North Carolina Churchgoers Indicted for Allegedly Kidnapping and Beating Gay Congregation Member
Five members of a North Carolina church were indicted Dec. 10 on charges of simple assault and kidnapping for allegedly beating a fellow member because he is gay.
Matthew Fenner, now a junior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says he was attacked after a prayer service in January 2013, when members of the Word of Faith Fellowship cornered him and tried to cure him of his “homosexual ‘demons,’ ” according to an affidavit.
“My head was being flung back, my vision was going brown and black,” Fenner, 21, told WSPA-TV of the incident. “I couldn’t breathe, and I’m sitting here thinking, ‘If I don’t get out of this, I’m probably going to die.’ ”
In the affidavit, Fenner claims he was brutally beaten.
“I had at least 15-20 college age men around me, screaming, shaking me, punching me, hitting my chest, grabbing my head, telling me to repeat different phrases,” he said.
Josh Farmer, an attorney for the church, has denied the charges, saying Fenner made the story up.
“We are adamant that no one ever physically harmed Mr. Fenner,” he told WSPA-TV via email. “The church does not target members who are gay.”
However, this is not the first time the Word of Faith Fellowship has faced such allegations. In 2012, another member accused the church of holding him against his will and beating him unconscious, though he later retracted his story, the Daily Beast reports.
And a 1995 installment of Inside Edition looked at the church’s history of abuse, most notably the practice of “blasting,” where church members surround another member and scream at that person to exorcise the demons.
The church has also been at the center of a number of custody battles.
“The line between religion and abuse – they are crossing it quite severely,” Fenner told the Associated Press. “That’s why I’m doing this. They have to know you cannot hurt people.”