s time to break free by banding together through community outreach forums, enlisting the help of the local media and working alongside the federal government.”
“The victims of the Word of Faith Fellowship Church have shocking and timely first-hand accounts that need to be shared and A&E is proud to provide them this very necessary platform so we can ensure their voices will be heard," Elaine Frontain Bryant, A&E’s executive vice president, said in a statement.
On Monday, Asheville ABC affiliate News 13 reported that the church asked the network not to air “The Devil Next Door” because members found out that some people featured in the series were paid.
Audiences "will never know whether what is expressed in the series by paid participants is the truth or merely exaggerated or fabricated tales of opportunity seekers telling filmmakers the sensational tidbits they think an audience wants to hear,” said a news release issued by the church’s attorney, Joshua Farmer.
The church compared the payments to the controversy surrounding the A&E documentary “Escaping the KKK,” shelved in 2016. The documentary was ultimately canceled before it aired when A&E discovered producers made cash payments to “facilitate access" to participants.
The Asheville ABC station wrote “the network claims that documentary didn’t run because in that isolated case, paying members of a hate group violated A&E’s policy."
Also, the station added, “a network executive told News 13 that A&E considers itself an entertainment company not a news provider.” At the end of its documentaries, if participants were paid, A&E will include a disclosure: “Certain participants to this program were compensated for lost income due to time spent away from their jobs researching, providing documentary materials, and participating in filming and other production activity.”
“The Devil Next Door” is based on a 2017 Associated Press investigation into the church, which a former member characterized as a “cult.”
The postponement of the series was first reported by the Daily Courier in Forest City, N.C.