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The Door: A Church or a Cult?

Mind control, fear, families torn apart -- these are allegations against a church founded right here in Arizona.

KPHO TV - Phoenix, Arizona/February 23, 2004

By Chris Hayes

It goes by many names including "The Potter's House" and "The Door" and some call it a cult.

The 5i-Team's Chris Hayes began investigating after a news story that shocked the valley.

Many of you remember the "Amber Alert Hoax."

Two teenagers faked an abduction to avoid going to church.

But you may not have heard that one of the young teens wanted to escape 'The Door,' a church with a heated history.

Welcome to a charismatic, evangelical church community.

Church member and minister Tom Seels told us, "If you're not born again, you are going to go to hell."

A fast growing group of churches founded right here in Arizona.

Seels said, "I'm going to pray for you too brother and you're going to feel it too. You're going to feel it."

It's called Christian Fellowship Ministries and it goes by many names in the valley -- including 'The Door,' 'Victory Chapel,' and 'The Potter's House.'

Wayman Mitchell founded the church in Prescott, Arizona more than 30 years ago.

It's branched out to about 1,000 parishes in nearly 100 countries.

Dorie Workman said, "It left a scar."

Families have accused the church of brainwashing for as long as it's been around.

Workman said, "It was like he was in a jail."

Workman said she lost her son for 13 years, because the church somehow convinced him to pull away from anyone outside of his new church.

"He used to tell my husband and I, 'Mom and Dad, you're going to go to hell' ...and I says 'Oh, if we go to that church we won't go to hell?' ...and he says 'Yeah.'"

A 5-year-old girl spoke out about the pressure.

She came home after visitation with her father and said a pastor dressed as the devil and made her put her hands in a bucket of blood with a heart inside.

The Girl said, "I think they're going to do it again if I go back."

In 1996, an Indiana court, where the mother lives, determined the 5-year-old had "post-traumatic stress syndrome" and said the father is "prohibited from taking [his daughter] to The Potter's House."

The pastor, Dan Mazon of Prescott Arizona, said the blood was fake, but admitted trying to scare the 5-year-old from sex and drugs.

Mazon said, "That's the problem with this generation that does not understand fear."

During a recent undercover visit to a Phoenix 'Door' the local pastor said, "I hope we all go at the same time right now huh. This is a good time to go, right here in church."

And at another 'Door' in Glendale -- one of the biggest news stories of last year broke.

Two young girls admitted faking a kidnapping to escape the church.

The girl's parents would not talk on camera about their parish, but they told us their parish doesn't cause trouble -- it keeps people from it.

"It can be a very intense almost terrifying experience."

Religious deprogrammer Rick Ross says he's seen kids suffer.

"...overwhelmed suffocated by the control."

He de programmed Dorie Workman's son and said he's done nine interventions for families concerned about 'The Door' and its affiliated churches.

"The complaints are consistent and it's that the leaders of the church are virtual dictators."

The 5i-Team tried contacting the top man, Wayman Mitchell, for an interview.

He hung up on us.

So we went to his parish -- known as the "Mother Church"

Tom Seels told us, "We're not a cult and anybody that says that are out of their mind."

Seels says he's one of the ministers.

"This day, Chris, is going to come back to you and I'm going to pray for you two guys."

Another member said the controversy over their church is similar to that over early Christianity.

"Jesus Christ, they said the same thing in the bible and the persecution the church endured. It's the exact same thing."

A church representative came out to stop the interviews.

"You guys are off the property now, off the property or we're going to call the police."

Some people also criticize the church's financial structure, which is a pyramid structure.

If one parish is able to set up another church -- that church must send 5% of its offerings back to the sponsor church -- and send 5% to the Mother church in Prescott.

Christian Fellowship Ministries says it spends most of it's money on foreign fellowship outreach and that most of its churches are overseas.

CBS 5 News has learned of another church called "Potter's House Ministries" in El Mirage that is not connected to the Prescott Network of churches.

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