A US man has claimed that his church, that he attended since he was a child, abused and held him captive for four months after he came out as gay.
Michael Lowry (22) told ABC News affiliate WLOS that members of the Word of Faith Fellowship Church in North Carolina kept him in a church dormitory for months against his will in 2011 after he told them that he is gay.
He claims that he was emotionally and physically abused and that he was even accompanied to the toilet because church members feared he would masturbate.
“The pastor said to find out what my darkest secret was, and I was like, ‘I’m never telling,'” Lowry told WLOS. “They hit my head with fists and I was out on the floor, they held my hands and feet down and were pushing on my chest and I could barely breathe.”
Jane Whaley, the founder and a pastor of Word of Faith, denied the allegations and said that she and the rest of the church community, including Lowry’s parents, had no idea he was gay until his claims were made in the media.
“As far as this church being against gays, that’s absurdity. There are 18 people in this church who have been delivered, they’re not homosexual anymore, but if they were they could still stay in the church,” she said.
Whaley claimed that Lowry willingly stayed at the church after his parents threw him out due to his “rebellious behaviour”.
A court date has been set for next month to hear Lowry’s charges of harassment against Word of Faith members.
The church has previously been investigated over claims of child abuse and Whaley was convicted of abusing a congregant. The church latter succeeded in suing the North Carolina Department of Social Services in the 1990s and had the child abuse charges expunged.