A gay man has accused a pastor and her congregation of surrounding and beating him up in the name of freeing him from homosexuality.
Matthew Fenner alleged that in January 2013, while returning from Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindale, North Carolina, after a normal Sunday prayer service, a group of his church members surrounded him up and gave him a thorough beating.
In his lawsuit, Fenner says those who attacked him numbered more than 20 and their church pastor was one of them. The people punched, hit and knocked him right to the ground for approximately two hours.
At some point during the beating, Fenner says one of his attackers held him by the throat and shook him.
According to Fenner, the attack was a deliberate move by the church members “to break me free of the homosexual demons they so viciously despise.”
Brooke Covington, 58, the church leader who allegedly organized the beating, is undergoing trial. Covington has been accused alongside five others and was charged with kidnapping and assault. If found guilty, she faces a prison term of two years.
In his testimony, Fenner said he felt he was about to die as one of the church members choked him while the church leader screamed, saying, “God said there is something wrong in your life!”
Fenner, who was at the time of the attack recuperating from biopsy, said, “I’m frail and in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Is my neck going to break, am I going to die?’”
A February report by the AP indicated that Word of Faith Church members are notorious for such acts. Since Fenner opened up about his experience, more victims have come forward, saying they’ve also been assaulted “in a violent form of deliverance meant to ‘purify’ sinners by beating out devils.”
The church reportedly has some blatantly weird rules for their members. For example, it’s the Word of Faith church leadership that decides which church members can marry or have children. Besides, members of the church aren’t allowed to watch TV, go for movies, or read newspapers. Should you think of going to a restaurant, the church demands that you only go to those that don’t play music and where alcohol isn’t served.
In her defense, Covington, through her lawyer, said she’s completely innocent because Fenner never raised his voice to ask her to stop the beating.
Nevertheless, Fenner says he couldn’t ask his attackers to stop because of fear that it could only make them beat him further. He’s also telling the court that it was difficult for him to speak up since he was being choked.
“I couldn’t breathe,” Fenner said. “I’m sitting here thinking if I don’t get out of this, I’m probably going to die.”
On their part, Word of Faith has maintained her innocence, saying, “We are adamant that no one ever physically harmed Mr. Fenner. The church does NOT target members who are gay.”
Read more at Queerty